EDITOR’S NOTE: Willy Rice is senior pastor of the Tampa-area Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater and a former president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. Baptist Press is releasing a series of articles and columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday.
CLEARWATER, Fla. (BP) — Acts 2 says that Peter not only proclaimed the Gospel, he concluded with a clear call to repentance, faith and baptism.
“Do it now,” Peter seemed to say. He “strongly urged” (CSB) them to be saved, and those who accepted the message were baptized that day.
There are many ways to do Gospel invitations, but what seems to be inarguable in the New Testament is the vital importance of a direct challenge to repent, believe and be baptized.
For several years at Calvary Baptist Church we have enjoyed days when we intentionally emphasized a call to believe and be baptized. We have never had such a day when God failed to bless with a harvest. There is just something powerful about a direct call to trust Christ and an invitation to be baptized.
A few days ago, we had another Sunday when we called people to respond and scheduled a Beach Baptism service that evening. We were privileged to baptize 62 people that night. It is not uncommon for us to baptize 80, 90 or 100 people on such days.
We work very hard to proclaim a clear Gospel and follow up with each person who responds, just as we would any other time. A specific call to come, profess faith and Christ and be baptized, either in that very service, or later that very day, always seems to have unusual power. We make preparations so people who haven’t prepared to be baptized can still take that step of obedience if they are willing.
Of course every technique or method can be abused or used carelessly. We should work very hard to make sure our invitations are clearly rooted in a call to repentance and biblical faith. Yes, we should be concerned about the integrity of our invitations but we should be just as concerned with making sure we do issue an invitation, an urgent appeal.
It is hard to improve on the biblical model and unwise to try to do so. Gospel preaching involves a call to repent, believe and be baptized. To continually separate our proclamation from a call to action is unwise and unbiblical.
I encourage Southern Baptists to fill the tank, proclaim a clear message of repentance and faith and then call people to action. You might be surprised by what God will do.