ETHEL, La. (BP) — Donna Rylee and Ruthie Taylor have celebrated many happy times as sisters, but both are adamant that no other moment they have shared can surpass the joy both felt during their joint baptism at Providence Number One Baptist Church in Ethel.
As pastor Cedric Murphy baptized each in September the two women beamed with excitement about the spiritual journey they have shared.
“When he issued an altar call the Sunday before, we both walked up without hesitation,” Rylee said. “For the first time in a couple of years I have this joy in my heart again. Now, I can look at my family members who are here sitting together on a Sunday, including my grandson Norman who was baptized two Sundays after us, and know we will be together in Heaven one day.”
The family members were among at least 19 new converts baptized at Providence Number One Baptist in 2018 — the most in a single year since the church was organized in 2012, according to Annual Church Profile statistics. Pastor Cedric Murphy said the baptisms are a direct reflection of an increased focus on prayer and evangelism for the congregation that averages 60 for Sunday morning worship services.
“God has brought a revival within our church,” Murphy said. “We preached about evangelism. We talked about evangelism. But now it’s our members living out a lifestyle of evangelism.
“We are seeing people reaching out to co-workers, neighbors and friends,” he noted. “The most rewarding thing you can see within the context of a pastor is when souls are being saved.”
Murphy acknowledged that discouragement set in earlier last year when the church was struggling financially and trending downward in weekly worship attendance. Rather than adopt an attitude of pessimism, Murphy led his church into a new season of prayer and saw the Holy Spirit respond.
Since January 2017, the congregation has gathered each week for Sunday morning Bible study and prayer within these groups. Then in 2018, Murphy felt led to focus more on corporate prayer. So, in May, members began increasing the time spent in congregational prayer for the lost, the unchurched and the hurting in their community; and, in September, they were dedicating the first 45 minutes of each Wednesday night in prayer for revival.
“This year God told me not to allow prayer to be routine — where everyone gets in and out quickly and says his or her own prayer. He said we should be more prayer focused,” Murphy said. “Prayer has been very powerful. The baptisms and salvations are linked to the way we pray to God.”
The first wave of baptisms came in July after the church conducted Vacation Bible School. As it is with many Baptist congregations, VBS is a major evangelistic tool for Providence Number One for reaching the community with the love of Christ.
Though attendance was down from previous years, six of the 26 children who repented and professed faith in Christ this summer also followed through with believer’s baptism. More baptisms followed as members continued praying and reaching out to others.
Outreach includes conducting worship services every six weeks at a local recovery center. And the church hosts a youth and children’s ministry and a men’s ministry that are both designed to attract and impact the lost and unchurched. Murphy is hopeful the church will maintain a prayerful spirit and see additional people turn to Christ.
“God has proven to me through what He’s done this year at our church that He is faithful,” Murphy said. “God will send a revival when we pray and intercede for lost souls.”