HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent
Over a single weekend, more people were baptized at First Baptist, O’Fallon, than in all of 2013. The church’s crusade March 29-30 resulted in 103 baptisms, 17 salvation decisions, and 15 rededications.
Tom Dawson, FBC’s minister of adult education who helped organize the crusade, described it as “a wonderful event.” He called Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill “electric. He brought God’s Word straight to peoples’ hearts.”
Dawson said the church did “quite a bit of preparation” in the month before the crusade. Prayer, training, and logistics were key. Groups spent time praying for Hill and for those who would come and make decisions. Church members were trained to be “encouragers,” or counselors, to talk with people as they came forward.
Carol Cluff, adult ministries specialist, said the encouragers were trained a few days in advance of the crusade. “We wanted to make sure every person who stepped forward had someone to come with them, to talk with them about what prompted them to come forward, and to make sure they fully understood the commitment they were making.”
She noted many of those who were baptized had come to understand they had been “baptized out of order. Several people realized they had been baptized as a baby or even as a child without knowing Christ and wanted to be baptized now as believers in Jesus. Others had accepted Christ at youth events some time ago, but not taken that step.”
Hill urged the church to be ready to baptize people in each session and not make them wait until a later date. In anticipation of a large number of baptisms, the church made sure to have plenty of T-shirts, shorts and towels on hand. Plus, they placed two horse troughs filled with water on either side of the platform giving them three locations, including the baptistery, to baptize people in a single service.
“We were ready to baptize people on the spot,” Dawson said.
First Baptist has made follow-up a priority, stressing the importance of continued discipleship. In a series of follow-up actions, encouragers are keeping in touch with those they counseled and are connecting them with small groups within the church. As part of the effort, Senior Pastor Doug Munton is leading a special sermon series covering the Good News and the importance of baptism along with why Christians should share their faith and be fishers of men.
Munton is pleased with the crusade’s outcome. “We had a great crusade,” he shared. “The Gospel was preached clearly and the response was great. Many people trusted Christ as Savior and that never gets old to me. And, it was such a privilege to see more than 100 people follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.”
Dawson said church members are excited. The momentum continued into Easter as the church had its largest Easter Sunday worship attendance – 2,569 people.
“The crusade was wonderful,” said Cluff. “It lit us on fire.”