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In ‘lifting up Jesus,’ church sees professions & baptisms

HORN LAKE, Miss. (BP)–For her birthday this year, Terri Sutton got something she’s been wanting for a long time. She got to see her husband and father-in-law baptized on the same day.

“It’s a wonderful birthday present,” Sutton said. “To me, it’s the best birthday present I could have.”

Sutton’s husband, Mike, and her father-in-law, Doug Hussey, were two of 36 people baptized in a special service at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake, Miss., Sept. 25. Those baptized were just a few from the 423 professions of faith the church saw as a result of three nights of the drama presentation “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.”

“This is just a movement of God,” pastor Joe Turner said. “Jesus said in John 12:32, ‘If I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men unto me,’ and what we’ve been doing is lifting up Jesus. That’s what’s doing it.”

The church was originally hoping to baptize 100 people in an outdoor service. But weather moved the service inside, and Turner said weather may have been a factor in fewer people showing up for the baptism than expected.

“We don’t have any control over that,” Turner said.

The drama, presented by Reality Outreach Ministries, ran Sunday through Wednesday, Sept. 18-21, and was packed every night. It was so successful that the church extended it for another three nights the following week.

In addition to the 423 professions of faith, 171 people rededicated their lives to Christ during the services.

Sutton said she had been trying to get her father-in-law to come to church for a long time. At her daughter’s prompting, she invited him to see the drama and he accepted. Sutton’s husband Mike also has been in her prayers.

“He’s been sitting on the fence,” Sutton said about her husband. “If I had to get a lasso and rope him over to the other side I was going to. I wasn’t going to let him stay on the fence.”

Phil Anderson, the church’s minister of education, outreach and assimilation, credited a healthy prayer effort with the drama’s success. The church also blanketed the community with 20,000 tickets for the drama.

“We’ve just been on our knees before God and asking God to do something,” Anderson said. “We just told God we wanted lives changed.”

Since many of those who made professions of faith came from other churches, Turner said he hopes First Baptist can retain about 50 percent of the total number as members. First Baptist will follow up with the new believers by assigning them to a Sunday School class where teachers, deacons and the ministerial staff will work to get them plugged into the church. The church typically runs about 425-450 in Sunday School.

“We prayed before the drama came for a transformation, where pastor, staff, church would never be the same again,” Turner said. “And that’s what we got. People are just excited about what God’s doing and that He’s chosen to work here.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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