“It was a day I will never forget,” said Frank Page, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church, referring to the outdoor baptism of 76 people on Sept. 30 at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville.
For Taylors First, this day kicked off a very special time in the church called “Seven Sundays of Harvest.” Page’s vision is to emphasize critical characteristics of the church body, including faithfulness, in-reach, and outreach to the unchurched. The outdoor baptism was a way to begin the harvest.
“Our church has seen the beginnings of a new reaping that is hopefully only the first fruits,” according to Doug Mize, minister of discipleship and evangelism at Taylors First. “Many of these newly baptized individuals were the result of someone in our church building a relationship with them and sharing the gospel of Christ. We are excited that many of our people are reaching out in ways they never have reached out before. This day is the product of God’s work through them.”
The greatest blessing of the service for Page was certainly in his role as pastor, yet as Southern Baptist Convention president he sees outdoor baptism services as a way to participate in a timeless tradition.
“I encourage other churches to do the same. Outdoor baptisms are about going back to Christianity’s roots. This type of baptism promotes excitement,” he said.
Park visitors were asking what was going on down at the lake. Even a group of 25 Hindu people stopped to watch. They heard the gospel. Later, one of the Taylors staff members talked with them, explaining the reason for the celebration.
Sarah Brackett, one of the many baptized, said, “I consider my baptism one of the most important events of my life – right up there with my wedding and the birth of my children. I will always remember it.?I really felt the Holy Spirit all around me.”
The positive response from this service is overwhelming, according to Mize. “It was a remarkable day. I have participated in outdoor baptisms for years, but I have never been a part of one so moving. Being in the water with all these new believers made me wonder if I was seeing a glimpse of the wonders of heaven.”
The work of the harvest must continue, according to Page. “The Great Commission is still incomplete.”