515 baptized in impromptu call to ‘first step of obedience’

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)--Taking a cue from the first-century church, Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, baptized 515 people in spontaneous fashion during services April 30 and May 1.

“I walked onto the stage soaked from head to toe and read Acts 2:41,” said Ed Young, pastor of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area congregation. “The New Testament tells us that on the Day of Pentecost 3,000 people were baptized ‘that day.’ I challenged the congregation to step up and be baptized ‘that day’ if they were already Christ-followers.”

Young extended the invitation -- which was to

those who previously hadn't been baptized -- during the four weekend worship services at the main Grapevine campus and six services at satellite locations.

“It was an incredible experience standing on the stage soaking wet talking about baptism by immersion. The only problem I had was that I was freezing. I had to wear a towel around my body to keep me warm while I talked.”

Doris Scoggins, director of baptism for the church, organized a massive staging area where people could change into shorts, T-shirts and robes.

“We had 150 volunteers between the four campuses who helped sign in, organize and lead people from the changing area to our baptismal fountain next to the lake,” Scoggins recounted. “We told each person they could keep the shorts and T-shirts as a souvenir of their baptism.”

On the Grapevine campus, four pastors baptized people simultaneously as their names were read aloud. Hundreds of people cheered during the baptismal celebration as their friends, family, small group members and neighbors were immersed.

This scene was repeated at Fellowship’s three satellite campuses located in Plano, uptown Dallas and Justin, Texas. These four-month-old campuses feature Young’s messages on high definition video.

“We were not sure if the spontaneous baptism approach would work via video, but it did,” satellite campus pastor Mark Morgan said. “We were excited to see a total of 90 people baptized at our satellite locations. We had to get creative since our satellites meet in high schools and renovated warehouse space where there are no baptisteries. We used an inflatable kid’s pool for one location.”

“It’s funny how people will become a Christian and then make all kinds of excuses why they can’t be baptized,” Young said. “I talked about the basics of baptism, answered some of the most common questions people have about baptism and its significance to the Christian life. I told the crowd that when someone balks at this first step of obedience in the Christian life, I have to wonder if they are really a Christian. We decided that if we provided them with an opportunity to respond immediately, they wouldn’t have time to make up excuses.”

Fellowship Church baptized 2,154 in 2004. “Our goal is to baptize more this year than we did last year,” Scroggins said, “because each baptism represents a life that’s been changed forever. And changing lives is what the church is all about.”


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