By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE – Despite cool fall temperatures, 20 new believers braved the brisk conditions to be part of a special outdoor baptism service Oct. 22 at Istrouma Baptist Church.
One by one, each stepped into a brimming horse trough, restated his and her individual faith in Christ, was plunged beneath the water and raised to symbolize being born again in Christ – and was greeted with hugs and cheers from friends and family among the several hundred supporters in attendance.
Scheduled as part of its “One Another Sunday,” the baptisms brought together Istrouma Baptist’s Baton Rouge, Prairieville and Hispanic campuses. Indeed, a number of the baptized were among the 105 people who responded to Evangelist Jay Lowder’s message during the morning worship service that day.
“It’s like Jay drew the net but the seed had been sown in people’s heart by the love our people show the community throughout the year,” Pastor Jeff Ginn told the Baptist Message. “When push comes to shove, we are called to lead people to Christ, baptize them and make disciples. All of those who are new to Christ tend to bring their friends and that’s what happened here. They came to the baptism service and brought others with them, planting even more seeds.”
“One Another Sunday” activities also featured a picnic.
“One Another Sunday” is only one of several large-scale evangelistic outreaches the congregation makes each year to engage the local community.
Recently, Istrouma Baptist’s members adopted Cedarcrest Elementary School, located adjacent to the church parking lot. Small groups adopt each teacher, supplying them with treats throughout the school year. Members also hold Christmas parties, grill out for the teachers and staff, assist in afterschool tutoring and watch the children of parents attending Parent Teacher Organization meetings.
Ginn said the effort has helped foster an even greater personal connection with the school staff.
“Our discipleship team has led the way in encouraging our small groups to engage missionally. Our small groups not only study the Scripture, and fellowship and care for one another, they are reaching outward to share life.”
Another local outreach is Istrouma Baptist’s annual “Go Day.”
In its eighth year, the effort involves hundreds of members who participate in more than 40 different projects around Baton Rouge. In 2017, these included neighborhood block parties, a picnic for special needs families, gift baskets to firemen and policemen, sports clinics for youth, landscaping a Christian school and volunteering at a nursing home.
But its evangelistic efforts are not limited to just Baton Rouge.
Church members have taken mission trips to places like New Orleans, Alaska, Haiti, Guatemala and Mexico; and, recently, the congregation commissioned disaster response teams to serve in areas of Texas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking volunteers conducted relief operations in Conroe, Port Arthur and Sagemont.
For Ginn, Istrouma Baptist has been given so much and believes they should bless others freely.
“Istrouma does serve widely but that is partly because we have been so blessed,” he said. “To whom much is given, of them much is required.”