When Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch called for a baptism emphasis in churches across the nation to be held last year, the event happened to coincide with a milestone at a congregation where evangelism has become second nature to most members.
When Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby
Welch called for a baptism emphasis in churches across the nation to be
held last year, the event happened to coincide with a milestone at a
congregation where evangelism has become second nature to most members.
“This church has been evangelistic for many years in
that they were one of the first churches to start using the FAITH
evangelism training,” says Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist
Church in Rocky Mount, N.C.
Cloer explained that the previous pastor died of
cancer at age 40, and for eight months the church was without a pastor.
However, the congregation still baptized 67 people because
they are intentionally evangelistic.
“It has nothing to do with me; it’s what God was
doing through them before I got here,” explains Cloer, who began
leading Englewood in August 2000.
The church hit its 1,000 mark in total baptisms
under the new pastor’s leadership the very day they participated in the
baptism emphasis Welch initiated.
“We’ve baptized 22 since then,” Cloer said, adding
that the church has about 2,200 members now. “God is doing a work here.
“The church has doubled in size in the past five
years,” he adds. “It’s because of people winning other people to Christ
and baptizing them.
During the past year, Englewood helped start a
Hispanic church and an African American church in town, and the three
churches are planning a joint baptism service in the city park, which
has a large lake.
The event will be another component of Welch’s
“Everyone Can” Kingdom Challenge for evangelism, which seeks to witness
to, win and baptize 1 million people throughout the SBC this year.
In addition to the in-church baptism Sundays on Easter and Sept. 30,
Welch has called for churches to join with other congregations in their
communities to hold joint baptism services outdoors as a witness to
their neighbors who may not enter the doors of a church.
The “Everyone Can” slogan and the meaning behind it
have been tremendous motivations for the members of Englewood, Cloer
“We’re using that as our theme for all of 2006, and
we’ve challenged our church membership to baptize twice as many next
year as we ever have in the history of the church,” he explains.
“We’ve set a goal of 500 people in one year. You see
that ‘Everyone Can’ on posters and all of our publications that we send
Englewood, in fact, is adding the word “disciple” to
the challenge because they want their church members also to disciple
those they lead to the Lord. The idea is for the person to become a
mentor to the new Christian for about six months, helping make a
disciple while the church provides the training and resources necessary
for the task.
Evangelism has been vital to Cloer at least since
his seminary days, he said, and that conviction carries on in his work
“I personally have made a commitment to present the
Gospel to at least five people every week. I’ve challenged the staff
that they each have to be personal witnesses,” he said. “Many of our
staff have come from Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary, where
that was just a part of our culture that if you were going to go to
school there you were going to witness.
“There was a report hour every Tuesday at that
school,” he recalls. “I graduated 30 years ago, and it’s still a
practice of mine ever since then.
“Even among our staff, that’s how we begin our staff
time every week,” he continues. “We pray for each of those who have
come forward in a service by name and then we report on our witnessing.”
To Cloer, baptism is a natural next step once
someone has understood the basic meaning of the Gospel and has accepted
Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
“One of the distinctives of Baptists is baptisms. We
do this as an identifying mark,” he says. “I think baptism is to a
Christian what a wedding band is to a married person.
“It is a public symbol of a personal commitment,” he
continues. “It doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than wearing a
wedding ring would make you a married person, but I would have
questions about a married person who would refuse to publicly be
identified when they belong with somebody.”
When someone comes forward to make a public
profession of faith at Englewood, a church assistant immediately begins
to follow up on that person and schedule him or her for baptism, Cloer
The assistant also asks the new believer to write
out a brief testimony, which is read at the baptism so that others can
know the work God is doing in the person’s life. That way, every person
has publicly professed faith in Christ not just visually but verbally,
“There have been times when so many testimonies were
being read and you could just sense God was doing something in the
congregation,” he explains. “We went ahead and gave an invitation right
then before the service went any further, and people have come forward
to receive Christ.” (BP)