49 Professions of Faith: What I See

Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47, NKJV).

Once every 4-8 weeks, I give an invitation for attenders to receive Jesus as their Savior — to “be saved” as Acts 2:47 terms it.

This past weekend was one of those weekends, and what a powerful response! We identified 49 people who received Jesus as their Savior. That is awesome! I am so humbled and grateful that God would allow undeserving ME to be part of a great team of people who lead others into his kingdom.  That brings us to over 2,000 professions of faith in the last 5 years!

It was especially cool coming on the heels of 42 baptisms the previous weekend.

I thought it would be good to describe what I see when we do this.

First, I preach. That’s essential, because it’s the message of the Cross of Christ that contains the saving power.

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (1 Corinthians 1:23, NKJV).

Then we go to prayer. I invite the audience to bow their heads and close their eyes. I do this to create a quiet space for prayer, and for God’s Spirit to speak. I usually say so.

Next, I give a brief synopsis of the gospel, maybe 4-6 sentences. “Jesus had you personally in mind when he went to the Cross. On that Cross, he paid for every sin, and every obstacle that keeps you from God. Because of Jesus, the gift of life is absolutely free. It is yours for the taking, and yours for the believing.”  I don’t belabor it, because I’ve already preached it.

Then I offer a sample prayer, and invite people to echo that prayer to God in the quietness of their own heart.  That prayer always follows the same pattern: ABC

A stands for ADMIT: God, I admit I need you. I have not lived up to your standards, I haven’t even lived up to my own standards. I fall short, and I can’t get to you by my own power. God, I admit I need you today.

B stands for BELIEVE: God I believe Jesus is my one and only way to you. I believe he is your Son. I believe he died on the Cross, and rose again, for me. I believe he paid for my sins when he died on the Cross. I don’t understand how it works, God, but I’m telling you as best I can that I believe Jesus is my way to you.

[A and B are primarily functions of the mind. This is the objective, analytical part of faith. The next part is an act of the WILL, and this is utterly essential for salvation, however you word it, because faith is an act of the WILL, in response to the gospel truth in the MIND.]


C stands CHOOSE.
So God, right now, I choose to receive Jesus. I embrace him as my only hope for time and eternity. I also choose to turn away from all other confidences. Not my religion, not my good works, not my anything. Just Jesus. I choose Jesus alone. And I’m asking you as best as I can, for Christ’s sake, right now, please save me, God.

After that prayer, I give an assurance that God has never rejected anybody who has come to him through faith in Christ.

Then I mention that there’s a celebration in heaven for every lost sheep who comes back to the Shepherd. And I suggest that we’d like to celebrate too. I promise not to embarrass anyone or single them, out. But I ask them to tell me right then and there in a simple way.

I ask them to lift their head, and look at me.  My friend, Tim Ramsden, taught me how to do this. I was always nervous, and Tim was the Yoda of this kind of invitation. It works for me; I’m comfortable with it.

That’s when the cool stuff, the glory, the power… happens.

I wish you could see what I see.

  • Some people are smiling the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. They light up the room, and they’re eager for me to see them.
  • Others are weeping.  It’s that powerful and real. Salvation is the power of God. People being saved is the sign and wonder that really counts.
  • Sometimes they’re shy… and this is mostly men. They freeze their head so their neighbor doesn’t sense their movement, and they lift their eyes only, and wait for me to notice them. This is awesomely cool, and I understand.
  • A lot of kids get saved, and they’re always excited.
  • I’d say about 75% are males.  This is also highly cool, and against the averages, I think.
  • In come cases, it’s a whole family or a couple or a whole row of seats.  That is so entirely amazing I can’t describe it. Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, AND YOUR HOUSE.” It’s so dang biblical, it’s great to see it happen before my eyes.
  • Pierced, tatooed, shaggy, mostly young, but senior citizens too.  Very cool.
  • This past weekend, in the Classic service, a gentleman fought to open his eyes. I watched him… the internal struggle was that great. Finally, he looked at me, and smiled. I acknolwedged him.  And he got up of his own accord, came to the front, knelt down, and crossed himself. I made sure some of our best prayer team counselors talked w/him.  His name was Emil, and he was totally psyched.

