In a previous post, I began discussing the gap between the western institutional structure we think of as “the church” and the activity of the Body of Christ as the Church in the world. Given that “church” as the New Testament uses the term is hardly coextensive with the 501(c)(3) corporate model that we use today in the US, what does that mean for sacramental observance?
For baptism, it’s a no-brainer. The New Testament shows us nary a single example of baptism in any other pattern than this: the new believer is baptized immediately upon profession of faith, by whoever is handy, with the nearest available water. There’s just no NT concept of getting interviewed by the elders or the priest first, waiting three weeks until the next time the baptistry will be filled up, none of that. Maybe there was an occasion with somebody, sometime, where wisdom dictated that one or more of those extrabiblical constraints was a good idea in some particular case, but there’s no call to be accepting that as the normal pattern.
So that one’s pretty obvious: if we follow the NT pattern, when someone professes faith, we baptize ’em right then. If they happen to be in a church building at the time, well, so be it. If not…the bathtub, pool, pond, or river will do just fine. If Baby Jesus could be laid in a manger, His disciples can be baptized in a horse trough.