Our personal appearance and cleanliness will have a definite effect on our visiting. We need to make sure we bathe or shower at least once every day. Use a good underarm deodorant and a change of underwear every day. Keep your clothes clean and pressed and shoes polished. Socks should be long enough to cover the calf of the leg and tone in with our clothing. Wear mature and conservative clothes for visiting that are in good taste in the area you belong to. Avoid black (except at funerals where may offend people if you don't wear a black suit or at least a black tie). Colorful ties can help brighten up our appearance and mild colors that blend with one another are generally the best. Watch your grooming and keep nails and hands clean. Sometimes it is necessary to use a good dandruff remover. Our purpose is to set as good an example as possible and to leave the right impression as the representatives of Jesus Christ and Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. Avoid calling anyone after 9.00 p.m. except on very rare occasions and then only by prior arrangement.
Why visit members?
A. To feed the flock of God
Sermons are a vital part of feeding the flock, but sermons are not all the average member needs. They won't hear everything they need to know personally in sermons. Where vital knowledge is contained only in sermons, they may have to wait months for what they need to hear immediately.
Visiting is the other part of properly feeding the flock. We can't adopt a 'take it or leave it' or, 'the blood's on their heads' approach to God's people. Sermons are only half of the feeding they need. Without our visiting and personal contact with the flock, a minister will never really know what the congregation needs even in sermons.
Unless a minister gets to know the people personally by name, he can't do an effective job of feeding them.
John 10:14 "I know...my sheep and am known of mine"
This shows a close personal relationship. If the minister knows the members and their problems, he can tailor sermons to their need and also back his sermons up by proper, productive visiting.
Proverbs 27:23 "Be diligent to know the state of your flocks".
The only way to do this is to get to know them personally through visiting.
God's way is to visit the members of the Church, instruct, encourage and inspire them. People need encouragement a lot more than we often realize. Some have tremendous burdens as a result of antagonistic, unconverted mates. They need love and concern and a great deal of personal encouragement. If we are going to win their love, we must first extend that love ourselves. No matter who we are called upon to talk with, we must express sincere love, friendship and outgoing concern.
Paul visited on an individual basis to ensure they had the spiritual food they needed.
1 Peter 5:2-3
We're not there to spy on them, but to serve. We can't live their lives for them, but we must teach them how to live their lives for themselves.
B. To perfect the saints
Very few members will change as a result of hearing sermons only. Visiting provides a tremendous opportunity to help people apply sermons to their lives. Sermons and visiting must go hand-in-hand. Many of the basic problems such as child-rearing and marriage problems are almost impossible for the individual to solve for himself. They need personal guidance and direction. Teach them how to overcome through sermons and show them how to overcome through proper visiting.
We can't do this from the pulpit only. God calls the spiritually weak, sick and diseased. Our job is to strengthen and help heal them.
This involves more than instructing, encouraging and inspiring them. It means working with them and helping them overcome their problems and their human nature. Sermons offer a unique opportunity to soften up the resistance human nature throws up and visiting enables the minister to tailor the message of the sermon to the individual on a more personal level. Sermons and visiting must go hand-in-hand. The minister who preaches the sermons should be the one who visits the flock. Take time to get to know them and build rapport.
1 Thessalonians 2:7
Some have pretty tough trials after baptism. Be sure to visit them within two weeks and again within another month. This not only helps them over spiritual pitfalls, but is an excellent time to build the type of rapport with them that will form the basis of a working relationship later on.