In each case, I say something simple like “Welcome to God’s family” or “He loves you” and move on to the next person.  I try to keep count, because people count.

Then I pray for them and the whole church. We celebrate God’s power in Christ.

Last, we stand, and by applause welcome the new members of God’s family.  We give them a bible, and a card w/the ABC prayer explained and amplified.

I can’t claim that every person who responds is sincere. I can’t see hearts. But I can tell you that what I see is real, and it is powerful, and it just like the book of Acts. This is the power of God, and this is the power we should seek.

Praise God for 49 everlasting souls who stepped across the threshold of faith last weekend. Thank God for Jesus, who keeps on saving. And a huge thank you to the massive team of people who works so hard to make this happen.

Here’s the link to pictures of last weekend’s baptism of 42 people.

Advertisements

Non-spontaneous baptisms?

Slide1

Click this for the kids/youth schedule this weekend!

God blew us all away last weekend, when a huge crowd came forward for baptism. (See the previous two posts for the awesome stories.) By the way, we baptize by immersion. That means we dunk you all the way under water.  So this is a pretty big deal.

For this coming weekend, we’re facing 2 big issues:

1) Integrity with regard to youth/children/minors — it has to be their choice, they have to understand the significance of baptism, and their parents or guardians most likely want to watch it! So last weekend, you had to be 18 or over. But not this coming weekend (details below, so stay tuned)

2) Crowd control –– because our 10:45 service had about 5 empty seats, and that’s it! If we open that service to young people, and you invite aunts and uncles and grandparents, we’ll have some very disappointed people!

dunkfest8

About to be baptized together as a "double."

Remember… this weekend will not be our last baptism service ever. If you don’t fit the guidelines below, please know we care about you and can’t wait to celebration your public declaration of faith in Jesus. We’ll schedule a service just for you soon, so please be patient!

GUIDELINES:

Students (12-17) can get baptized if you bring your parent or guardian with you, backstage, when we give the invitation.  They’ll check you in, and then return to the auditorium to watch you get baptized. You have two choices (only): Saturday at 5:00 or Sunday at 12:30.  Bring all the family you can!

Students (10-11) can get baptized if bring your parent or guardian with you AND if you have completed our Kids’ Baptism Training packet with your parents.  (There’s one exception, below).  Same choices: Saturday at 5:30 or Sunday at 12:30.

Families (down to age 10) can get baptized without completing the Training Packet, if another adult in your immediate family with be baptized with you. Please make sure you child understands the meaning of baptism: it doesn’t save, doesn’t wash away sins, doesn’t open up heaven. It is a symbol of your faith in Jesus as your Savior, and of your union with Him. Same choices: Saturday at 5:30 or Sunday at 12:30.

It sounds like something Congress would write, I know.  But integrity with kids, and crowd control, loomed big in our minds.

dunkfest9

There are TWO people under the water here!

Looming bigger, however, is the powerful hand of God at work among his people!  Pray for this weekend. Pray for our gospel messages (Bill in the Celebration and Classic services, Todd at the Well). We’re going to invite people to receive Jesus, and then get baptized.  PRAY!  The devil hates this, an

d we’re on a battleship!

See you this weekend! I can’t wait to see how God shows up!

Photos of each person getting baptized (more to come; we have some extra processing to do), click here.

jimbotts

Jim Botts, Baptism Hero

dunkefestband

The Incredible Jon Lepinski and our Awesome Band

Our Next Baptism Tank Will Be A Triple-Wide

dunkfest6

Baptism tank is in the upper left corner...

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41, NAS95).

