Cedar Rock First Baptist Church in Castalia, N.C., filled its baptistry Jan. 14 for the first time in nearly a decade, said Pastor Nathaniel Williams.
Nathaniel Williams, pastor of Cedar Rock First Baptist Church in Castalia N.C., conducts a baptism service.
Two people in their 20s, Casey Bolton and Angel Sauls, were baptized that Sunday morning.
Williams said the congregation was encouraged by the special occasion, calling it a sign of “God’s faithfulness to us and to this community.”
Baptism numbers have been declining in Southern Baptist churches for several years, according to data compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources, falling by almost 5 percent in 2016.
Williams said widespread concern about depressed figures in the Southern Baptist Convention has created pressure for churches to respond.
“It’s kind of intimidating,” he said, referring to the number of articles and opinions about downward trends. “We’ve tried to ignore the noise and focus on the main thing … let the Word do the work.”
Williams has spent the majority of his two years at Cedar Rock, his first full-time pastoral position, preaching verse-by-verse from the Gospel of Matthew.
“I was learning how to preach,” he said, “and there’s no better way to learn how to preach than letting Jesus preach.”
The congregation is committed to prayer, Williams added. A “steadfast” group meets on Wednesday nights to pray for the church, in addition to a number of elderly members who are unable to attend services that pray persistently, he said.
“My encouragement to them has been that in those times where you probably thought God wasn’t at work, He was.”
Williams also pointed out that Cedar Rock’s recent baptisms involved young adults, an age set not typically associated with church involvement.
Less than one in four born again believers become Christians after age 21, according to a Barna study.
“God can still do these things,” Williams said. “He’s not out of the business of saving people.”
In a day when many Christian ministries and mission strategies focus on cities, Williams wants to remind others that, “God hasn’t forgotten the rural churches. … God loves and cares for these people. If we come to them with a posture of love, God can work through that.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – In addition to his pastoral role at Cedar Rock First Baptist Church, Nathaniel Williams is editor of IntersectProject.org, a blog about the intersection of faith and work.)