As ministers we can't afford to run a spiritual ambulance service all the time. Our visits must be part of a positive, preventative program in helping people overcome and not a curative one. If we wait around for people to call us when they need help, we'll find the calls will come few and far between and when we do get them, things will be so serious they will often be almost irreparable. We must help people fight their human nature and overcome it. Only with personal help can we show them how to change wish-bones into back-bones. Don't make the decisions — teach them how to make decisions for themselves. We can prepare people's minds for visits through sermons in such a way that they look forward to and expect the type of help they need. Preach sermons that show why visiting is necessary and stress how much they need a minister's help. Our approach in sermons and Bible studies is important. Be open with them and they'll be open with you. Do they look on us as one perched on a pinnacle of near perfection with one foot already in the Kingdom of God? If so, they'll feel we can't help or won't understand them. Be willing with discretion to upon up your life and show, as Paul did, that we are touched with the similitude of their afflictions! Let them see we are fighting ourselves and have had to learn lessons from the school of hard knocks. If they feel 'he's one of us', they'll relate to you. Let them know with concern, warmth and compassion that you know they have problems. Help them realize you understand they don't want to keep those problems. Teach them God has placed His ministers in His Church to help them overcome their problems and that overcoming involves counseling with the minister. Show them God's way is not the 'do it yourself' approach. Sell them on the value of being open. Teach them that the only thing they have to loose by being open is their problems. Help them understand that they're not in trouble when the minister finds out — they're in trouble when they sin. The purpose of the ministry is to get them out of trouble and the first step to getting out of trouble is to seek help. People need to realize that whatever they tell us will be kept in confidence — that we won't tell our wives that night or use their problems in a sermon so others can figure out who it is. NEVER betray a confidence or people won't be open with you. Go back over and review the step-by-step approach in the section on preparation for leadership. This is the type of positive teaching they need personally and through sermons.
1 Corinthians 3:13
This is talking about the work of the ministry. Our reward will be tied in closely with the type of job we do with God's people. Continual superficial and social visits all the time will build in wood and hay and stubble. And so will snooping, prying and interfering ones. We can't piggy-back members into the Kingdom. Some ministers have baby-sat members when they should have been showing them how to stand on their own two spiritual feet. Don't run their lives for them, but patiently, gently, lovingly show them how to make their own decision and how to study, how to pray, how to grow. The pressures on members from their human natures and the world are awesome. Human nature is often more powerful than God's Spirit in their lives. Teach them how to use God's Spirit. The word 'minister' means 'servant' — serve them by being a friend and confident and advisor and help in their time of need. Never brow-beat or get angry at them when they make a mistake and sin.
The only one who has the right to take sin personally is Jesus Christ and he is willing to endure every suffering and problem and pressure in order to see the members come through.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
Deal kindly with people. Meekness means being approachable, easily entreated, willing to listen to their side of the story. Never ride in with your spurs on, or become angry, irritated and annoyed because of something said about yourself. You may have to take an awful lot of guff off people before you can begin to serve them. A person's attitude may not be right, but we need to analyze why it is not right. It could be a result of our own approach.
2 Corinthians 10:8
Authority is something that should be there, but be used only very rarely and never to demolish or tear down an individual. Authority is to build them up and help them grow.
1 Timothy 5:1
Be careful and discreet with older people. Respect their age, experience and knowledge and they'll respect you.
Be patient and gentle, encouraging and kind. Don't ruin someone through lashing out at them in the type of correction that is cruel and unnecessary.
Constantly remind them that the minister is there to get them out of trouble and not into it. Show them they are in trouble when they sin. Sell them on this concept and visiting will become more productive. Help them understand a visit is a workshop situation in which they and the minister together attack their greatest enemy — their own human nature.
Romans 7:16-17, 22-24
Realize people are victimized by their human nature. Help them to see and understand this or they'll defend, justify and cover up the real enemy from themselves and from you.
A complete ministry must have visiting as a vital part of it. It takes personal contact to give sermons their full effectiveness. The members' attitude toward the minister definitely affects their attitude toward what's being said in a sermon. He must be their friend. His life must be involved and bound up in seeing them grow. — and they must know and see and feel it. Never visit women alone! Occasionally ministers become involved in compromising situations as a result. Also, even when there is such a situation, there is always the possibility of some sort of false accusation being leveled at us. Even in the case of very elderly women there have been accusations concerning wills. Be sure to take someone with you every time — even for anointing someone who is sick.
Handling member problems
The routine member visit is different from the problem member visit. The routine visit is a preventative action designed to positively help the individual grow and overcome human nature and eventually qualify for God's Kingdom. The problem member visit is curative and is necessary when a person has a problem and is either not making progress or is deteriorating and needs help. A big blast from the pulpit is not the way to handle member problems — unless it is a general problem throughout most of the congregation. If the minister prepares the minds of the congregation positively through sermons and if he has developed the right sort of trust and rapport through visiting, many people will come to him with their problems. These members can be helped and progress made in most cases. The minister can't allow problems to smolder away in the Church hoping they will disappear. Problems must be dealt with in a positive way. They usually get worse if nothing is done. Those that need immediate attention include problems such as adultery, drinking too much or outright drunkenness, serious financial problems, unusual marriage or child rearing problems, serious attitude problems, heresy, and demon and drug problems. Many of these problems become obvious through visiting, others surface during periods of crises in the life of the individual when, in sheer desperation, he or someone else comes to the minister. Sometimes they just stop attending. Occasionally, you'll learn about problems through others.
