Chicago’s ‘Reborn’ Church Transforms Inner-City Lives

Published on August 12, 2017

Roy Brown wasn’t sure what to make of the white guy in the storefront window one morning, wondering what he was doing in Garfield Park.
Brown, a former west side Chicago gang member, was already a walking miracle. Surviving the streets is one thing, but exiting gang life often entails a premature date of death.

Jamie Thompson, the guy on the other side of the plate glass, also is a local with a linebacker’s build who grew up one neighborhood east in Humboldt Park. And he is on a mission.

Brown, one of the founders of the Four Corner Hustler gang, “grew up in the streets and living the wild life,” Thompson said. “He and some others in the community started the gang to protect the neighborhood but it led them into a lot of evil things — drugs, prostitution and the like.”

Thompson’s life on the streets was much the opposite of Brown’s. The son of urban missionaries, he spent his days reaching out to people with the hope of the Gospel.

“My parents moved [to Humboldt Park] to work with a nonprofit organization that reached out to at-risk children and youth. After the Lord got a hold of my life, I thought I would just be reaching out to guys on the streets. But through the process of going to school and the Lord pulling at my heart, He helped me see that He wanted me to move in and start a church in the middle of one of the worst areas of Chicago.”

The church plant is Reborn Community Church, which has become a fixture for community transformation through the power of the Gospel, street smarts, entrepreneurial moxie and a miracle or two. Like Brown.

Thompson did not know it at the time, but that morning was a decision point for Brown. As he looked from the outside in, Brown wondered if he could trust this man. The thought that Thompson might be an undercover cop crossed Brown’s mind more than once.

“For a number of years, Roy just dropped his kid off at our after-school program. In the mornings he would see me in the church storefront praying. I always have coffee out so I can talk to people and pray. That morning Roy was going through something. He came in and we starting talking.

“Roy was watching me ever since I had moved into the neighborhood to see if I was legit. At that time, he had pulled back from the gang after spending a lot of years in jail, but he still wasn’t living a moral life. The young guys in the gang were killing off the chiefs. Roy had to leave to protect his life. He was making a living scrapping metal.”

A morning discussion and a cup of coffee began a Gospel conversation that would run a year-long course. Thompson was faithful to pursue Brown with truth.

“He went AWOL for a while, but he came back around. Through loving him and sharing the Gospel, he came to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He left the worldliness to the side and started being a responsible father to his children again.”

Obedience amid the storm

In seeking community transformation, Reborn Community Church’s labors started with the global economic collapse and an apartment building.

For areas already economically depressed like Garfield Park, the recession was devastating. Building foreclosures multiplied. Abandoned buildings tempted the hopeless to use them as vehicles of prostitution and drug use.

“With more and more buildings being abandoned, and less people investing, there became a greater need for healthy places for people to live where they were treated well by landlords,” Thompson said. “The Lord put on my heart to buy an apartment building. There was no money. I was working long hours already. Banks had closed their purse strings.

“Myself and a business partner with the same conviction began to pray about it and the Lord burdened our hearts to go ahead and buy our first property,” Thompson said. “We weren’t really sure at the beginning what He was trying to do with it. We were just obedient. My plea to the Lord was, ‘I’ll go to one bank, and if they say yes, I will know this is You.’

“We went to the bank and … against all odds they said they would give us a loan. We bought a building that foreclosed at $400,000 for $68,000. Thompson recalls working 100-hour weeks, leading the ministry of Reborn during the day and the renovation of the building at night. Within a few major punch list items of completion, Thompson found himself $20,000 short. A private investor committed the funds to complete the project.

For an entrepreneur like Thompson, success — God-ordained success — naturally breeds curiosity for the next step. A for-profit company was established and became a means to support Thompson and the church. More building restorations resulted when the first investor, and then others, saw the Reborn vision begin to materialize in restored housing. The next year, 10 apartment buildings were purchased and renovated, employing a full construction crew. The business grew to 25 properties, caring for and providing safe homes for 80 families as tenants.

“We give people a healthy place to live,” Thompson said. It also provides an environment where tenants are “loved on with the Gospel and treated well. … It also helped us financially stay alive, having the business in place.”

