By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BUNKIE – The First Baptist Church in Bunkie started 2019 by celebrating a new birth in Christ, baptizing its 50th convert in five years.
“Baptisms bring new life in the person and in the church,” Pastor Mark Robinson said. “When you see someone baptized it gives someone hope that God is working in people around you, and it sets the precedent of obedience to God – those who come behind you see the steps that have to be taken to make public their faith. I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t baptize 10-15 a year. Our members always have been mission-minded but now there is a vision spreading of being ‘on mission.’”
The January 13 baptism is representative of a rebirth First Baptist Bunkie has experienced since 2013. Five years ago, worship service attendance averaged 60 and Sunday school drew around 40, according to Annual Church Profile statistics.
Through January, attendance for worship services has increased to 100 and Sunday school has averaged nearly 80.
MILESTONE OF FAITH
Robinson said the church was at a crossroads when he arrived in 2013, and faced the possibility of closing its doors. After Robinson met with the members, the congregation decided to renew itself with a revised vision to reach the community, specifically the next generation.
Since Robinson is unable to serve full time at First Baptist Bunkie because of his job as Baptist Collegiate Ministry state director for Louisiana Baptists, he relies heavily on other church leaders with whom he communicates daily by phone and also through heavy social media use.
Members wholeheartedly have embraced the mission mindset.
The church has hosted a team of Louisiana Baptist college students who coordinated a Vacation Bible School and soccer camp in recent years. Church members also formed a Bible study for deacons and other men in the church, coordinated a live Christmas nativity, started a food pantry, revived the Women on Mission program and began a women’s prayer group.
“They are committed to the Gospel and being an outpost in Acadiana,” Robinson said. “The next step is to become even more missional.”
MINDSET OF FAITH
One group that has seen remarkable growth is the youth.
In early 2013, the church drew just 10 youth for its Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible studies. Around 30 youth now attend First Baptist Bunkie.
Youth leader Janet Webb attributed the growth to the Holy Spirit stirring inside their hearts. Some of the youth have taken on the role of mentor to younger students, and many have become bold in sharing their faith. The youth have developed a mission mindset, and have assisted senior citizens with household tasks, hosted a Fifth Quarter party following high school football games and attended Clear Camp and Youth Evangelism Celebration.
“It’s amazing to see how youth are on fire for the Lord,” Webb said. “They want their friends to be saved and are constantly bringing their friends to church and sharing faith with them.
“When one makes a profession of faith, several will go stand with them at the altar to show their support and love,” she continued. “When they are baptized, several go to the baptistery. We are a family and it’s a family unlike no other family.”
MOVEMENT OF FAITH
Billy Townsend, a member since 1977, acknowledged God is on the move at First Baptist Bunkie, but believes its best days are ahead.
“We’ve developed an attitude of wanting to reach our community,” said Billy Townsend, a member of the church since 1977. “Our church has taken steps to be more multi-ethnic, have a more active presence on social media and stay more connected with Bunkie.
“Those steps have kept us connected to the community in a way we haven’t done before,” he continued. “It changed the attitude of us since our parents and grandparents were here before us and we didn’t want to be the last ones to permanently lock the doors. This group effort has turned our church around and we are doing things that will carry us into a bright future that glorifies Christ.”