People generally resent other members going directly to the minister about their problems. Another member can often encourage a brother to go to the minister himself with his problem. Teach them the principle of going to one another alone in your sermons. Teach them balance — we don't want members spying on one another, but we don't want them breaking this law either. Don't forget about the problem. Follow it up if necessary with the individual who first came to you to see if he did go. Then you may have to go yourself.
On this type of visit it is often not wise to take your wife with you — except with marriage and child rearing problems. Firstly, they will often be reluctant to talk and, secondly, it will tend to fill your wife's mind with things that she would be better off not knowing about. Don't beat about the bush with the individual. Don't just talk, hoping the problem will 'come out in the conversation' — they rarely do. Explain with love and compassion that you understand that there may be a problem and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
Avoid jumping to conclusions, assuming that what you've heard or observed is the truth. Listen to their side of the story.
Meekness means an approachable, easily entreated attitude of mind that is ready to listen. Consider yourself — ask God for a deep compassion toward those who make mistakes and have to pay the penalty for them. Don't confuse being soft-headed with being soft-hearted. Don't condone the problem. Be down on the problem — not the individual.
2 Timothy 2:24-26
Help them to see that it is those who overcome who will be in the Kingdom. Try to show them they can't afford to coexist with their problem. Show the advantages of overcoming. Make them realize there's no such thing as a hopeless case so long as they want to overcome.
1 Corinthians 12:26
Try to get them to realize how much their problem is adversely affecting the Body of Christ and its ability to do a job — that a member of the Body can't keep pumping poisons into the bloodstream without it affecting the whole Body.
The first problem visit is not the time to use strong correction. We are not there as Christ's policemen to see that everyone obeys His Law. We must be willing to serve them — even pray with them if necessary, in order to get them started again. Some ministers have even gone around at 6 a.m. to help get alcoholic members out of bed and pray with them before they go to work because they have asked for the help they have needed to get them back on their spiritual feet again. Encourage them to work out their own solution to their problems. Help them modify it if necessary by asking leading questions. If it is their solution, they are more likely to put it into practice.
Explain to them that many people have been helped by ringing the minister at regular intervals to let him know how they're getting on with a serious problem. The frequency would depend on the problem and its seriousness. The length of time involved is up to them. When they feel they're on their feet again, they can stop calling. Just the fact that they know another human being knows and is concerned will often encourage them to try.
Work first of all on their attitude toward their problem. Let they know they can ring you anytime day or night when they need help or feel tempted to give in. Also, give them time to work on the problem and change — don't crowd them unless you'll be back in a short while to visit them again. Be sure you do return when you said you would. If on the second visit, their attitude toward their problem hasn't changed, go through it with them again. Find out how much of their solution they have actually put into practice. Above all, help them to understand the position they're in in their relationship with God. Don't read the riot act, be patient and firm. Encourage them to try. Remember, we can't live their lives for them. We can only tell them what God's Word says and encourage them to live by it. Our job is not to judge or condemn or punish them — it is to serve and help, encourage and correct them.
Their ultimate judge will be Jesus Christ and they can't play games with Him. However, a great deal of patience and hard work is necessary to help people who aren't changing. The owner of the vineyard here wasn't being ruthless — the tree had been growing there for years. According to the Law, the first three years' fruit was to fall on the ground, the next was to go to the Levites and this was the third year he could have expected fruit for himself. The parable is to show us how patient Christ is as the dresser of the vineyard. Remember the fig tree in this case was not adversely affecting the other trees in the vineyard.
When to disfellowship
If a minister is properly discharging his duty, it will be rare for him to have to put someone out of the Church. However, some sins will affect others in the Church unless they are dealt with swiftly and, occasionally, the minister needs the tool of disfellowshipping to help an individual who is either in a wrong attitude or unrepentant or won't change. Disfellowshipping should always be carried out by the minister in charge of the area.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5
Here the fornicator had not repented and his sin was having an adverse affect upon the Church as a whole. Paul put him out to help him realize the seriousness of the situation he was in — to help him repent "that the spirit might be saved" — and in order to protect the Church.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
Disfellowshipping shows the unrepentant member that the Church will not condone sin that is not repented of and that will bring reproach upon the Church.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-14
In this case there were members who were downright lazy, living as leeches upon the efforts of others and they weren't prepared to change. Paul commanded them to be disfellowshipped for their own good — "that he might not be ashamed" and repent and change.
