Greear urges churches to 'Fill the Tank' on Easter
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated after posting.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling SBC churches to participate in a nationwide focus on baptism this Easter Sunday, April 12.
"We have heard some of the most amazing stories coming out of our Baptism Sunday in September," Greear said. "We heard stories of family members, friends and even taxi drivers responding in baptism -- many of whom had been prayed over for years. I believe last fall was just scratching the surface of what God wants to do, and will do, when we extend the call to believe and be baptized. Many sit in our pews that simply need to be instructed and invited."
Greear explained that a Baptism Sunday service is an opportunity for thousands of people in churches to immediately respond to the Gospel by taking that first step of obedience and faith.
"Many of the people who will fill our pews on Easter will come as interested spectators," Greear noted. "When we invite them to be baptized, we're calling them to make a decision to be followers of Jesus -- and that's exactly what people who hear the Gospel need to do."
Ronnie Floyd, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, said that while churches should baptize regularly, "emphasizing a day like Easter takes baptism to an entirely different level.
"Challenging people to be baptized on this Easter Sunday makes this a memorable day they will never forget," Floyd continued. "It also serves as a Gospel illustration in each worship service that a pastor can mention in his sermon as he calls people to follow Jesus, even into the public declaration of baptism."
Because of the large of amount of potentially unbelieving attendees on Easter, Greear said it is a powerful opportunity to present the true change the Gospel makes in the hearts of those who believe.
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., said seeing people respond to Jesus in baptism is powerful.
"At Olive, we did this the last Sunday of the year and baptized 12 who responded on the spot," he said. "Easter is a great day to invite people to obedience. The ordinance is a picture of resurrection. Make it come alive with baptism. We hope to participate at Olive."
Greear connected the "Who's Your One" evangelism initiative from the past year to the emphasis on baptisms in April.
"Over the last year, thousands of people in our pews faithfully prayed for and shared the Gospel with their 'one' through the Who's Your One initiative," Greear said. "We pastors ought to fill our baptismal tanks in faith, believing that God is calling many to salvation and expecting a harvest of souls."
Church members and leaders alike are encouraged to take the stories of changed lives to public platforms, sharing images and victories on social media using hashtags like "#BaptismSunday" and "#Fillthetank."
Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, said he plans to join the baptism emphasis.
"Colorado Baptists are excited to join with others across the SBC to champion #FillTheTank on Easter Sunday," Lorick said. "What an opportunity to encourage churches to put God's redemptive grace on display for all to see through baptism. We are believing God will take this initiative and allow many to hear the Gospel in a powerful way."
Greear hopes the online focus on baptism decisions will spark real-life conversations about faith.
Resources regarding Baptism Sunday have been made available through the North American Mission Board.
These resources explain how baptism can be done in a biblical way, but in an inclusive way, not creating "extra-biblical barriers to obedience."
Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, emphasized that on this particular Sunday the command to believers remains the same -- call people to Christ.
"Some people will accept Christ. Others will follow the Lord in the first step of discipleship. Invite people to repent and believe in our risen Lord Jesus, then be ready to baptize them," Richards said.
Also included in the resources from NAMB are helpful guidelines on how to plan a baptism service for the church.
Baptism Sunday is not a gimmick, Greear emphasized. Rather, it is a statement of faith that God is drawing people to Himself in surrounding communities.
The call to this special Sunday comes with an equally vital call to prayer -- prayer for a great number of souls saved, and for the Lord to move in great ways in 2020.
Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said the common goals surrounding Baptism Sunday are wonderful ways to create unity within the convention.
"Nothing builds unity like a clear and compelling biblical vision. What greater vision than the spiritually lost being saved, baptized and set on the road of discipleship," Davis said. "Tennessee Baptists look forward to joining Southern Baptists across the country in seeing thousands of new believers baptized on Fill the Tank Easter Sunday."