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On Easter, large & small churches alike emphasize the Gospel through baptisms

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Individuals stirred the waters in believer’s baptism on Easter Sunday in churches of all sizes across the Southern Baptist Convention April 16 as part of a convention-wide goal to reach more people than ever for Christ during this church year.

At Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, church members took the challenge from SBC President Bobby Welch to have an Easter emphasis on baptism as 15 were baptized into their congregation.

Welch’s call for Easter baptisms was part of his “‘Everyone Can!’ Kingdom Challenge” for evangelism, which urges Southern Baptists to witness to, win and baptize 1 million people in a year. In addition to Easter Sunday and Nov. 27 of last year, Welch has asked that churches highlight baptism on Sept. 30, the final day of the SBC’s church year and the closing date of the Everyone Can initiative.

“When Dr. Welch encouraged us to do that, we marked that on our calendar,” Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills, told Baptist Press. “For the last several weeks in our Sunday School classes we’ve been sharing baptism testimonies about how important it is to be baptized and people’s personal testimony to the blessing of their obedience to God in baptism.”

Several of the people who followed God by being baptized on Easter Sunday mentioned to Lewis how fitting it was that they would testify to their new life on a day marking Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Lewis said the baptisms came at “a very prominent spot” during the morning’s services. Great Hills typically has one service averaging more than 2,100, but on Easter they had two services with about 3,500 in attendance.

“It was a really moving service. I preached and gave an invitation, and we had 25 decisions yesterday — 15 of those coming by profession of faith and desiring to follow the Lord in baptism,” he said of the additions beyond those already baptized that day.

When he announced early in the first service that 15 believers would be baptized that day, Lewis said the auditorium erupted in applause. The grandparents of one boy being baptized drove all the way from Ohio to watch him take this major step in his Christian walk.

“It was such a celebration for that family to see that take place in their grandson’s life,” Lewis said.

Another poignant story involved a Spanish-speaking woman who was befriended by a church member during a neighborhood fellowship, the pastor said. Her decision to follow Christ prompted her cousin to call Lewis’ Spanish-speaking wife and ask how she likewise could be saved, which also resulted in her two children coming to the Lord.

“So there was a real transformation and spiritual chain of events as one family member came to know the Lord and then the other and then two children,” Lewis said.

About 1,000 Great Hills members are trained in the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy, and Lewis said the church averages around 350 active participants each week. The Everyone Can initiative has been an important part of their church’s commitment to the Great Commission.

“I believe that Dr. Welch has set a real pace for Southern Baptists and the emphasis of evangelism and baptisms — an emphasis that is visionary, that is challenging, that is beyond the status quo,” Lewis said. “It helps pastors like myself and other churches across our denomination to rise to heights that we never dreamed possible, not only for our convention but for individual churches. I greatly appreciate Dr. Welch and his visionary leadership for our convention for such a time as this.”

At Fairfield Baptist Church in Moselle, Miss., a rural town just north of Hattiesburg, 16 believers were baptized on Easter Sunday after the church took Welch’s challenge and made it their own.

Fairfield averages about 150 in worship each week; Pastor Kevin Ivy noted that the number baptized on Easter surpasses any number the church has baptized at once in at least the last eight years, if ever.

“We had some congregational singing and then we had a short Easter cantata by the choir,” Ivy told Baptist Press. “Then I preached a short message on Jesus being more than a man, and my last point was one of the evidences we have that He truly is alive is the number of transformed lives we see today because of Him.

“And then all those who had made decisions over the last two or three months came forward and they were all presented for baptism, were able to profess their faith in Christ and then we baptized all 16 of them,” he said.

The congregation reached a milestone during the service, Ivy said, as it baptized two African Americans into its fellowship, marking the first African Americans ever to be baptized at the church.

“One of them was saved before he came here to be baptized and the other was saved here in the church,” he said.

Ivy commended Welch for taking the lead on increasing baptisms through the Everyone Can initiative.

“I like the way that it’s turning our attention toward what we’re to be about: reaching other people,” the pastor said. “I like the way it stresses ‘everyone,’ so it’s not just the pastor’s job or the minister’s job or the staff’s job to reach out but it takes everybody to reach out and bring people to Jesus.”

For the past three or four months, members at Fairfield wrote down names of people they believed God was burdening their hearts to reach for Christ.

“Then we worked as individuals to try to bring those people to Christ through tracts, through witnessing, through Bible studies, through evangelistic services at the church,” Ivy said. “Everybody has worked together to reach our goal of seeing these people come to know Jesus.”
For more information on the “‘Everyone Can!’ Kingdom Challenge” for evangelism, visit www.everyonecan.net.

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  • Erin Roach