Disfellowshipping is not a punishment. It is a tool that God has placed in the hands of the ministry for helping the individual and protecting the flock. Never disfellowship for a sin or some action by the individual. If a person's attitude toward his sin is right and he wants help and is trying to overcome, he should not be disfellowshipped. People need to be taught that if they come to us seeking help then, no matter how bad the problem, they won't be disfellowshipped. Their attitude will not always be right to start off with. Work with the attitude. Give them every opportunity to change.
The principle here is that we must be willing to go to them alone — at least twice to try to help them. Don't be trigger-happy. Use disfellowshipping as a last resort to help them or protect the Church — not to cop out of the responsibility of helping people with problems you can't or won't or are afraid to handle. Never disfellowship in order to get even with someone or because you're upset over some mistake they have made or sin they have committed. Pray about your attitude — the whole purpose of going to your brother is to "gain your brother."
Sometimes an individual won't change his attitude and it is becoming obvious that further talking will do little or no good. If an individual is not repentant after you have worked with his attitude, then he should be disfellowshipped for his own good. Disfellowship for attitude. It's not showing mercy to a baptized member to allow him to stay in fellowship with the Church while he is unrepentant and won't change.
Never read the riot act to them. Don't do anything that will set their attitude toward you or the Church in concrete. Let them know in love that what you're doing is for their good and that you'll call by and visit with them if they'll allow it. Make sure they understand why they're being disfellowshipped and what they need to do to return. Leave the door open and make the way back as easy as possible by letting them know we're for them and want to see them return to the Church. Even when a rotten, critical, foul attitude is being displayed, the minister should let the individual know that if there is any way he can help, they should feel free to contact him.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
We must teach the Church what their attitude toward a disfellowshipped member should be. When someone is disfellowshipped it is often wise to mention in an announcement that so-and-so won't be attending for a while, that the reasons are none of their concern, but the individual is. This is showing a lot more mercy toward the disfellowshipped member than saying nothing and having people ring him up to invite him over for cards, so placing him in the position where he has to tell the Church individually as member after member contacts him. Provided the person is not a heretic or rabble-rouser, this is an ideal time for a minister to explain to the congregation that a disfellowshipped member is not a spiritual leper or an enemy of some kind — that they should be friendly when they meet him in some street or supermarket, enquire after his well-being and let him know that they'd all like to see him back and are praying for him. Teach them it's not wrong to drop him a note to encourage him and tell him they're praying for his return. Explain, however, that they shouldn't fellowship with him, invite him into their homes or eat with him.
Be sure to visit the person within a month to encourage him. There's no need for probation periods — once he has repented invite him back. If you're in doubt as to whether he has fully repented, it's wise to err on the side of mercy. Be willing to continue to work with him if he hasn't repented — if his basic attitude will allow it.
2 Corinthians 2:6-8
When he's ready to return it's wise not to invite him to the very next Sabbath service. Invite him to the following one and use the next service to announce to the Church that he's going to return next week. Encourage them to welcome him in a right way — let him know they're pleased to see him return. If we don't do this, he'll run into attitudes all the way from outright hostility through suspicion to jubilation. Be sure to educate the members on what their attitude and approach should be.
When to mark
Whenever there is someone spreading dissension, the minister must move swiftly or the Church will suffer. Be careful to distinguish between the wolf in sheep's clothing and the poor, confused sheep who need help. If they're causing trouble, spreading heresy, dissension or a critical attitude, we must get them out to protect the flock and, if necessary, publicly mark them to warn the congregation against trying to contact them. Before marking anyone, seek legal advice. It's often wise to just read a statement out from the pulpit that has been checked over by a solicitor beforehand.
Once again, the principle is to talk twice and then take action to protect the flock. In serious cases, both admonitions can take place on the same visit. Don't let wolves hang around the flock to devour them. If they're not willing to keep quiet, then they must sort out their own problems outside the Church. Don't let a wolf in sheep's clothing back into the Church until you're absolutely sure he has repented and changed and is no longer a wolf.
