By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
COVINGTON – Typically, six-year-old Cayden Windom is a shy little boy who goes out of his way to avoid drawing attention to himself. But on an early March Sunday morning the youngster came out of his shell to proclaim his faith in Jesus through baptism.
DEDICATED TO CHRIST
As Windom stood before family and friends, the youngster made history as he became one of the first people to stir the baptistery waters in the new worship center at First Baptist Church in Covington. Brimming with excitement, Windom was elated to show nearly 2,300 people gathered March 18 the reason for his hope in Christ.
“It was exciting because of a couple of reasons,” he said. “I got to do the same thing Jesus did first and I felt like the president standing in front of all those people.”
Windom’s baptism is only the beginning of his family’s special connection with First Baptist Covington: Windom was the final person to walk down the aisle in the church’s former worship center; and, his mom and dad, Julie and Jeremy, were the first couple to be married after Hurricane Katrina in the old facility, where his sister, Kensly, also was baptized.
Julie Windom said her son has illustrated a true example of Christ-like joy.
“I can learn a lot from him,” she said. “The baptism part for us was super special — he is our second child — and there is no greater joy than knowing both are saved. We knew where his heart was all along, but he was more excited than we knew to show the world he loved Jesus. When I saw the pictures after his baptism, it showed, and, he has shared about it with people at school, church and everywhere he goes.”
REACHING THE LOST
Windom is one of 46 people baptized since January, 22, when the new worship center opened.
Long before breaking ground in 2016 on its current worship center, bookstore, coffee shop and preschool space, the congregation had outgrown its worship center that seated 1,250. The church also was tight on space in its foyer and Sunday school classrooms.
The $34 million facility gives the congregation the breathing room needed to accommodate the growing number of members who call First Covington home: Saturday evening services have grown by 100 since mid-March; and, seven new adult classes have started (51 Connect Groups, total).
Associate Pastor Jay Johnston said the added opportunities for fellowship in the Connect Groups, as well as at the bookstore and coffee shop will give the church greater opportunities for growth.
“This has allowed us an even greater chance to reach the people in the community, bring them in, disciple them and send them back to reach others,” he said. “That’s the goal and the drive we are trying to work towards day in and day out.”
AN ENDURING MISSION
Waylon Bailey, pastor of the church since 1989, said the April 15 dedication service was a celebration for what God has done through the congregation for its 97-year history. The special day featured remarks by Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins, local officials, representatives from among the builders and members of the congregation.
Bailey recalled the excitement that overcame him and his wife, Martha, a few days before the facility opened, as they spent some moments of reflection inside the building. He also remembered that after the first worship service the couple shared with each other what others also voiced – the building “felt like home.”
But the building is much more than a new place to worship Christ, Bailey explained. The facility has positioned the congregation to reach the next generation in an area that is constantly adding homes and businesses to its landscape.
The congregation conducts door-to-door evangelism, offers Upward sports, provides special needs classes, hosts Celebrate Recovery meetings and holds Vacation Bible School – with each drawing a large number of first-time guests to First Covington. The congregation also has started other campuses – Hope Waldheim Church in Covington, Metairie Church and Metairie Korean Church.
Looking ahead to the future, Bailey said he is excited about meeting the challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities to reach the lost for Christ in Covington and beyond.
“We need to reach our Jerusalem obviously because of the command of Christ, but we also need to do so because our culture and our neighbors need Christ so desperately,” Bailey said. “I’ve often thought that if people could experience what Christ can do in our lives, people would be knocking down the doors to become a part of God’s family.
“Because they can’t experience the peace, joy, and love that we have in Christ, we have to find ways to knock on their doors,” he said. “We need to go to the world for the same reasons but also of what it does for us when we go.”