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Church asks members to record their salvation experiences

DEL CITY, Okla. (BP)–Do you know for certain if you died today that you would spend eternity in heaven?
More than 2,000 members of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life, can answer that question with certainty.
We aren’t talking about THE Lamb’s Book of Life, spoken about in the New Testament Book of Revelation, but the First Southern Book of Life which came about when staff members began to wonder why more of their members didn’t attend church services.
Associate pastor Ralph Speas said some time ago pastor Tom Elliff registered concern about First Southern’s church membership.
“We had so many more on our rolls than actually come on a Sunday morning, he was wondering why we never see these people,” Speas said. “He felt it was possible there were people out there who, although they had gone through baptism, had perhaps never been saved.”
That’s when the staff came up with the idea for a book of life.
The goal was to approach everybody on the church roll from the sixth grade up and ask them to write their personal testimony.
The staff designed a form, printed on parchment paper, which asks pertinent questions.
At the top of the form is “First Southern Book of Life.”
Then, it says, “I, (name of the person filling out the form) have the confidence that if I were to die today, I would spend my forever in Heaven,” followed by 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written, if you believe on the name of the son of God you may know that you have eternal life.”
The next statement, “If I were to die today and stand before God, and he were to say to me, why should I let you into my Heaven, I would respond:” with several lines available for response.
This is followed by questions about when and where the salvation experience took place, what the person remembers about the event and how God has worked in the person’s life since being saved.
Toward the bottom of the page is a line for the place and approximate date of scriptural baptism, and a space for the names of people the Lord used to bring the person to Christ.
There’s also room at the bottom for the person’s signature and the signature of a Sunday school teacher and the pastor.
The process of compiling the book began about five months ago when Elliff preached a message on the Lamb’s book of life. First Southern’s Sunday school follows the worship service, so pages were passed out during the Sunday school time following the sermon.
Sunday school members were given a rough draft page to work on before copying the final product onto the parchment paper. Teachers shared the gospel, and several were saved that day, Speas said.
“Some did not know what to put down on the paper,” Speas recounted. “We told them that was all right, that a lot of people don’t know for sure, but we wanted to help them. We asked them to put their name and phone number at the top of the page, and someone would contact them, and visit with them so they could know for sure.”
Speas said they tried to get all the sheets done that day, but every week “we have more and more of them dribbling in.”
He said they probably have about 50 percent, or 2,500 of their 5,000 Sunday school enrollment completed. Church membership exceeds 14,000, Speas said, but a lot of those are people who have come through Tinker Air Force Base, and have moved without a forwarding address.
“Every couple of weeks we send a computer print-out with a list of Sunday school members on whom we do not yet have a book of life page,” Speas said. “Our Sunday school teachers then follow up on these.”
Speas said the church is committed to completing the task, no matter how long it takes.
In addition to making sure church members know they are saved, there are other advantages to having a book of life, Speas noted.
“Many times when the pastor has conducted a funeral and gone to the family and asked about the person’s salvation experience, family members don’t know any details,” Speas said. “With this book, the pastor has only to pull out a page, and all the information is there.”
Speas told the story of a lady at First Southern who was dying of cancer. Her daughter and son-in-law were studying Evangelism Explosion, and while talking to their mother, something she said sparked their curiosity.
“They came to me and said they thought she might be trying to say she’s not sure if she’s really saved,” Speas said. “I told them to give her a book of life form to fill out.”
On the form, the mother made it clear she was sure of her salvation. Elliff was so impressed by what she wrote on the form that he read it in church the next Sunday morning. The following week, she died.
Speas said getting the forms out to all the members and returned to the church has been a bigger process than he thought it would be.
“When we read these, it’s easy to see those who are really sure of their salvation and those who are not,” Speas said. “It could turn out to be a great evangelistic effort. In fact, it already has.”

    About the Author

  • Dana Williamson