Pastor Shane Parrott’s wife Resa wanted to know what possessed him to install a 16-foot wooden cross on the front lawn of their home.
“I said, ‘I really don’t know. But for the real kicker, I’m gonna put Christmas lights on it.’
“At the same time, this member of the church, he called me and said, ‘Hey pastor, I got about 10 pieces of wood. I’d like to make a few crosses and see what happens.’”
The initial distribution of 10 free crosses the church member built as the COVID-19 pandemic ensued, led to church members and volunteers building and giving away nearly 2,700 6-foot crosses within weeks. It continued until the pandemic made unavailable the hundreds of two-by-fours needed for construction.
As the people came, Parrott shared the gospel with each person, asking whether they had a personal relationship with Jesus. By the end of the 2020 pandemic year, Parrott had baptized 168 people, and church attendance had rebounded by 200 people, almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Those crosses, they probably served as more of a catalyst to get people in the community into our church,” Parrott said. “People in the community who were looking for something, they didn’t know what they were looking for. But when they came here, we made sure not only did they get a physical cross … but they got the gospel message behind that cross, and that just spread.
“It just spread like crazy throughout our community, and so they knew that I was here every day and we were here and we were building crosses. There would be people lined up down our driveway of the church ready for us. If we said that we were going to start giving them out at 10 o’clock, people were here by 8.”
Heritage Baptist has baptized so many people – about 1,200 in the past 12 years – that it wore out the 12-year-old baptistery. The church planned to install a new one March 19.
“I’ll be baptizing Saturday night, so it’s got to be working by then,” Parrott said Friday. The pastor will baptize believers any day of the week, with or without a regularly scheduled worship service.
He believes the baptistery wore out because while it’s supposed to be drained regularly, the church only drained it perhaps three times annually. He can’t risk the pool being dry.
“Most people will schedule baptisms, they fill the baptistery, then they’ll drain the baptistery. We can’t do that,” Parrott said. “We have baptisms on Wednesday night service. We have them on Sunday morning. We have them on Sunday night. We have people who will get saved and want to be immediately baptized. We have spontaneous baptisms of people who, when they hear the Word of God, they realize that their (believers’) baptism is out of order. So that’s happened.
“We stay wet a lot around here.”
Parrott baptized two people after they returned home to Calhoun around 9 p.m. March 20, because they felt they couldn’t wait until Sunday. He baptized two additional people Sunday, totaling about 25 baptisms so far this year. Heritage baptized 148 people in 2019 and 50 in 2018, according to the Annual Church Profile.
Generosity was evident during the pandemic. As people sent in donations to cover the cost of the wood, an individual business owner called Parrott, crying and offering to cover the total construction cost.
“He said, ‘What this tells me is Jesus is available to everybody.’ I said, ‘Certainly He is.’ And so, he paid the entire bill of the lumber. And he said go buy more. … It didn’t cost the church anything.” Parrott is considering conducting the cross construction and giveaway again.
A church member is covering the cost of the new baptistery and installation, Parrott said.
“He had not always gone to church, and when he came to church here, his entire family got saved. And so he thought, ‘Now look, I’m not trying to buy anything, but this is the least I can do. You know, my family’s going to be in heaven with me now, and so I want to buy the baptistery and pay for installation.’”
The generosity has allowed the church to increase its benevolence activity in the community.
“To see what we did and to see how God moved during what was supposed to be a really down time, it was amazing to see that,” Parrott said. “He showed us then that He’s not contained to the walls of the structure (the church building).”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)