Thompson and Reborn now are in the process of launching an urban church planting center in a former firehouse located in the heart of the neighborhood. The newly restored firehouse will allow Reborn to host urban church planting cohorts as well as church planting residents.

“We are right in the middle of the city of Chicago. Trains, expressways, and airports provide easy access to our location and to those who want to be trained in urban ministry,” Thompson said. “We believe from here we can make the greatest impact. By impacting the community, we can impact other communities in our city and others in the nation that need urban ministries intentionally reaching the lost.

“Our ministry model is to have a church and a for-profit that work together to reach, equip and empower people to fully transform the lives of people. This isn’t just about social programs. Our programs are about leading people to Christ,” Thompson said. “It’s about building a relationship that leads to trust that gives us the chance to share our faith with people and see them saved. The good thing about evangelism connected to the body is that we have the discipleship mechanism, which is this church, built right into the process. We do not have to build bridges to a church, because we work as one entity.”

In the case of Brown, Thompson said, “Roy’s life has been transformed. He is raising his children under the Lord. What he used to do to try to destroy lives, now he is trying to build lives. He is working with me with the men’s ministry as the co-director. We are looking to him to take the whole thing over. He’s a guy who has all this leadership potential; he just needed the foundation to be right and a relationship with Christ. … Last year Roy got engaged to the mother of his children. Now we’re moving down that path with him too.”

Thompson voices excitement “about what the Lord is doing here. He seems to be burdening people with the desire to come to cities. We believe we can help them do it well. We aren’t trying to build our own thing. We want to work with the North American Mission Board and others to make it happen. If we collaborate together, together we can do it.”

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Gifts Make Summer Camp in the Ukraine Experiences Even More Special

Published on August 5, 2017

My first trip to the Carpathian Mountains brought back memories. As part of a Samaritan’s Purse media team covering Operation Christmas Child in Ukraine, our caravan of two miniature buses traveled up a rough gravel road outside the village of Zarichia to the Golden Generation Camp.

Named to celebrate the wonder of childhood, the camp serves children at risk as well as multiple churches across the country.

Entering the gate and seeing buildings for lodging, dining, and staff care, I remembered my own days as a kid at camp. They were so filled with adventure that when I returned home from my first camp experience as a 7-year-old I burst into tears. I wanted to go back!

Years later as a teen, camp was where I made the decision to stop being a different person at church and at school. There, I made Christ the Lord of my life like never before.

Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts are having a similar—or even greater—influence on the lives of Ukrainian boys and girls at camp.

Vladislava, 12, lives with her grandmother. Her mother lives just two miles away but her rights to care for “Vlada” have been removed because of alcoholism.

After hearing a Gospel presentation on the camp’s soccer field, Vlada received her green-and-red plastic shoebox. She lit up with joy when she opened it, hugging the teddy bear inside. Excited, she continued to explore her shoebox and discovered a calculator, notebook, and sunglasses. Next to her teddy bear, the best part was a note from 21-year-old Taylor.

“I will frame my letter,” Vlada said.

But more importantly, she added, “This inspired me to read the Bible more.” Bible reading had not been a habit for her in the past.

Vlada’s best friend Uliana, 13, also received a shoebox gift that afternoon. Her favorite item was a set of colored pencils.

Uliana lives in poverty without a father, but she trusts her Heavenly Father, whom she accepted into her heart as a child.

Misha, 11, also has a challenging home life. He is often found in the street instead of in school. But Misha accepted Christ into his heart the day he received his Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

“We learned about Adam and Eve and the fruit, and I learned that Jesus was crucified,” he said.

Vlada, Uliana, and Misha are just samples of the underprivileged children who attend this camp. Others are orphans.

Yet camp affords many of them the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and experience the great joy of a shoebox gift packed by someone they don’t know far away.

These boys and girls will have precious camp memories, too. I hope their newfound faith and treasures will keep them from tears as they return home to difficult situations.

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Alabama Church Buys Former Strip Club to Convert to Sanctuary, Community Center

Published on July 29, 2017

A multisite church based in Alabama has recently purchased a former strip club, with the goal of converting it into a sanctuary and community center.

