What would you do if the police stopped your baptism?

Over the past year, we’ve struggled with county park rangers, park law enforcement, and park life guards during our individual baptisms at the Bay.  We are absolutely in compliance with all parks regulations.  Further, we are absolutely protected by founding US documents.

Going into the baptisms today, we knew there may be a problem. As usual we video the baptisms and let the cameras roll as our people were berated by a trio of life guards trying to halt our baptisms.  We complied with all requests, including when all swimmers were required to get out of the water because of the two people we had in the water, a pastor and a person being baptized.  The two things we politely refused to do was to turn off the camera and once people were allowed to go back in the water, nearly an hour later, we kindly refused to quit baptisms.

Apparently, a Miami-Dade police officer was at the beach and involved themselves as did a number of beach goers, telling us to continue until we were forced to leave…which we did.

Now, we have over an hour of footage that is pretty damning for the parks services and life guards.  I want to handle it well, in a way that fixes things and leaves us and Christ with a better name.  We also want to leverage what happened to create Gospel opportunities in our community.

We want to have equal access to the park as others.  And, we want our people as individuals, an act of their person to be able to make a counter-cultural statement in public that they are following Jesus Christ.  We also have already had an attorney contact us offering their services in what they called, “a clear case of discrimination.”

So, with that said, “What would you do with this tape and this situation if you were me and you wanted to see the cause of Jesus realized in Miami?”

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15 Responses

  1. Travis

    I would submit the tapes to the News Media and allow their resources to do an investigation of why this type of discrimination has taken place. (MAKE SURE you guys are in the right first!)

    The media will interview you, the staff pastors, the people being baptized as well as pursue the directors of the park and they will expose it on their side!

    Great exposure for your church but not negative

    David Boggs

  2. Trav,
    Sounds like Florida is a great place to live. If their not putting the brakes on your helicopter egg drop, their trying to keep you from baptising.

    I would only use a lawsuit as a very last resort. I would also watch out for the media, who are sure to pick up on the story. They may present to you their good intentions, but they have all the editing capabilities to make you look however they see fit.

    I would try to meet with city and county leaders to get a peaceful resolution to the whole deal. I would also try to get something in writing giving you permission to hold baptisms there. Just remember you are being watched very closely for your response. What you do will determine the public view of lifepoint.

    I have confidence that you’ll make the right choices. I’ll be praying for you.

  3. Travis,

    This sounds like a job for Jay Sekulow if it is not fixed by the authorities.

  4. I am in Hawaii, where all beaches, by state law, belong to the public. We go to one of the most active, popular beaches on Oahu and baptize. There is no expectation that swimmers, surfers, or anyone else move aside to accommodate us as we baptize… we just walk into the water and do what we do, and have never been challenged or questioned by the City & County of Honolulu Lifeguards, local police, or anyone at the beach. We are often applauded by beach-goers as people come up from baptism.

    Unless there’s more to this than I am reading, what possible objection could the park people have to a few MORE people being in the water?

  5. Travis,
    Wow! I can’t believe you guys would have trouble baptizing on a public beach. I will be praying for you guys. I like what John Stokes had to say….”Just remember you are being watched very closely for your response. What you do will determine the public view of lifepoint.”

    That is a true thought. Make sure you have the advice of your key leaders/elders in the church and have them all on the same page when it comes to a decision. If handled correctly I’m sure the name of Christ will be lifted up and lifepoint will be looked at in a positive way. Just remember that in every crisis there is an opportunity.

  6. […] the animals are tame and the people run wild" (South Florida) have struck again, this time by blocking the beach baptisms of LifePointe Church in Homestead.  Travis Johnson is the pastor of this church; you can see his link in the blogroll on the […]

  7. South Florida has struck again! Sad to say, I’m not surprised. My response is here:

    http://www.vulcanhammer.org/?p=599

    I’d start by disseminating this video to the greatest extent possible, both in and around the media. I have a podcast; I’ll be glad to help. I know you’re worried about how you present this, but just tell it straight and let people see for themselves.

    David Boggs: thanks for opening your church for the LifeBuilders meeting last weekend. It was awesome. You and your people are too.

  8. Travis,

    Once again, I applaud your boldness. You are a man raised up for such a time as this.

    In my opinion, the most important thing to consider is the spirit and attitude of EVERYONE on your church staff and in your congregation. Strive to make everyone understand the side of the city officials, park workers, etc. Try to make everyone on your team emphathize with the difficult situation the park workers were put in. They live in such an anti-Christian society that they were, no doubt, conflicted with what to do and they made the wrong decision. Haven’t we all?

    Now, once you are certain that ALL of those with your church group have the right spirit and understand just how important their words and actions are in this matter, I would release the tapes to the media. It could certainly be a windfall for your congregation, I think. The only way it could be trouble for you is if someone on the staff or in the congregation said something stupid, spiteful or judgmental. Remember, the media has a bias against all of us that we are judgmental and elitist. If they enter the fray, this is certainly what they will be looking for. If you present 95% mercy, love and understanding and only 5% of a bad attitude I think we all know what will be aired to the public.

    That’s my 2 cents worth, anyways!

  9. Travis,

    Once again, I applaud your boldness. You are a man raised up for such a time as this.

    In my opinion, the most important thing to consider is the spirit and attitude of EVERYONE on your church staff and in your congregation. Strive to make everyone understand the side of the city officials, park workers, etc. Try to make everyone on your team emphathize with the difficult situation the park workers were put in. They live in such an anti-Christian society that they were, no doubt, conflicted with what to do and they made the wrong decision. Haven’t we all?

    Now, once you are certain that ALL of those with your church group have the right spirit and understand just how important their words and actions are in this matter, I would release the tapes to the media. It could certainly be a windfall for your congregation, I think. The only way it could be trouble for you is if someone on the staff or in the congregation said something stupid, spiteful or judgmental. Remember, the media has a bias against all of us that we are judgmental and elitist. If they enter the fray, this is certainly what they will be looking for. If you present 95% mercy, love and understanding and only 5% of a bad attitude I think we all know what will be aired to the public.

    That’s my 2 cents worth, anyways!

  10. Youtube that story to death. I think that you will create an enviroment for the protection on the churches rights or you will vacate your post.

    Be kind and Christ like but submit it to all the news sources. The buzz will be great for the church.

  11. Bill O’Reilly anyone?

  12. All of these responses sound great…a lot for you to think about Travis.

    I’m going to suggest the obvious as I so often do…pray. Have your congregation pray before you do anything else.

    Having had a situation myself where our church had an opportunity to take legal action against our city, and having had the unmistakeble Divine nudge change everthing for the good (over the course of a year) I have to stress the prayer aspect.

    I sincerely suggest this as your first and greatest step.

    Praying for you right now,

    DB jr

  13. Travis,

    I think this is a great opportunity to open up and further develop clear communicaitons with civic leaders. If you can garner some sit-down one on ones with high ranking offiicials, they can hear your heart and learn to trust your motives. If they perceive that you are a threat, legal or otherwise, they may not be thrilled to work with you in the future.

    While I hear the adivce of some others, I would be slow to release the video to the media. Once you do that, the chances of an amicable resolution are limited.

    God bless.

  14. Thanks Rick.

    I fly back from Seattle tomorrow night and have a meeting the next day with the Asst. Director of Parks and Rec for the County on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it.

    At this point, I’m thinking a good resolution would be that we’re told it was a mistake. I’ll find out then though if that is the policy of the county which will have direct bearings on our direction.

  15. Just a quick FYI. I’ve had meetings and have an update on my blog if you’d like to catch it.

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