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141 baptisms at First Simpsonville after ‘overwhelming’ response

Pastor Wayne Bray baptizes a new believer at Upstate Church in South Carolina.

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (BP) – Multisite Upstate Church in Simpsonville, S.C., baptized 141 new believers Dec. 3 after a one-month evangelistic teaching series on church ordinances. For Senior Pastor Wayne Bray, it was clear the Holy Spirit was at work.

“We have never seen anything like this in our church,” Bray told Baptist Press Dec. 4. “To think that 141 people followed the Lord in baptism is truly unimaginable for me. I feel so blessed to be the pastor of Upstate Church.”

Such emphases at First Baptist Church of Simpsonville – the congregation’s official title – would typically draw a combined 30 to 40 baptisms, Bray said.

“Our hope was to have someone scheduled for baptism in every service on every campus. By Friday, Dec. 1, we already had 86 baptisms scheduled across all our campuses,” he said. “This was overwhelming, but it gave us even more confidence to preach the Gospel on Sunday, expecting the Holy Spirit to move.

“We had 55 additional decisions (Sunday) across all locations.”

Bray and a leadership team including more than a dozen pastors handled the demand by preaching their sermons before praise and worship.

“This allowed time for all spontaneous decisions to be confirmed by counselors prior to being baptized,” Bray said. “We were very careful to make sure every decision was confirmed, turning away multiple people who needed more time to talk through their decision.”

Ministers met with all those who professed salvation to assess their readiness for baptism.

Membership at the six-site church has grown by more than 57 percent in the past decade, according to the Annual Church Profile, growing from 4,503 members in 2014 to 7,091 in 2023. In addition to three sites in Simpsonville, campuses are in Anderson, Greenville and Mauldin. Plans are underway to open an additional site in Laurens through a merger with Hillcrest Baptist Church, where four of the 141 baptisms were conducted.

Bray describes Upstate Church as having long been evangelistic.

“But God has certainly been doing something special these past few years,” he said. “We’ve baptized 400 new believers since the beginning of 2022.”

Upstate normally holds baptisms every month, but delayed November baptisms until December in preparation for the day.

“We were planning to preach a series on the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” he said. “While planning, we discussed the possibility of making an extra effort to follow up on all past decisions and schedule everyone we could for the Dec. 3 baptism.”

The church’s structure made planning for the event “a significant challenge,” Bray said. Every campus has a primary teaching pastor, but a teaching team of 10 pastors also rotates among the campuses.

“Every pastor presented a simple and clear Gospel message,” Bray said, “and called for a response at two different points in the sermon.”

The first invitation pointed to those who had never made a profession of faith, while the second invitation was extended to those already attending the church who had never taken the step of believer’s baptism.

All newly baptized members will be offered discipleship, Bray said, through the work of a Spiritual Formation Team developed over the past year including four teaching pastors. The team overseas all areas of evangelism, connections and discipleship.

“We’ve been saying this often. We don’t just want to be a church that makes disciples. We want to be a church full of disciple makers,” he said. “That is our heart, and we believe that is what God is doing at Upstate Church. God’s timing is always perfect, but sometimes it’s more obvious to us. This is one of those times when it’s easy to see His hand at work.

“Our church has never been more prepared to disciple these new believers.”