Updated Sept. 18, 2019, 10:40 a.m.
Kris and Jill Hopkins so appreciated the gospel call at Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C., Sept. 8, they hugged Pastor Ronnie Parrott and cried after their baptisms moments later.
“They were in tears and grateful that we cared enough about them to give them that opportunity to know Christ, to know the true gospel and then to identify with Him through baptism,” Parrott told Baptist Press (BP) Monday.
The Hopkinses were among hundreds or more new believers who made professions of faith at Southern Baptist churches on Baptism Day and were baptized the same day, 15 of them at Christ Community Church. Baptisms ranged from 1 to more than 100 among several Southern Baptist congregations, according to reports to BP and on social media. Baptism Day is Sept. 8 on the Southern Baptist Convention Calendar.
“And in the New Testament, we see this happen every time someone gives their life to Christ,” Parrott said. “To follow the Lord in baptism is an important first step in following Christ, and we believe it’s important to do this regularly and often.”
Marshal Ausberry Sr. rearranged his church’s schedule Sunday to hold baptisms, an ordinance he normally observes on first Sundays, he told BP. At Antioch Baptist Church, the congregation Ausberry leads in Fairfax Station, Va., 10 new believers were baptized and four others were scheduled for baptism when family members can attend.
“I sense a tremendous momentum coming out of Baptism Sunday that will energize our congregation to reach the lost,” Ausberry told BP. “Baptism Sunday was a strong reminder to the congregation that we all need to be engaged in sharing our faith with the lost.
“As I reflect on Baptism Sunday,” he said, “I walked away thinking that it would be an awesome move of God if Baptism Sunday morphs beyond the SBC” into a nationwide event.
Ausberry is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC.
“A National Baptism Sunday movement would highlight the need for God’s people to be engaged in sharing our faith to a lost and dying world,” he said. “The purpose is not for another Hallmark card day, but to help God’s Church to stay focused on the main thing, winning souls to Christ.”
SBC President J.D. Greear, senior pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area, encouraged pastors to conduct baptisms during the SBC-wide event.
“Is there anything that should get us more excited?” Greear told BP after Baptism Day. “Jesus said there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over 99 that are already His.
“I was encouraged to see so many churches issue an intentional call to embrace the Lordship of Christ and express that through baptism!” Greear said. “May God give these churches grace to ensure these are not just converts, but disciples.”
Churches prepared for the day, telling members of the event weeks in advance, buying clothing for new converts to wear during baptism, inviting guests and in some cases, training extra leaders to counsel new converts before baptism.
Noe Garcia, SBC second vice president and pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., told BP his church baptized 47 Sunday.
“We saw a woman give up her life of homosexuality,” Garcia told BP, “and we saw several who have come through addictions, anger, and abuse, all giving their lives to Christ.”
Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., led by former SBC President Steve Gaines, baptized 106 people Sunday, Gaines tweeted @bellevuepastor.
First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., baptized 115. Pastor Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board and former SBC president, tweeted @johnnymhunt, “to God be the glory; spontaneous baptism.”
Many pastors posted photos and encouragement on various social media platforms, incorporating #FillTheTank or #BaptismSunday. Some baptized in lakes, rivers and creeks, others in baptismal pools.
“We (Holly Creek Baptist) baptized eight in the creek just a few minutes ago,” pastor Cory Hawkins tweeted @NachoAverageMan. “We have baptized three out of the past five Sundays. Still stoked about it … “
William Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., observed Baptism Sunday on Aug. 25 to accommodate the congregation’s calendar. The church baptized 62.
“It is important to highlight specific moments where you call people to respond to the gospel and make commitments to Christ,” Rice told BP Monday. “There are many ways to do this, but the idea of calling people to a response and a decision is an important part of proclaiming the gospel.”
Several North Carolina Baptist churches reported other Baptism Sunday celebrations.
In Durham, Ridgecrest Baptist Church held a second Sunday of baptisms Sept. 8 following a first round on Aug. 25. A total of 19 people were baptized. Among the 19 were two sets of twins – four of Rodney and Amber Williford’s six children.
Marc Francis, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist, told the Biblical Recorder one of the baptisms was due to the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative and significant to the church’s history. When Ridgecrest was founded in 1955, the first worship leader named his son after the first pastor, Ernest Ferrell. Robert “Robbie” Ernest Andrews grew up at Ridgecrest but “left church at an early age without professing his faith in Christ,” Francis said.
Andrews’ nephew, Preston Andrews III, a deacon at Ridgecrest, identified Andrews as his “one.” Preston and his brother, Clay Andrews, recently shared the gospel with their uncle, invited him to church and prayed with and for him. Robbie responded to the gospel at a Celebrate Recovery meeting Ridgecrest sponsored.
“Since then, Robbie has put down the bottle, poured the rest down the sink, come to church, spent time being discipled, and yesterday, was baptized!” Francis wrote in an email to the Recorder Sept. 9.
Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest, N.C., held a lake baptism at New Life Camp, where more than 70 people were baptized.
Kelly Bullard, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., baptized his son on Baptism Sunday.
“In all my years of pastoral ministry, none compare to the joy of today and baptizing my son, Caleb!” Bullard wrote in a Facebook post.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Liz Tablazon, BR assistant editor, contributed to this story.)