Refuge Church, which has campuses in Athens and Huntsville, bought the former Jimmy’s Too club located in Harvest for its Huntsville campus, which currently meets at a local elementary school.

Refuge Lead Pastor Jason Parks said that the building was chosen as the new home for the Huntsville campus due in part to its proximity to major population centers.

“The building is only 7.2 miles from Providence Elementary School, the current location of our portable Huntsville Campus,” explained Parks.

“Over 184,287 people live within a 10-mile radius of this property and it is only 1.3 miles from Sparkman High School, the third largest public high school in Alabama.”

Parks also noted that the purchase had a greater significance, saying that “Jesus is writing a story of redemption and restoration.”

“We believe He is going to use us to transform the community with the power of the Gospel. I’ve been praying for this building for almost four years. I’ve longed to see it changed into a church that will reach a community,” continued Parks.

“Earlier this year, the owner of the club gave his life to Christ and decided to shut the club down. It has been an amazing God-story!”

Jimmy’s Too’s transformation into a Christian church campus is still in its early stages. With the property purchased and floor plans completed, architects are presently working on the building’s engineered drawings, which fulfills a local requirement for renovations.

“Once we have engineered drawings we will have a better idea of the cost to renovate the building. Right now, our church members have given over $300,000 to make this transformation happen. We hope to host some fundraisers this fall to raise money,” explained Parks.

“Earlier this year, the owner of the club gave his life to Christ and decided to shut the club down. It has been an amazing God-story!”

Jimmy’s Too’s transformation into a Christian church campus is still in its early stages. With the property purchased and floor plans completed, architects are presently working on the building’s engineered drawings, which fulfills a local requirement for renovations.

“Once we have engineered drawings we will have a better idea of the cost to renovate the building. Right now, our church members have given over $300,000 to make this transformation happen. We hope to host some fundraisers this fall to raise money,” explained Parks.

“As a church, we work very hard to be good stewards of God’s money. We spend no more than 30 percent of our church budget on facilities so we can always have funds to minister and share the Gospel domestically and internationally.”

While an exact timeline has not yet been established, Refuge Church hopes to have the renovation work completed by next spring.

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Louisiana Baptists Celebrate Reaching Milestone Toward 300 Church Plants

Published on July 22, 2017

Celebrating the 200th church started in the state since 2010, Louisiana Baptists Executive Director David Hankins challenged and thanked church planters, urging them to not flag in their zeal and encouraging them with appreciation for the souls that have been saved because of their work to share the Gospel.

Hankins made his remarks July 12 at a reception at the state convention’s ministry center in Alexandria.

“I want to encourage you to institutionalize your churches,” Hankins exhorted.

“Sometimes the word ‘institution’ gets a bad rap – interpreted to mean ‘staid, lifeless, cold, dead and unmoving,’” he said. “But I think ‘institution’ is a good word. It says something about strength, substance, dependability, safety, character and longevity.

“That’s the kind of church I want you to plant,” Hankins continued, speaking to the group of church planters in attendance. “I want you, by God’s grace, to build a church that’s an institution, that people would look at that place where you gather for ministry and say, ‘That Baptist church is an institution of this town. We can count on it. It’s going to be there.’”

“In 10 years, if the Lord hasn’t returned, and we look at the 300 churches we planted, I want them to be institutions all over this state that God can depend on and the community can depend on,” Hankins added. “And all the guys God has called to seminary will be driving around through your town and will say, ‘Boy, I hope the Lord lets me pastor a church like this someday.’”

The reception – which began with a prayer led by Louisiana Baptists Language Strategist Carlos Schmidt – marked the two-thirds point of planting 300 churches by 2020 as part of one of the 10 action steps identified in the President’s 2020 Commission Final Report, which was affirmed by messengers during the 2013 LBC Annual Meeting.

Planting healthy, biblically sound, multiplying churches is identified in that document as a key component to the seven-year-strategy which seeks to engage two audiences – the next generation and every people group – in reaching Louisiana with the Gospel.

“We’re here today to celebrate a milestone,” said John Hebert, director of missions and ministry for Louisiana Baptists. “But we didn’t do it. It’s the work of the Lord. It’s amazing how when brothers walk together the Lord’s work is done.”

