LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP) — Not long after Saddleback Church held its first services in 1980, Rick Warren waded in the water and baptized a handful of new believers. Nine people came forward that day to declare their newfound faith in Jesus. Since then, at least 49,991 people have followed in their footsteps.
On Sunday (August 12), the Southern Baptist church announced that 50,000 people had been baptized at the church during its 38 years of ministry. That number includes hundreds of people baptized this weekend at the church’s 19 campuses.
Warren baptized several people in a pool at one of the church’s campus.
“Why is baptism such a big deal?” Warren asked church members. “There are two reasons. First, Jesus commanded it. Second, he modeled it — this is the way I say to the world ‘I’m in! I’m a part of the family of God — there is no reason to wait!'”
During services this past weekend, Saddleback acknowledged those who had been baptized at the church in the past, according to a statement. They also displayed pictures of previous baptisms.
In an email to the Saddleback congregation, Warren said while growing up, he’d been inspired by a description of the early church found in the words of Acts 2:27: “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
“This phrase “Every day the Lord added to their number” has been true of Saddleback for 38 years,” Warren wrote.
A number of pastors from around the country posted short video clips on Twitter to congratulate Saddleback. Saddleback also took to social media in celebrating Sunday’s milestone.
“50,000 lives and counting,” the church tweeted. “Each of these lives represents an individual changed by and committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are in awe of what God has done in the last 38 years and are hopeful and expectant for what he will do in the years to come. Thank you, God!”