It may not seem like articles on how to organize and operate baptismal classes have much to do with world mission. Actually, they do. All over the world people join and study in baptismal classes. Connected with Sabbath School, they are sometimes called small groups, or the Pastor’s Class, or the New Members’ Class, or occasionally the Visitors’ Class. Under whatever name, baptismal classes have always been a part of the Sabbath School.
Seventh-day Adventist world outreach is based on a number of biblical injunctions: (1) Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission; (2) Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”; and (3) the message of the first angel of Revelation 14, who had “the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people” (verse 6).
The current world emphasis on revival and reformation also involves reminding church members of the importance of spiritual growth and correct doctrinal beliefs, as well as preparing new converts to understand the biblical basis for Adventist doctrine and the basis for an Adventist lifestyle that matches biblical principles.
A Sabbath School dedicated to including soul winning and emphasis on the worldwide mission program of the church will find ways and means of sponsoring baptismal classes.
Why do baptismal classes produce good results? First, they represent an easy way for any church member to reach people. Second, these kinds of small-group classes appeal to a sense of community. People like to study together in a group. Third, studying from the Bible always yields good results. Fourth, it is an ideal setting for gaining decisions. And fifth, from an economic viewpoint it is inexpensive—only the cost of a few lessons, maybe some Bibles, plus some time and concentrated effort.
Sometimes baptismal classes are combined with other outreach activities, such as an evangelistic campaign or a Discover Bible School run by the church. But they can also function as a free-standing outreach methodology. In fact, most baptismal classes function that way. It stands to reason that a method this effective and economical surely ought to be used extensively and on a regular basis.
An Old Method With A New Face
Ellen G. White long ago advised that we need to keep up with the times regarding our methods: “Men are needed who pray to God for wisdom, and who, under the guidance of God, can put new life into the old methods of labor and can invent new plans and new methods of awakening the interest of church members and reaching the men and women of the world” ( Evangelism, p. 105).
Jesus Himself taught during much of His contact time with the public. The apostles used a teaching methodology on a regular basis. For instance, Peter and John reinforced with a teaching ministry the evangelistic work done by Philip in Samaria (see Acts 8:5-7, 14, 25). Peter also stayed with the Roman centurion Cornelius and his family “for a few days” (Acts 10:48) after their baptism. We can assume that he did some teaching during that time.
Paul provided another example of the value the apostles placed on careful teaching and instruction. He and Barnabas met with the church in Antioch in Syria for an entire year “and taught great numbers of people” (Acts 11:26). Paul stayed in Corinth, a difficult city to evangelize, “for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God” (Acts 18:11). Someone had taught a Jewish convert by the name of Apollos about Jesus (see Acts 18:24, 25), but later two church members named Priscilla and Aquila took him under their wing and “invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26).
Ellen White remarks: “It had been Paul’s work to instruct the Corinthian converts in the rudiments, the very alphabet, of the Christian faith. He had been obliged to instruct them as those who were ignorant of the operations of divine power upon the heart” ( The Acts of the Apostles, p. 271). So a baptismal class is a vehicle designed to put into practice Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20).
All of these teaching sessions in early church times were of a style we could term a baptismal class today. Ellen White notes: “There are many who want to know what they must do to be saved. They want a plain and clear explanation of the steps requisite in conversion” ( Evangelism, p. 188). She adds this advice: “Often it would be more profitable if the Sabbath meetings were of the nature of a Bible class study. Bible truth should be presented in such a simple, interesting manner that all can easily understand and grasp the principles of salvation” (Evangelism, p. 348).
So, what is a baptismal class? A baptismal class aims to teach in a group environment the basic doctrines of the Bible as understood by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These are its basic elements: (1) a group of people interested in learning about these teachings; (2) a teacher/leader who is a pastor or qualified layperson; (3) the use of the Bible as its textbook (usually provided for the class members); and (4) the use (usually) of a study guide or baptismal manual as a class syllabus.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Baptismal classes are a vital part of the Sabbath School ministry.
- They are designed to teach people the basics of biblical knowledge and the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
- Any Sabbath School can organize and use baptismal classes as part of its programming.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists