Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Dedicate your child to the Lord


Just returned this week from San Saba, Texas — just one of the thousands of holes in the wilderness of that huge, wonderful state. I went to officiate at the dedication of my great-nephew, Timothy John Krueger, who was born this past December. It was a delightful, moving event to lift up the little child to the Lord on behalf of his parents.

It’s a rather recent innovation in the evangelical tradition to dedicate a baby unto the Lord. The folks in the sacramental tradition have been baptizing their infants for hundreds of years. Yet, because of a difference in doctrine, Protestants basically ignored births within the church service. I really don’t know how or when it began, but I am thankful that we too are now ceremonially acknowledging infants as gifts of God, praying for their future, and often times anointing them with oil.

In most Protestant child/infant dedications, the parents bring the child forward to the altar area. The pastor often admonishes the parents with a few, well-chosen words, and then the child is taken into the arms of the pastor for a blessing. I believe such dedications are most beneficial for two principle reasons.

First, there is a spiritual efficacy imparted to the child through the event. Some of my tradition may argue with me over this one. But I believe that in acknowledging God’s gift in the child, in praying for the child’s future well-being, in pronouncing words of blessings, and in the anointing of oil there is a supernatural influence at work — with or without the complete emotional belief of parents or pastor.

There was a time when I refused to dedicate a child if the parents were not solid believers. I viewed the whole affair as a shame if the parents’ hearts were not completely converted and involved. I’ve changed my mind in the last several years. God can still work in a child’s life regardless of the indifference of parents to his or her spiritual well-being. The pastor, as God’s representative, can impart directly to the child even though parents may be going through the event as a nice little thing to do.

Second, a child dedication event is an opportunity for parents to take a second breath after the hundred-yard dash of having a baby and adjusting to a whole new lifestyle. Parents have the opportunity to ponder the responsibility that God has placed within their arms. They are able to see, hopefully, that this product of their love is serious business to God and he wants them to take their little one with all seriousness.

I have seen parents make an about face in their religious deportment after they experienced the dedication of their infant. I have seen fathers begin to step up and take seriously the headship of their family and spiritual leadership entrusted to them by God. All through a child dedication service.

Some churches dedicate en masse. They reserve Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as the one time the whole year to dedicate children. I prefer to dedicate as the requests and needs arise. It makes the event more personal and special if the focus is on one or two rather than 20 or 30.

As I dedicated my nephew this past Sunday, the pastor allowed ten minutes during the service for the event. It did not take the focus away from the praise and worship nor from the preaching of the Word. It flowed. It touched many parents as they too were reminded of the awesome nature of their tasks as parents.

Let me use this column to encourage you parents to submit your child for dedication. Approach your pastor with your request. Perhaps this is a new thing for your church. That’s okay. My God makes all things new. Go for it. I have seen parents dedicate their children who were already in their early teens. Hey, better later than never. Children and parents need all the help they can get to make their way in this wild and crazy world. If dedicating them unto the Lord will make it easier or more blessed, why not!

John Hatcher is pastor of Outreach International Center, 1091 South Jeff Davis Drive, Fayetteville, Georgia 30215. 770-719-0303

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