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Tanks filled, decisions celebrated on Baptism Sunday

Michael Bowen, pastor of East Lumberton Baptist Church in Lumberton, N.C., baptizes his neighbor, Demerial Rivers. Rivers and his family of four were baptized Sept. 12 at the church. Photo courtesy of Facebook

NASHVILLE (BP) – For Michael Bowen, Baptism Sunday (Sept. 12) was about a celebration of those publicly proclaiming their faith in Christ. The baptisms hit close to home because they were the culmination of three years of dialogue and building relationships.

“My neighbors live two doors down from me and I have been trying to get them in church for three years,” said Bowen, pastor of East Lumberton Baptist Church in Lumberton, N.C. “Their son is my son’s best friend. Right before VBS, I invited the two children and told the parents that if they will come to church one time, I won’t bother them again if they don’t like it.

Senior Pastor Shelton Daniel, center, stands with others preparing for baptism at Greater Joy Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C. as part of Baptism Sunday Sept. 12 and the Fill the Tank emphasis led by North Carolina Baptists. Photo courtesy of Facebook

“They took me up on the challenge and came that Sunday and loved it. The whole family came to VBS every night because we have a class for adults as well. All four got saved in VBS and got baptized last night.”

That story joined others around the country as Southern Baptists took part in Baptism Sunday. On that day, not only are churches encouraged to perform and celebrate baptisms, but also to provide the opportunity for others wanting to make a decision for Christ and be baptized.

East Lumberton Baptist joined others in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that got involved through its Fill the Tank emphasis, with 673 eventually registering to do so.

“It’s been exciting and encouraging to see so many churches across our state come together to celebrate new life in Christ through baptism,” said Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for North Carolina Baptists. “We’ve heard so many powerful testimonies of how God moved, and reports are still coming in. I pray that what happened yesterday would compel us all to be more intentional about sharing the good news, making disciples and sending the saved.”

In the Sunshine State, Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, noted the stories shared of lives changed by the Gospel and the anticipation of more to come.

“It is exciting to hear reports and see the pictures on social media of Florida Baptist churches participating in baptisms this past Sunday,” he said. “I am thankful for the evangelistic witness of our churches for Christ. I rejoice that every week that baptismal waters are stirred in Florida Baptist churches.”

Others shared baptism stories at their churches.

“I love baptism Sunday. I had the great joy and privilege of baptizing 3 ladies today,” Jonathan Hayashi, pastor of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Holt, Mo., posted on Facebook. “The highlight of my day was where I got to baptize Cindy Smith who is 72 years old. She is my hero. We are so thankful for every baptism that took place this morning!”

Central Baptist Church in Livingstone, Texas, was the site of the baptism of “Charlie,” a story shared by Pastor Sonny Hathaway. For more than 30 years Charlie has worked for a family in the church and recently accepted Christ as Lord. A retired Hispanic pastor at Central has spent weeks discipling Charlie.

“Every new believer has faithful praying, witnessing and discipling behind them. God is good,” Hathaway said.

And although yesterday emphasized baptism among Southern Baptists, it by no means is constrained to a day on the calendar. For East Lumberton, it was the continuation of a movement that began last year.

“In the middle of COVID we baptized 150 people in the past 12 months,” Bowen said. “We had a tent revival that lasted five weeks with 313 saved and 113 baptized under the tent. COVID hasn’t slowed our church down one bit.”