BAPTISM SUNDAY: Creating a culture of celebration

Florida Baptists are grieving after Hurricane Dorian hammered the Bahamas Sept. 1 with 180 miles per hour winds. The strongest hurricane recorded in history stalled for two days over the Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Noe Garcia is senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press is releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday.

PHOENIX (BP) -- Why Baptism Sunday? I became a Christian at the age of 18 and several years later I followed through with baptism. Why did it take so long?

The truth is, no one told me about it. I rarely saw it done in a service or emphasized in the church, not to mention I was afraid to stand before a hundred people. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a common theme that I hear from baptism candidates.

This is why we work very hard to create a culture in our church where it is a good thing to make a decision for Christ. Every week when someone comes forward during the invitation, our church will explode in applause and celebration. People are literally celebrating and cheering! It's incredible.

Some would say we have to be careful with emotionalism. Some ask why we do this. I say if the angels in heaven rejoiced over one who repented (Luke 15:10), then the church should not be afraid to follow suit.

This past year we have seen an explosion in decisions for Christ. I know it is not all about numbers, and I was a pastor who was anti numbers in fear of being only about numbers.

But I realized in my fear of being portrayed as a pastor who is numerically driven that I instead was passive about helping people make decisions for Christ. In other words, I would rather have been liked by people and not push obedience in fear of looking numbers driven than be obedient to Christ and not care about what people thought.

Well, I finally stopped caring about the opinion of others and we push numbers! Why? Because each number represents a soul, and souls matter to God.

I can't expect people to respond if I never give them an opportunity. People are dying and going to hell and we must live with a sense of urgency. Yes, numbers matter. I want to cast the net and see God save many, and see many walk through the waters of baptism.

Here is what we have seen work:

Casting the Net. I teach our staff to constantly cast the net at every event, service or one-on-one meeting. We have seen over 350 people give their lives to Christ this year by doing this!

Celebrate in Service. We consistently tell stories of life change in our services. Sometimes the life change is the best-kept secret in the church. We have made it a priority to share and celebrate in the service.

Baptism Sunday Emphasis. We have a baptism Sunday emphasis once a month and take the time to tell their stories from the baptistery. We want people to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

Different Ways to Respond. Not all want to come forward during the invitation, so we have created multiple avenues for them to respond: text, connect card, connect box, etc.

Social Media. We push baptism on social media and provide a link on the post so people can easily register.

In the last three years, we have seen our baptisms triple and have experienced the joy of seeing people walk through the waters in obedience. We are thrilled to "Fill the Tank" this Sunday and cannot wait to see how God is going to move!

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