1 Timothy 1:19-20
Never lose sight of the fact that our job is to keep people in the Church and that disfellowshipping is a tool to be used wisely and sparingly as a last resort. Pray for wisdom, guidance and love beforehand. Always act out of concern for the individual and the Church — never out of personal prejudice or feelings.
Befriending unconverted mates
Marriages with an unconverted mate offer a special problem that needs special attention. Often, the longer the one mate has been in the Church the more the marriage has deteriorated. Many of our more serious marriage and legal problems have arisen in unconverted mate situations because the unconverted mate has been either neglected, turned off or totally mishandled by the member-mate. Adverse publicity has not been unusual. There has been a tendency, especially where the converted mate is the wife, to visit when the other mate is not around. There are certain advantages in this, but the disadvantages often outweigh the advantages. The unconverted mate tends to resent the secrecy, looks upon the Church as exclusivist and feels it is driving a wedge between them. This can create serious problems — especially when the unconverted mate has for years had a distorted view of our teachings from the actions of his or her mate. Sometimes the woman, if she is the one in the Church, will use the Church as a bludgeon against her husband — judging and condemning him.
1 Peter 3:1
Women with unconverted husbands need special instructions on how to handle their mates and how to be a proper wife to him. This instruction can be given in sermons and personally after services. Men with unconverted wives also need similar instruction. They both need it more than those where both mates are in the Church.
Right from the outset at the first visit, try to visit them both together. If this is an initial visit, it is the best time to start. If you are the new minister in the area, you have an excellent opportunity to call around on a social visit — "I just happened to be in the area and thought I'd drop in to make your acquaintance." Choose a time when you know you'll find both of them home. Go out of your way to befriend the one who is unconverted or who doesn't seem interested in the Church. A minister can always explain the teachings of the Church in such a more favorable light and in a more palatable way than the interested or converted mate can. Always answer the questions of the unconverted mate — don't hedge around. Often problems begin to dissolve when the mate realizes we are open and have nothing to hide. Wherever you can, invite the couple around to your home for a meal or social evening together. Spend time really getting to know the unconverted mate. They are often surprised to find out we're not some weird mob who can talk about nothing but religion all the time. They'll often realize for themselves that they have been getting a distorted picture of the Church from their mates. Make them welcome at services if they want to come. Sometimes the unconverted mate has let them know that they would not be welcome there. Extend special invitations to them to social occasions. Let them know we're interest in their welfare and want to serve them as well. Our wives can cultivate the friendship of unconverted wives and go shopping with them, have them over for coffee mornings and help in whatever way they can. Whenever an unconverted wife attends services for the first time with her converted husband, see that she is the one who gets the flowers to take home afterward. If the unconverted mate is the husband, try to get together with him on social occasions or invite him on a fishing trip or recreational or sporting activity. Some ministers have made a point, with great success, of visiting all the unconverted mates to see if there is anything we can do to help. Hostilities have disappeared and some have begun attending as a result. They have also encouraged the wife to ask her husband if he would mind her being baptized when she has begun to counsel for it. This shows the husband that we respect his feelings and position as head of the family. Don't neglect these people. Time spent with them is well worth it in the long run.
Counseling for baptism
Be very careful about who you baptize and when. It is best to be cautious and go very slow. Make sure you've taken the time to get to know them, their background, religious experience, and how they came in contact with us. Don't counsel people for baptism in groups. Spend time with each one individually. Their very salvation in involved. Find out if they have ever approached one of God's ministers before about baptism. Why weren't they baptized then? Don't proceed until you're satisfied. Phone or write the minister involved if necessary.
How much knowledge is required before baptism?
Repentance is not based on knowledge. Satan has knowledge but he's not ready for baptism.
The doctrines and commandments and way of life are to be taught after baptism. However, they must know what sin is and they must understand the sacrifice of Christ.
Are they totally convinced God does exist, that the Bible is His inspired Word and that this is God's Church? Have they really proven it for themselves? Spend time on this with second-generation Christians who grew up in the Church.
They don't have to be perfect. The Sabbath is the test commandment though. There's only one reason anyone would begin keeping the Sabbath — to obey God. Mr HWA has baptized people who were smoking and eating unclean meats, but whom he knew from their attitudes, would yield to the truth when they came to understand it.
There is no set routine for Baptism counseling, but the following guidelines should help:
Find out why they want to be baptized
People want baptism for various reasons — to be accepted by the Church, to salve a guilt conscience, "because God commands it", "because it's necessary for salvation", "so I can receive God's Spirit". Make sure they understand the right reason for baptism and that they want it for the same reason the Bible says they should want it.
