Beginning 2009, our pastor began a series reassuring the congregation that God is sovereign, that HE knows the economic issues of our world, and that He will be faithful to meet our needs. It was a good start back in the right direction.
Today our pastor began a new series called "Jesus, the Son of God." Over the next several weeks, he intends to work through the gospel of Mark, reacquainting himself and the congregation with the One who calls the Church His bride. It is apparent that, as a large congregation, we have in many ways left our first love. It is time for a return to the basic elements of our faith and our convictions.
He began the series with a talk on baptism. Being a Baptist church, baptism by immersion is required for membership, although not for salvation. Baptism is, however, a command as a sign of obedience to the Father. Jesus was baptised, not because he had sin from which to repent, but as an obedient Son identifying with the people for whom He came. Mark's gospel also illustrates the truth of the Trinity as the Father speaks His pleasure in the Son who was baptised as the Spirit descended as a dove.
Something connected with the congregation. The story is familiar to most regular church-goers, but today's sermon had a powerful effect. After the sermon the pastor gave an invitation, but not a traditional altar call. He called for people to repent and be baptised immediately. He listed the church preparations (from towels to make-up) and addressed most of the excuses people give for not being baptised. As the congregation began to sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus," people began coming forward to declare their allegiance to Jesus and their intention to be baptised immediately. We sang all four verses of the song twice in the first service as people continued to move. The Holy Spirit's movement was evident in the faces of those who came forward. (One of the advantages of sitting in the choir is having a "pastor's eye view" of the congregation.) Men, women, and children came. Couples came together. The one that affected me most profoundly was a business man, dressed in his Sunday Business Best, fighting the tears halfway down the aisle before giving in and allowed the pastor to meet him halfway. He rested in head on the pastor's shoulder for just a moment and then let himself be led toward the baptistery.
The congregation remembered Jesus in Communion, and then the baptistery doors opened. 34 people were baptised at the 8:30 service, some of them (including the businessman) making first time professions of faith, and others obeying the call to baptism after have been believers for some time. Congregants stood for those they knew and wept even for those they didn't know.
Five services and multiple trips to Target for towels and other items, more than 200 people were baptised. No one could have anticipated the way the Spirit moved in church today. Wow. When God pours out His blessings, they are more than anyone could ask or imagine.
The church, all of us, now have the charge to walk with these who were touched by the Spirit, teaching them to "live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith...overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7)