By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
MANDEVILLE – Although it had been 16 years since he had visited any church, David Cooley’s curiosity about the Gospel was piqued the moment in early January that he stepped inside the First Baptist Church of Mandeville.
A mere month later, he expressed his newfound hope in Christ after hearing the Gospel shared: by his wife; at a Life Group class; during a men’s conference; and, as a personal appeal from interim Pastor Jake Roudkovski, who also serves as professor of evangelism and pastoral leadership at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Cooley did not wait long to show obedience to God’s call to be baptized, stepping into the baptistery March 20 to publicly declare Jesus as Lord.
“My baptism was refreshing,” Cooley told the Baptist Message. “It sealed the deal for my commitment to Christ and showed everyone that I was new in the Lord.”
Since January, First Baptist Mandeville has baptized 17 new believers, eclipsing the pace of baptisms (5) for this same timeframe last year and on track to surpass the 27 baptisms of 2018. Roudkovski said members have embraced the need to share the Gospel with their friends, family and co-workers.
Throughout the year, members are encouraged to write on white index cards the names of individuals they know who they believe do not have a relationship with Christ and then to nail these cards on a cross erected inside the worship center. Once that person accepts Christ, a red index card is placed on top of the white card.
“The physical reminder of the notecards on the cross encourages the congregation to share the Gospel with their lost person, and it reminds them weekly that each card represents a soul in need of Jesus,” Roudkovski said.
The church, which averages 320 for Sunday morning worship service, offers annual retreats and monthly large group gatherings for men and women, and has discipleship classes for the children, youth, senior adults and others. Some members also volunteer monthly at the Samaritan’s Center in Mandeville to help provide food to needy residents of the city.
Michael Blue, associate pastor at First Mandeville, said the baptisms allow him and others in the church to have a front row seat to see changed lives following through in obedience to God’s Word.
“Baptisms preach the Gospel in action,” Blue said. “Any service that has a baptism only ampliﬁes the Gospel message that is preached on Sunday. It is extremely exciting to see lives being changed through Christ. That is the Gospel – the Good News – and is exactly what St. Tammany Parish needs.
“Our parish is affected by many factors – high statistics in drug use, suicide, and children in foster care in Louisiana,” he continued. “Our parish has more people that do not even claim a religion than those who claim any type of religious denomination. So our parish is in desperate need of the biblical Gospel that changes lives. That is why First Mandeville has adopted our mission statement: ‘Revere Christ ~ Rescue Families ~ Revive Community.’ By ﬁxing our eyes on Christ and His mission, families will be restored by the power of the Gospel, and by rescuing families we can see real change in our community.”