Although more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches didn’t baptize a single person in 2004, there’s no real secret to seeing new believers stir the waters of the baptistery, says a pastor who baptized 29 on a recent Sunday evening.
Although more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches
didn’t baptize a single person in 2004, there’s no real secret to
seeing new believers stir the waters of the baptistery, says a pastor
who baptized 29 on a recent Sunday evening.
When people have “experienced the power of the
Gospel personally … they want to share that with others,” says Jeff
LaBorg, pastor of College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn.
New believers, he notes, are the fruit of
soul-winning by church members who “love the Word of God and have been
taught by exposition and example from their leaders that soul-winning
is a requirement and not an elective.”
College Heights members “love everybody that comes
through the door, regardless of appearance, affluence, or economic
status,” says LaBorg. “On Sunday, they flood the altar with tears and
intercession, and then they go out and pursue the very ones they have
been praying for. They are bold about sharing their own testimonies of
how Christ changed their lives.”
For example, church members recently discovered a
family who had moved to the area to work in the booming construction
industry, but heavy rains had delayed the work. They had spent all
their resources and were living in a tent in a local campground.
The church family ministered to their needs and
shared the Good News of God’s love, LaBorg recalls.
“Today that family has a home, a job and, most importantly, a family of faith….”
LaBorg urges believers not to be reluctant to witness to people.
“People are hungry for truth – unapologetic truth
that sets the captive free and doesn’t merely offer a mask to cover the
misery,” he explains. “The unchurched are weary of the standard
religious answers that ignore the real issues, and they are willing to
pay the price – if only someone will tell them the truth.”
For London Smith, it only took a friend’s invitation
to lead him toward the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Smith was
one of the young men baptized at College Heights last year.
“I was raised in church and made a decision at age
12, but it was just routine. I wasn’t saved,” says Smith, a 20-year-old
employee of Dell Computer Corp. “I had been into a lot of bad stuff
that I’m not proud of – drugs, drinking, getting mad over small things.
“When a friend invited me to come here, I instantly
felt the power,” he continues. “My life has turned around 180 degrees
the other way. It’s amazing.”
Frank Boone, a 42-year-old landscaper from Gallatin,
was baptized that evening because he had experienced Christ’s power to
change a life in trouble.
“I used to drink a lot, going to bars, picking
fights, using pot and cocaine,” he confesses. “I ruined my life.
“I wasn’t thinking about my kids,” Boone continues.
“I was a poor excuse for a dad. I brought misery to everyone around me.
“The Lord had been knocking on my door for a long
time,” he notes. “I knew it, but I thought, ‘Why try being a Christian
when I know I’m not going to commit to it?’
Then, in mid-August 2005, Boone finally understood he was at a dead end.
“I was on my way home – it’s about an hour’s walk –
and I was drunk,” he recounts. “It was hot and I was sweating. I had
blisters on my feet. And Christ was talking to me the whole way.”
Tears welled up in his eyes as he relived the experience.
“I stopped at a bridge and sat down,” he recalls. “I
told Christ, ‘Lord, I can’t do it on my own. I’ve tried all my life and
I’ve done nothing but cause misery and pain for myself and my family.
I’m ready. I’ll give up everything. I want a new life. I want my kids
to hug me and tell me they love me and be proud of me.’
“Now, it’s not what can God do for me; it’s what can
I do for Him,” Boone says, his face breaking into a wide smile. “He
gave His Son up for me. I couldn’t do that. I just praise God for not
giving up on me, even with all the disrespect I’ve shown Him over the
Nothing compares to the experience of leading someone to Christ, LaBorg explains.
“When I look into their eyes and see a peace that
words cannot explain – where only a short time before there was fear
and confusion – I am filled with the awe of God’s miracle of
regeneration,” LaBorg adds.
That’s a joy too many Christians are missing out on,
when more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches don’t baptize anyone,
“Evangelism is simply introducing people to the Lord
and sharing the relationship that has forever changed your life and
altered your destiny,” he says. “When we have experienced the power of
the Gospel personally, we want to share that with others. The more we
love Jesus, the more natural it becomes for us to share our faith.
“As we grow in love for Jesus, His passions become
our passions,” he continues. “Just as He loves sinners and seeks the
lost, we follow His example. If we don’t exhibit the characteristics of
our Father, then something is wrong.”
Pastors must show their people by example and from God’s Word that soul-winning isn’t optional, he adds.
“This church’s founding pastor, Larry Gilmore, is
now leader of the evangelism strategies group for Tennessee Baptists,”
LaBorg notes. “He taught them by exposition and example that
soul-winning is a requirement and not an elective.
“The pastor is key,” he continues. “Pastors have to
set the evangelistic example by prioritizing evangelism in the life of
the church by returning to soul-winning training, evangelistic rallies,
intentional evangelistic outreach.”
With so many Americans experiencing turmoil and
uncertainty, sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ is an
urgent priority, LaBorg says.
“This is the day of salvation. There has never been
a greater opportunity to mobilize the church with the Gospel than right
now,” he explains. “As the backdrop of natural disasters and economic
upheaval grows darker, we could not be in a greater position to let our
light so shine that the whole world would see our good works and
glorify our Father in Heaven.
“It is time for those at ease in Zion to awaken and
behold the incredible opportunity we have to rescue the perishing.” (BP)
(Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch
has challenged Southern Baptist churches to baptize 1 million new
believers this year and has called on their 1,188 local associations to
hold two “associational baptism rallies” between Oct. 1, 2005, and
Sept. 30, 2006. Information and resources about “The ‘Everyone Can’
Kingdom Challenge!” is available on the Internet at