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Growing up in a Methodist Church, I witnessed infant baptism. Rededicating my life to Christ in a Pentecostal Church, I participated in Christenings for children. Serving on a Southern Baptist leadership team, I officiated at Dedication services. Now Pastoring a Missional Church, I simply pray for all the babies born over the preceding calendar year.

How did I get to this point, you ask? Well, when I first became the Pastor of Great Commission Church, we were located in Abington, PA, and a couple was clearly defined in our church context as a husband and wife. As my missional training from Biblical began to stretch my theology and praxis, God led the church and I into the inner city of Philadelphia. What we discovered rather quickly is that a couple could be described in a variety of ways, but most popular in our context were unwed men and women living together with children. Therefore we were left with a conundrum when asked to perform dedication services for their children.

Questions began to surface in our minds like: Do we simply ignore the request of these unwed couples and allow them to see what we do when people who are saved, walking with the Lord, and have children after marriage receive as a privilege in front of the church? Do we bring these couples in front of the church, although they are not officially members because of their living arrangements, and pray for their children and charge them as parents to raise them in a Christ-like manner, although they are not currently doing so by example? Well, after much prayer, I and my pastoral staff, (all trained by Biblical, by the way) decided we would pray for the babies, but we would also challenge the parents and the congregation from this point forward to make every effort to love this child and train them in the things of the Lord. We also informed the parents that by their request for this prayer, they also gave us permission to speak truth into the lives of them and their children. We had nine couples participate in this prayer ceremony, and only one of the couples were married.

The joy of these couples and their appreciation of the church demonstrating this grace to them has caused some to join, and others to set a marriage date. I have to praise God for my training at Biblical to think outside of the box in order to serve my context in spirit and truth.

Larry L. Anderson Jr. is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and the Director of the Urban Programs at Biblical. He is also the pastor of Great Commission Church, previously located in the suburb of Roslyn, PA, but now situated in the West Oak Lane community of Philadelphia to provide a holistic ministry to an urban setting.  

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