Through July 12, 16 churches have been planted in 2017. The goal is 35 new works by the end of the year.

The strategy is to plant churches where most Louisianans live, so the geographical emphasis is along the I-10 corridor and southward where 3 million Louisianans reside, about 67 percent of the state’s population.

So far, 151 of the new church plants are located in southern Louisiana.

There also has been a focus on ethnic diversity. Among the 200 church plants: 57 are African-American, 27 Hispanic, nine Asian and 17 have a largely multi-ethnic makeup.

Importantly, the 200 church plants, since 2010, have witnessed a harvest of more than 11,000 new believers, said Lane Corley, one of three church planting strategists for Louisiana Baptists. He also emphasized the broad cooperation among Louisiana Baptists, noting that churches have been planted in 91 communities, and 25 out of 32 associations, so far.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We still have at least 100 to go. Thank you for all of you who are involved, and we still have more to do.”

James Jenkins, Louisiana Baptists director of church planting, complimented Schmidt and Corley, saying, “Every day I get to work with two of the best church planting strategists in the nation.”

Although Jenkins credited Schmidt and Corley for the success, Hebert stressed that Jenkins has been the key leader for implementing the statewide initiative.

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Singing Group Goes Viral for Praising Jesus, Video Gets Millions of Views in Days

Published on July 8, 2017

One group of singers is becoming a sweeping, viral-video sensation as they reach millions with the name of Jesus.

The Voices of Lee, a group of singers representing Lee University, posted a moving video of them performing Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name,” on Facebook July 2.

Since then, it definitely deserves the term “gone viral.” It’s been viewed more than 11 million times. More than 70,000 people have “liked” or “loved” it; and, over 110,000 have shared it including Christian actor Kirk Cameron.

“I really love this song right now. It’s so powerful. And the Voices of Lee just made it even better!,” he wrote in a post. “You have to watch (and hear) this…all from a group of college students.”

“We are so thankful for the number of people who have indicated they were blessed by these two videos,” said the group’s director Danny Murray.

“We know that God touched these and we are so thankful. Dr. Hill (Church of God General Overseer) uses a phrase, ‘At the speed of favor…’ That is exactly what we’ve seen here,” Murray also said.

“There are a lot of considerations that go into account when ascribing the word ‘viral’ to any post – how long the post has been up, how much money was spent to promote it, etc.” said Rob Alderman, is a senior partner of the Alderman group. His group manages social media for the Church of God International Offices according to Faith News Network.

“But this video is certainly in that category. For a video to be considered viral, it has to have five-million views within three to seven days. At over 10 million views, the Voices video has more than double that,” he said.

“The numbers on the video are really significant,” he also noted.

This isn’t the first time The Voices of Lee have found themselves in the limelight. In 2013, they performed at the presidential inauguration.

They’ve even been on “Good Morning, America,” and “The Sing-Off.”

The group posted a video of their performance of the song “No Longer Slaves” by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, and Joel Case in May 2017.

It got a lot of attention too – 8.4 million views on Facebook alone.
Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Independence Day: The Founding of a Nation Under God

Published on July 1, 2017

Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

It is important to note that as delegates gathered at the Pennsylvania State House, that we now call Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, it was Benjamin Franklin, a representative from that state, who said to all present:

“I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning…”

Prayer was at the forefront of these deliberations that led to the formation of a new country, in that we pledge: “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

George Washington, the nation’s first president said:

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”

John Adams, who followed Washington as the nation’s second president, also echoed the sentiments of our founding fathers in stating when our nation was being established:

“We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”

On this 241st anniversary of our nation’s founding, may we all give thanks to God for His hand of mercy, peace, and care for us as a nation, as people of God!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…” Psalm 33:12

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Steph Curry’s Brings His Favorite Bible Verses Onto The Court

Published on June 6, 2017

From a guy who many thought was too little to play at the highest level to becoming the league’s most valuable player, Stephen Curry’s journey has been one propelled by hard work and dedication.

Some years back, Alan Stein attended the inaugural Kobe Bryant Nike Skills Academy and noticed something unusual about Curry.  In a YouTube video recapping the event, Alan noted that it was Curry’s habits and work ethic that shined brighter than any other player’s talent.  Before each session, Curry had already drained 100 – 150 shots and was in a full sweat by the time his peers hit the floor.

