Editor’s note: Sunday, Sept. 12, is Baptism Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
BETHLEHEM, Ga. (BP) – As pastor of one of Georgia’s most evangelistic churches, Jason Britt is accustomed to lots of baptisms, but 114 on a single Sunday was beyond even his expectations.
“We were blown away,” said Britt, lead pastor at Bethlehem Church. “It’s one of those things you don’t get to do every week, and you’re just grateful when God opens the door to do it.”
Bethlehem Church, with Sunday attendance of about 4,000 on its three campuses, is routinely one of Georgia’s top baptizing churches with 200 or more yearly since 2018.
On Aug. 22, 26 new believers were scheduled to be baptized at Bethlehem’s three campuses. However, dozens of others spontaneously made their way to the baptistries as well.
The next Sunday, Aug. 29, Bethlehem baptized 36 more people, bringing the total to 150 baptisms in recent weeks. That’s 200 so far this year.
Britt told the Christian Index the church experienced one of those spiritual moments that can’t be manufactured, that can only be instigated by God.
“It’s like with Elijah,” he said. “We don’t bring the fire; we just stack the wood. Our job is to just be obedient.”
In an interview with Baptist Press, Britt said he laid out a theology of baptism that Sunday morning.
“It’s never been a ceremonial or ritualistic thing,” he said. “It’s our first step when we decide to follow Christ. Then we go public.”
He said Christians can sometimes overthink baptism.
“We put it off. We plan for it,” he said. “We don’t have to process what Jesus has been clear about. You don’t have a relationship with God on your terms. We have a relationship with God on His terms, which is obedience.”
Britt told Baptist Press there were instances of husbands and wives being baptized together, husbands getting baptized in answer to their wives’ prayers and three generations of baptism in one family. He also told of a man who was an hour-and-a-half away at the lake, watching the first service online. The man was convicted by the Holy Spirit and drove all the way home to be baptized in a later service.
It was a “breakthrough Sunday,” Britt said, “where you saw the fruits of a lot of prayer, a lot of labor, a lot of ministry, a lot of preaching, a lot of sowing. A day of harvest.”
In the emotional Aug. 22 service, some of the new believers wore beaming smiles; some shed tears of joy; some raised their hands in praise as they made their way into and out of the baptistries.
“Baptism is the symbolic picture of being buried with Christ in his death as we go under the water,” Britt said. “And when we come up, it’s a picture of being made alive and new in Christ.”
In a Sunday evening service, as the final new Christians were being baptized, Britt explained how thrilling the day had been for him.
“It’s been one of those days you get in ministry for,” he said. “God is still changing lives. God is still moving mountains.”
J.J. Washington, evangelism catalyst at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said the mass baptisms show that Bethlehem Church has made reaching people with the Gospel a priority.
“It demonstrates that God is still at work, even in the midst of a pandemic,” he told the Christian Index. “The church is prioritizing the importance of people taking their first step of obedience.”
Washington said Bethlehem Church’s experience should be encouraging to other churches, “for there is no respect of persons with God. Therefore, He is willing to do what He did at Bethlehem Church in any church that is willing to commit to make the advancement of the Gospel, above all, their top priority.”