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First Hendersonville prepares for the unprepared, sees 93 baptized

Two of those baptized at First Baptist Hendersonville on March 10 stand beside Senior Pastor Bruce Chesser. Photo from First Baptist

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Out of the crowds attending morning worship services at First Baptist Church last Sunday, 93 didn’t realize they were about to step forward with a life-changing public proclamation.

It was a day planned for months by church leadership to address something they had noticed with newcomers to the area.

First Baptist senior pastor Bruce Chesser stands with one of those baptized on March 10. Photo courtesy of First Baptist

“We had been praying about this,” said Bruce Raley, senior associate pastor. “We’ve had a lot of people who had no faith background or came from a different faith move here and begin attending our church. They had never understood or heard why a person should be baptized and how baptism is an act of obedience that follows salvation.”

As part of a series in the Gospel of Luke, Senior Pastor Bruce Chesser taught through the story of Zacchaeus. Verse 10 of chapter 19 points out that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

That next step after salvation, he told the crowd, was baptism. He explained its meaning and the importance of doing so by immersion. He then challenged those wanting to step forward to meet him in the baptistry area.

He explained that being caught off guard wasn’t a problem, either. The church had swimsuits, hair dryers and towels at the ready.

“We are prepared for you to be unprepared,” Chesser said.

The majority were adults and students, Raley told BP. First Baptist requires children who have made a salvation decision to go through a new Christian class. Those who had done so and stepped forward were baptized Sunday. Other children who prayed to receive Christ that day will be baptized later.

Stories shared that day included those who had made a profession of faith but not been baptized and others who were baptized early in life and then saved. They wanted to get things in the correct order.

Those responding to the invitation for baptism at First Baptist Hendersonville stand in line. Photo courtesy of First Baptist

One of several salvations came from an admitted agnostic who had moved to the community from England.

Staff and deacons were on-hand to counsel and answer questions. Next steps include connecting the newly baptized with other believers and small groups. Those, in turn, are to lead them into deeper discipleship and areas of service.

Sunday marked the biggest one-day baptism total in the church’s history, said Raley. First Baptist has an annual lake baptism service in August that sees 50-55 baptisms.

“These people had come to church not thinking they were going to be baptized,” Raley said. “But the Lord spoke to them, and every one of them walked out of the building with a story. Each story is going to be a little unique, but it’s going to be how God spoke to them and they were obedient.”