For Curry, success is not an accident, it’s a choice. But there is much more that separates the 6’3’’ all-star point guard from the rest and it’s his faith in Jesus! Steph Curry was raised in Charlotte, N.C., by Christian parents who began every morning with a required family devotional time before school.  As a result, Stephen Curry has developed into solid man of God, one who never shies away about sharing his faith.

Sometimes while on the basketball court, Curry points his index finger upward as an outward sign and reminder that God gets all the glory for his success. But regardless of his health or how he plays on any given night, Curry remains rooted in one of his favorite bible verses -  Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It’s not too often that we get to see athletes bring the Bible out on the court, but that’s exactly what Stephen Curry does each game through his trademark shoe with Under Armour.

In an interview with Decision, Steph acknowledged that, “Obviously, there’s a lot of hoopla and fanfare that follows you wherever you go, but I know where my talent comes from. I know why I play the game, and it’s not to score 30 points a night, but it’s to use the stage I’m on. I’ve been put here for a specific purpose: to be a witness and to share my testimony as I go through it.”

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below
.


Memorial Day - A Day of Remembrance

Published on May 27, 2017

Memorial Day is an important day in America. It’s a day to give thanks, to pay tribute and to remember those who gave their lives to protect our country. In reality, we should be thankful every single day of the year, but the last Monday of May is the official day where our nation comes together to honor our fallen soldiers.

The holiday originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Remembrance

“They defended our nation, they liberated the oppressed, they served the cause of peace. And all Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this: The person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the people who enjoy the freedom of our land - a land of the free.”

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


To Have a Healthy Church, You Must Have an Active Prayer Meeting

Published on May 20, 2017

Every church needs an active prayer meeting. Here are several reasons why:

1. God’s house is to be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13).

Some would argue that we already have enough prayer in our congregations. We may pray before the service and before the offering, but are we collectively crying out to God together? I would suggest a special service be set apart just for praying.

2. Prayer requests deserve to be prayed over.

Many times we collect names for our prayer list but we hardly pray for them. We may spend 10-20 minutes collecting names only to then pray a prayer that does not specifically mention the requests that were voiced. James tells us if anyone is sick, for example, they should call on the church to pray for them (James 5:14-15).

3. We may lack resources or revival if we are not praying.

Again, James tell us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). The Lord will provide our needs but He waits for us to offer them. James would also say that we have not because our motives are wrong, so we need to pray for things that are within God’s will. When this happens, we will experience God’s provision.

4. Our missionaries need our churches to pray for them.

We are so grateful for our missionaries who are serving throughout the world, and they need us to pray for them. Missionaries face many challenges that will attempt to hinder the Gospel. Let’s heed the apostle Paul’s exhortation for all churches to lift our missionaries in prayer for God’s Word to go forth (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

5. Churches may die if they don’t pray.

This is a sad reality but a real one. Without a vital connection to the Holy Spirit, churches may lose their candlestick. Churches that return to their first love will experience a dynamic power within their congregations (Revelation 2:4).

If you don’t have a prayer service in your church, you’re urge to begin one. Invite people to prayer, call on the Lord, wait on the Lord and experience the value and vitality of prayer.

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.


Thousands Baptized in Florida on ‘Acts 2:41 Sunday’

Published on May 13, 2017

Florida’s beaches, rivers, lakes and even pools came alive May 7 with the gospel testimonies of 1,285 new Christian believers as 112 Florida Baptist churches partnered for “Acts 2:41 Sunday — Baptizing Coast-to-Coast.”

From the sandy white Gulf beaches of Perdido Key in Pensacola to the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean that stretch from Jacksonville to Miami; from the Suwannee River to lakes and state parks in every region, thousands of Florida Baptists and onlookers gathered to celebrate and witness the hundreds of Christians who publicly professed their faith through baptism.

Several churches reported that following the public baptisms, those who watched from the beach and other public places listened to gospel presentations and were led to the Lord and baptized right on the spot.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, created Acts 2:41 Sunday and challenged Florida Baptist churches to engage in the effort. “My desire was to celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a unified manner across our state,” Green said. The idea was sparked after a conversation with David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, about the church’s annual beach baptism celebrations.