These men realized they were under a penalty of death — that they had God's blood on their hands. They needed salvation from death forever. Are they throwing themselves on God's mercy? Is this the reason they want baptism?
Baptism is for the remission of sins. The purpose of baptism is not so we can get God's Holy Spirit. It's to wipe away our guilty past, remove the penalty of eternal death. The gift of God's Spirit doesn't even come at baptism. It comes with the laying on of hands following baptism.
Unless an individual understands the purpose of baptism, they probably aren't ready yet. Invariably, they will express a desire for God's Spirit which is a good desire. Explain to them that God can't place His Spirit in an unrepentant mind.
Help them understand the role of the minister
Make them realize that the purpose of coming to the ministry is not to 'get checked out' for baptism. Help them to understand that only three people know what they're thinking and whether or not they've repented — God, Jesus Christ and themselves. Show them why God and Christ won't make the decisions for them — that the ultimate decision to be baptized is theirs! They must decide, because only they can correctly analyze their minds to see if they're repentant. The purpose of the ministry is to help them correctly analyze their own mind. We can ask them questions, expound the Biblical passages dealing with baptism, use analogies so they can search their own minds — but the ultimate decision must be theirs. If we see they're not ready, we'll do them the service of telling them, explaining why and what they've got to do about it. But we don't decide for them. Get them away from the idea that somehow they've got to convince us they're ready. Explain that they are responsible for their own salvation — that we are there to help, serve and advise — that no minister is ever going to make the most important decision in their lives for them.
Have them explain what repentance means to them personally
Most people's understanding of repentance is superficial. Unless the minister fully understands it and has deeply repented himself, he won't be able to really help another individual see it and understand it.
Matthew 12:34 "Out of the abundance of the heart..."
Get them talking, explaining, expressing themselves. Don't look for pat answers — look for understanding. Repentance is not knowledge, it is an attitude of mind. People need to know they've sinned and had an attitude of hostility towards God's Way. Has the rebellion against God and His Laws gone? Has he a completely submissive attitude? Does he abhor himself? Is he willing to change in accord with the instruction of the Bible?
The minister must be able to discern their attitude. Ask God for a discerning mind so you can serve them and help them understand.
Why are they sorry?
Are they broken up and sorry? Ask them "Why?" Keep asking "Why?" People are generally sorry because they've hurt themselves, hurt others, hurt God. Do they understand who got hurt the most? How have their sins hurt God? Go through the example of David's repentance with them. Most people seeking baptism make the mistake of comparing the depth of sorrow they feel with the depth of sorrow David obviously felt. People are different emotionally. Some physically, mentally and psychologically cannot experience the depth of emotion David did. They need to be broken up and sorry for the same reason David was — not necessarily the same amount. Help them understand why David was sorry. He realized an animal sacrifice wouldn't wipe out his sins (Psalm 51:16). Who was going to have to pay the penalty? Who was going to get hurt the most? Who was David praying to? His God was the One who was going to have to suffer and bleed and die for what he'd done! David was the one who wrote Psalm 22. He knew what it meant. Are they sorry and broken up because their sins killed Jesus Christ? Get them to carefully analyze their own mind and compare it with the way the Bible says they should feel. Remind them the decision must be theirs. Ask them do they really feel deep down they have been sorry for the same reason David was. If the say "No" or if they express doubt or if they didn't quite see it that way before, ask them if they want more time to fast and pray about it. It's not wrong to tell them they need more time, but if they do, try to get them to see it for themselves and make the decision to wait longer for themselves. Never just tell someone he's not ready and send him away. This is not more than an exercise in futility for them. If they're not ready, help them to see it for themselves. Help them to understand. Always explain what they must do.
Do they abhor themselves?
It's difficult for people to repent of themselves and see the need to bury themselves totally. If they say they feel this way, ask them "Why?" Again, help them analyze their attitude and mind. Ask "Why did you sin?". Do they really realize they sinned in the past because they wanted to. Let them talk. Use the example of Job to illustrate what God says their attitude should be. Do they hate themselves because God says they're evil and deceitful and desperately wicked? Or, can they see it for themselves? There's a big gap between repenting of what we are because of what God says we are and repenting of what we are because we can see ourselves how rotten, deceitful, filled with vanity, selfishness and greed we are. Do they really see the need for God's Spirit and for overcoming? Give them examples and illustrations to compare their minds with. Give them the greatest opportunity to see for themselves if they're ready or not.
