'Dunk 'n Dine' offers unique baptism celebration
Members of S.O.B.E.R. Project church in Tucson trim the 15-foot hedges around a residential pool property twice a year in exchange for free use of the pool and the surrounding lawn, volleyball courts and barbeque grills when they host special baptism events.
Because of their ongoing relationship with the members of this accommodating location, "Dunk 'n Dine" -- a baptism and barbeque celebration that began in 2004 -- continues as a legacy of the church today.
S.O.B.E.R. Project church -- which stands for Service, Obedience, Bonding, Educate and Relationships -- assigns a sequential number to each of the baptism events. When congregants participate in the Dunk 'n Dine celebrations, they can then share the number of their "Dunk" event and the others with whom they were baptized.
Church members Jennifer and Lee Gates discussed participating in the third Dunk 'n Dine in 2008. "It was special because it is fellowship of the church," said Jennifer, praising the event's tradition.
Lee noted that "being baptized there lit a new fire in me for God. This was more special to us because we were baptized together on the same day. Sharing that with my wife was amazing!"
The church has hosted more than 30 of these baptism events and baptized
more than 500 people -- with 62 being the largest number baptized in one day -- so far. And one of the baptisms attracted as many as 300 guests and community members.
Mark Vavra, associate pastor of the church, has been baptizing congregants at these events since 2009. He credits the Lord with any and all of the church's successes.
"Alcoholics Anonymous is a good program, but God's Word must be paramount, not an AA Big Book," Vavra said. "In Christ, we are new creations. We are not anonymous!"
Although the church maintains well-attended 12-step programming that focuses on helping addicts through recovery, it is not the congregation's primary goal.
"We are not worried about their sobriety, we are worried about their salvation," said senior pastor Larry Munguia. "It is recovery through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
To make baptism celebrations more memorable for a congregation, Munguia and Vavra shared the following suggestions:
-- Make it fun! Celebrate.
-- Host baptisms off the church grounds.
-- Pastors should preach the importance of baptism.
-- Provide regular opportunities to discuss baptism.
-- Talk about past experiences and teach what the Bible says about baptism.