While I don’t personally know Joel Lindsey, I’ve followed him for some time on Twitter. You may recognize Joel’s name from his work on For the City, which he helped write with Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter (for what it’s worth, the chapter on discipleship is worth the price of the book alone, AND it’s on sale at Amazon).
Joel is now the lead pastor at Grace Church in Racine, Wisconsin. I wanted to share with you the story and video he posted today on his blog.
Sunday, April 15, 2012, was a historic day in the life of Grace Church. For a few weeks before that Sunday we communicated that we would be holding baptisms the weekend after Easter. This was an interesting shift for Grace because baptisms had not been done on a Sunday in at least 30 years. Prior to the 15th they were always done a few times a year at Wednesday night prayer gatherings. My pastoral leadership team and I decided to move baptisms to Sunday so that it would be on full display as a beautiful multimedia presentation of the gospel.
So we pumped baptisms for a few weeks, offered a short video teaching on the website to help those who were baptized as infants come to understand believer’s baptism, which is what the Grace elders and I believe to be the biblical model. We had those who wanted to be baptized register online and submit their testimonies to us. We received a 60 sign-ups, a great number that would keep us happily busy in our two Sunday services.
We also decided to offer an open call to baptisms during the service, so that even those who didn’t sign up could also be baptized. We bought some swim trunks and towels and Jockey donated a bunch of black t-shirts (which we now refer to as “Bap-tees.” We also held a training night for a few more than 50 volunteers, and talked through the process of receiving those who might spontaneously respond to the call to be baptized. Those volunteers included folks who would help people find the changing areas and get their towels and be generally supported and smiled at.
Many of our volunteers served to hear brief testimonies of those coming forward for baptism. These folks simply received those coming forward and listened for an acknowledgment of their sinful condition and a profession of faith in Christ as their only hope for eternal salvation. We even had counselors in a separate room to further a gospel conversation for those who did not fully grasp the gospel just yet.
In other words, we had this thing down to a science. Until the services go going.
In our 8:30 service we planned to baptize 20 people. We wound up baptizing 37. In the 10:15 service we planned on baptizing 40 people, and wound up baptizing 93. 93! That’s a grand total of 130!
None of us was expecting that, and both services were as soaked in the Holy Spirit as those baptized were soaked with water.
Of all the great moments for me, the best was the one person I baptized that day. I baptized my new friend Eleanor, who is 96 years old and embraced the gospel just a few weeks ago. Her grandson led her to Christ and she wanted to be baptized. Because of the frailty of her body we could not immerse her, so I baptized her while she stood with her walker. I told her and all those gathered that by tipping her head back she was signifying that she was buried with Christ. I then poured some water over her beautiful head, and as she raised her head again I proudly announced through tears of joy that she was raised to new life in Christ! What a moment for here, her family, the Grace family, and me too.
We also captured more than 100 dripping wet testimonies in our makeshift video studio backstage. And my friend Jason Jahnke was on hand to capture some of these moments of film. Here is the video he put together that we showed to our congregation yesterday. It’s 2 minutes of joy. And be sure to stay put till the end. I wouldn’t want you to miss Eleanor.