What about fruits?
With brand new people, where you doubt their repentance, you may want to give them time to bring forth the fruit of repentance. The Sabbath is the number one test commandment. You can also use any of the other commandments they may not know about if there is any doubt. Never let them leave you without their fully understanding why you think they need more time. If there is any doubt in your mind or theirs as to whether or not they're ready, have them wait. Baptism is an act of faith.
Have they counted the cost?
Take them through this. Make sure they have counted the cost. Do they realize they have been bought with a price and their life will not be their own?
Explain the meaning of Romans 6:1-15 — that baptism is a burial and so far as the Law is concerned, they die with Jesus Christ at baptism and the penalty of the Law is satisfied. After that Christ lives His life in them and they must follow whatever His Spirit and His Word directs.
Help them to understand why they're being called now
Show them that this is a world-wide Work with the greatest commission ever given to a group of human beings. Teach them that God isn't calling people now just to give them salvation. If they don't see and understand their responsibility to support this great Work mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally — if they want baptism just so they can have personal salvation — if they don't want to be a part of what God is doing — they're not ready for baptism.
Let them make the final decision
Don't take the decision out of their hands at the end by telling them they're not ready. Ask them if they think they're ready. If it's obvious they are, say to them that you can't see any reason why they shouldn't be baptized. Ask them for their decision. This will help them to realize salvation is between them and God and that they can't play games with Him — that no minister is going to make decisions of faith for them. Explain the Laying on of Hands to them. Help them to see that the act of baptism also represents their total willingness to submit to God and His personal rule over their lives and that the Laying on of Hands represents the first extension of the government of God through human instruments into their lives — that if they are going to be a part of God's government forever, they must be willing to live under the government now. Show them how the Laying on of Hands invests them personally with the responsibility of doing a job through that government — of being a part of this Work.
The baptism formula
The following is the baptism formula written out years ago by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong for the ministers:
"Have you repented of all your sins?"
"Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"
"What is your full name?"
"Then (full name) as a result of your repentance, and because you do accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your Lord and Master, your present High Priest in heaven and your soon-coming King, I now baptize you into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I do this in the name of (by the authority of) Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins. Amen"
This can be varied slightly or added to slightly when you are baptizing a number of people together and you don't want to sound repetitious. However, all the points given should be mentioned each time you baptize anyone.
Rebaptism for those previously baptized by God's ministers
Be super-cautious about whom you rebaptize and when. Some people become discouraged over their spiritual growth or human weaknesses and decide, on their own, that they do not have God's Holy Spirit. They realize they aren't able to live a perfect Christian life so they feel that their baptism was not valid. Sometimes they will come to this conclusion after a strong sermon that condemns them. The first thing to determine when someone comes doubting their former baptism is: Are they just weak? Do they want an excuse for their sins, weaknesses and shortcoming by saying, "I don't have God's Spirit."? Ask if they have been praying effectively and regularly. Are they studying the Bible every day? When was the last time they fasted? In many cases, people have become lax in prayer, study and fasting and are not growing as they should. This has nothing to do with their original baptism. It's a matter of their present spiritual condition. If they're not praying, studying, fasting regularly, don't discuss the subject any further with them until they are and have been doing so for a number of weeks. There are cases when people didn't really repent and need to be rebaptized. If at all possible, send them back to the same minister who originally baptized them. Always counsel people for rebaptism with another experienced minister present if at all possible. The key question is whether or not they really understood repentance and had repented before they were baptized. Were they counseled in a group or did the individual spend time by himself being counseled for baptism? Did the minister ask him about his faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior? Make them explain how they felt about repentance. Were there any dramatic changes in their lives prior to baptism when they were preparing for it? After baptism, what difference did they notice in their relationship with God? Were they able to pray more effectively? Were they able to study more effectively? Did they notice a difference in their ability to overcome basic character weaknesses? Did they feel totally surrendered to God and His Word? Look for the fruits in their life. If you determine the individual had not repented and needs to be rebaptized, start from scratch and go through the whole baptism procedure. Don't assume that because they've come to a right conclusion about their former baptism, they are now ready to be baptized. Be super-cautious about rebaptizing anybody. Seek advice from a more experienced minister if you are unsure.