By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
MADISONVILLE – “We know the early church often would baptize on Resurrection Day, so we were able to celebrate like the early church did more than 2,000 years ago,” Pastor Lane Corley told the Baptist Message, in explaining the public testimony element of five baptisms celebrated on Easter at the Bridge Church.
“A lot of families come to church anyway that day, including a good number who don’t regularly attend services, and it presented the perfect chance to share with them the theme of new life and transformation that is possible through Christ,” said Corley, who also serves as a church planting strategist for Louisiana Baptists.
Corley said his congregation has held multiple baptism services each year since the church was founded in 2009, but that this was the first time they had done so on Easter Sunday. Dawn Black was among those who stirred the baptistery waters this Easter.
She had professed her faith in Christ as a youngster, but did not understand the importance of obedience represented by baptism.
As she grew older, her desire to attend worship services at a local church waned. However, her sister, Kallie, invited her to attend Bridge Church in late 2018, and within months Black became passionate about her faith and wanted to be baptized.
“Since coming here, I have seen a different side of people,” she said. “When you walk into Bridge Church there is no judgment, only care and love. I can’t wait to get up on Sundays and come to a place where Christ is real.”
The catalyst for the Easter baptisms came from a focus on prayer and multiple evangelistic outreaches in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Members were encouraged to pray for one person, and invite him or her to the service.
Some members also participated in the challenge issued by Lee Strobel, a speaker at the 2019 Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference, to pray for one person for one minute at 1 p.m. every day leading up to Easter, and were reminded about their commitment by a daily text.
Members also hosted 12 block parties and Easter egg hunts to reach out and encourage their neighbors to join them for this special worship service.
“When you start praying for your neighbors, it opens your eyes to the opportunities to share the Gospel,” Corley said. “We are looking to see others come to Christ through those relationships between neighbors and friends. Hopefully more people will get on board praying for their neighbors and family members because we all want to get more involved in God’s mission when we see new life and transformation.”
Since January, nine new believers have been baptized at the Bridge Church, which meets at a movie theater in Madisonville. Corley said they hope to baptize 25 people by the end of the year, which would be a record for the nine-year-old congregation that averages 130 worshipers on Sunday, according to church records.
Throughout the week, members grow their relation-ships with Christ and each other through one of eight small discipleship groups that meet in homes, coffee shops and other locations.
“Small groups are really important for portable churches like ours,” Corley said. “When you are portable, the focus is relationships and not the building. Buildings are great and provide that sense of place that can keep people returning to, but when you are portable, the relationships become even more important. We have many people that will tell us I may miss church every now and then, but I will never miss my small group. The relationships become the focus and that makes me, as a pastor, very happy.”