“I thought it would be exciting for churches to join together from coast-to-coast. The conversation stirred my heart to extend the challenge for Acts 2:41 Sunday.”

With nearly 1,300 baptisms reported, Green said, “The results of the day demonstrate the power of the Gospel and the evangelistic passion of our churches. It is thrilling to witness the incredible reports of our Florida Baptist churches celebrating baptisms throughout our state.”

While a handful of Florida Baptist churches baptized large numbers of new believers, the majority of churches baptized less than 20 and some in single digits. Each soul making a public commitment to Christ was cheered and celebrated.

Many pastors baptized their own children or grandchildren, as did Elbert Nasworthy, pastor of Myrtle Lake Baptist Church in Land O’ Lakes. “It was such an exciting time,” Nasworthy said referring to the baptism of his grandchildren Isabella and Anthony Cobb. “Tears were flowing as I was able to say ‘I baptize you my brother and sister in Christ.’”

More than a dozen Hispanic churches united through the Miami Hispanic Fellowship of churches to celebrate the public professions of faith together. Led by Pastor Moises Robaina, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Adonai, as many as 300 people gathered at Virginia Key. Located at the entrance to Key Biscayne with the Miami skyline looming in the background, the crowd saw the testimony of 83 persons who were immersed in the water.

That strait was the one many of the Cubans crossed as refugees to reach America and now it has become their waters of baptism and testimony of transformation by Jesus.

Through an interpreter, Robaina, a Cuban native, said he had not seen this kind of public demonstration and witness since arriving in this country many years ago. He said he had been asking the Lord to send revival and the opportunity to see a great movement of the Gospel as he had seen in revival in Cuba. On Sunday, the pastor said his prayers were answered as churches and believers gathered to give a public testimony and the Gospel was preached.

More than two dozen Hispanic churches across the state participated in the Acts 2:41 emphasis. They were rallied by Pastor Javier Sotolongo, who serves as first vice president for the Florida Baptist State Convention, when he spoke to the pastors at the statewide Hispanic pastor’s retreat.

The day was filled with amazing stories of new believers coming to know Christ and following in believer’s baptism.

Andres Lavanderos, pastor of Oak Harbor Church in Jacksonville’s Mayport region, baptized a 73-year-old man the pastor had led to Christ the week of the baptism. Paula Phillips said she had been praying for her husband Ron to be saved for 50 years.

Another divine appointment came in the Oak Harbor church parking lot. A young man who had once attended the church approached Lavanderos upon the pastor’s arrival on Sunday morning. Explaining his life had been in a downward spiral, the young man reaffirmed his Christian faith after speaking to the pastor and was baptized that afternoon as a new creation in Christ.

First Baptist Church in Dowling Park began Sunday morning singing “Shall We Gather at the River” as pastor Shawn Johnson shared with the congregation the significance of the ordinance of baptism. Six salvations resulted that day.

Then seven new believers — from age 9 to 64 — gathered on the banks of the Suwannee River and were baptized while church members and onlookers watched. “It was powerful,” Johnson said.

Acts 2:41 Sunday was “an incredible charge for our church and our state,” Johnson said. “The waters of baptism were stirred all across this state. The kingdom is seriously impacted on this day.”

Louis Egipciaco, pastor of Elevate Church in Miami Lakes, performed 11 baptisms in the shallow waters of Key Biscayne. He applauded Florida Baptists’ Acts 2:41 emphasis.

“My favorite part of beach baptisms is how public it is … the worst invention probably was a baptistery because it’s the most hidden form of a public testimony,” he told those gathered as he began the baptism ceremony.

Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, celebrated 82 baptisms and “rejoiced over powerful stories of faith,” he said.

“Specific baptism events like Acts 2:41 help our church focus on intentional evangelism,” he said. “It makes you focus, ask the question, draw the net, and seek a response. People respond when we directly, lovingly and clearly invite them to respond. Acts 2:41 gave us a great opportunity to call people to respond to the message, and I’m grateful for that.”

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41

Let us know how God is blessing you! To share your comments, just click on the comments below.