This Easter we baptized more people than we have ever done on a single weekend. It was our most powerful Easter ever!
Although we had been very effective at reaching people and baptizing them over the years, it was not until 2007 that we learned the power of mass baptisms! That year we had so many baptisms pending that we couldn’t keep up, and so we started thinking out of the box for ways to baptize LOTS of people in a single service.
I don’t say any of this to brag but to emphasize that churches CAN do a better job of reaching people with just a few changes. Our church is not special and God doesn’t play favorites. What He has done here He can do anywhere, if you are hungry to see Him move in a miraculous way!
So here’s our top 10 things we did to see a mass movement of baptisms:
1. ENVIRONMENT: The first step is to create the kind of church that unchurched people love to attend. I shared in a previous post how to get people to invite their unchurched friends and neighbors. It will be difficult to spark a mass of people taking this step if lost people are not in your crowd. Don’t expect a miracle catch in a pond with only two fish in it.
2. THEOLOGY: This is the deal breaker. Pastors have to come to terms with their own theology of who can/should be baptized. If people have to “prove” their faith before you’ll baptize them, then you probably won’t do many baptisms. In fact, you may even be proud of that position. Pastors who will only dip the “devoted” tend to see the whole world through a narrow lens. These pastors see the church as a club for the cleansed rather than a hospital for the hurting. My theology leads me to see myself as nothing more than a glorified surgical tech. God’s performing the surgeries, I’m just there to assist. The final outcome of the patient is His business not mine. Therefore, in our church, when a person says, “I am trusting Jesus and I need to be baptized,” I baptize them, no matter what condition their life is currently in. We accept people where they are and then show them where God wants them. That’s called discipleship.
3. CLARITY: People will only follow instructions that are clear. Pastors need to clarify what baptism is, why it is important, who should do it, when they should do it and how to start the ball rolling. Unchurched people don’t know the secret passwords and handshakes. They don’t speak the language of Zion. They just need someone to be incredibly clear. Also, we work hard to handle the most common emotional barrier people have to being baptized: FEAR. I share regularly that it’s normal to be afraid and most people are nervous. But, that we’ve discovered that when you obey God in spite of your fear, that’s called faith! And every time we step out in faith we find God is already there!
4. CONNECTION CARD: Our church uses a small Connection Card that we use every single week for visitor registration, feedback, prayer requests, and most important, ACTION STEPS. We have a clearly marked check box for salvation, baptism, ministry and small group. We talk the crowd through the card EVERY SINGLE week. Remember, every week is someone’s first time. They don’t know the drill. People can only do what we’ve made clear.
5. PROCESS: We are a Purpose Driven Church, and therefore we have a systematic way to ensure that every person hears exactly what the Bible teaches about believer’s baptism in our CLASS 101. If you do not have a systematic class that you are sending every attender through, then you will have to rely solely on the weekend messages to communicate the fundamentals, and that’s always a hit and miss process.
6. PREACHING: This may seem obvious but it is so often missed. I regularly look at my preaching calendar and intentionally program a presentation of the gospel every 6-8 weeks. Often it is presented inside of a message rather than as a standalone sermon. For example, I may be preaching about becoming a godly husband and end the message with something like, “You know, you may have realized that you don’t have what it takes to be the man you need to be for your wife. You’ve tried but there’s something missing. That’s where Jesus comes in…”
7. DIAGNOSIS: Examine your current process for baptism through fresh eyes. Look at every single step and ask questions like, “Are there any false barriers in the process? Is each particular step helping or hindering the process? Is this step biblical or just the way we’ve always done it? Would this work if 100 people signed up to be baptized?” Ruthlessly remove every barrier. Open the floodgates and let God determine the flow!
8. STRATEGIC DATE: One of the best ways to spark a mass movement is to tie the event to a memorable date. Palm Sunday, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are several powerful dates we’ve used. But we’ve also used some cool calendar dates such as 10-10-10. We did a campaign called JUMP IN on 10-10-10! We printed T-shirts and baptized dozens of people that day. People still share with me today, “Pastor, I jumped in on 10-10-10!”
9. CELEBRATE TO PARTICIPATE: People will participate in whatever we celebrate. Many churches treat baptism like an add on or a speed bump in the service. If you don’t value it then why should they? At ORBC we strive to make baptism the big deal that it is. We celebrate baptisms by sharing testimonies as often as we can. We’ve found that when people hear the stories of people who are just like, them it helps them to overcome their own fears. They begin thinking, “Man, if they can do it, so can I!”
10. THE GOSPEL: At the end of the day, only God can change the human heart, but we often fail to do our part. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32) We do the lifting and God does the sifting.
Preach Christ crucified.
Keep the gospel simplified
and God will cause the harvest to be multiplied!