Okay, so maybe we didn’t baptize 3,000 souls, but we’re still buzzing about 174. Hopefully, God is setting us up for 3,000 some time in the future… that would be our prayer!  In yesterday’s post, I shared about our Surprise Baptism Service at Neighborhood Church. Today, I’d like to share some memorable stories… vignettes that capture a little bit of what God was doing.

I’d also love it if you could leave some of your own stories in the comment section… a kind of “stone pillar” for future readers of this blog.

  • dunkfest1A young guy named Garrett approached me in the crowded hallway. He said, “I need help.” I asked why. He said, “I’ve never received Jesus and I need to!” I shared the gospel with him, and right there he prayed to receive Jesus… and a few minutes later was baptized.
  • A newly engaged couple, going through the line to change and get baptized said something like, “This completes our engagement.”
  • A 77 year old gentleman sat with Ken Jones during the commotion to get changed and Ken led him to the Lord. He was the last person baptized at the 5:00 (Sat) service. The next day, he flew home to Wisconsin.
  • Jim Botts, our Community Life Pastor, baptized people for 4 services. Dave Hall joined him for the 10:45 service.  The rough counts looks  like this (these figures may change as we process baptismal certificates).
    • dunkfest2Saturday, 5 pm: 44 people
    • Sunday, 8:00 Classic: 1 person (baptized at 9)
    • Sunday, 9:00: 38 people
    • Sunday, 10:45: 70 people
    • Sunday 12:30: 21 people
  • Jennifer and Darrin Beaver spent their date night on Saturday shopping for extra shorts and clothing.
  • Teams of volunteers helped sign in and process happy, nervous people at every service.
  • A young woman told me she wasn’t sure she was saved and wanted to make sure. I asked her what she was counting on to connect her with God and get her to heaven. She said, “Because I love him.” We talked about the difference between pointing to our own works (“I love God”) and pointing to Jesus and his finished work on the Cross (“He loved me enough to die for me”).  Who are you going to point to? She prayed to receive Jesus and went public a few moments later.
  • dunkfest3We know of four people who received Jesus in preparation for baptism. Any more stories of this?
  • The bathrooms and back stairway quickly became slippery. Dedicated volunteers kept mopping and towel-drying (by hand) the stairways and floors all through the services!
  • We ran out of shorts!  So we had to recycle them.  People got baptized, returned to change, and handed off their wet shorts to someone else. Go church!
  • At the 10:45 service, we did “double-double” baptisms.  Four at once. I don’t have pictures yet, but I will post them soon. A husband stands behind his wife and holds onto her.  The both get laid backwards into the water together.  Two couples do this, side by side, at once.  A double-double, four people at once.  It was the only way we could get through 70 people… Jim and Dave had a tough time keeping their heads above water for this!  Great job, guys!
  • The energy in the hallways and changing areas was ELECTRIC. People were high-fiving, excited, happy, nervous.
  • The water was warm, about 80 degrees, and we floated a pool chlorinator in it. It still turned greenish and ugly, because of the dye from the unwashed shirts and shorts.  Jim Botts started shivering uncontrollably at 12:30… way to take one for the team! (80 degrees is still lower than his core temperature…)
  • dunkfest4When you are baptized, we have to shove you under the water, because you float.
  • A number of veteran Christians was baptized… for whatever reasons they never got around to it before, and told us how grateful they were for this opportunity. I was so proud of these guys for standing up strong and proud for Jesus!

ALL THE PICTURES WILL BE POSTED FLICKR… THIS ALLOWS YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT AS MANY AS YOU WANT!!! As of this moment, only 5:00 and 9:00 have been uploaded. We hope to have the rest uploaded by Thursday.  Here’s the link:  Neighborhood Church Photostream.

I’m only scratching the surface of an amazing work of God. Thank you, Lord, for letting me witness your mighty hand with my own eyes, and for letting me be a part of it.

What stories have you heard?

dunkfest7Some links:

Our sermons at Neighborhood Church

Pictures of each person getting baptized… find your own & make a t-shirt!

A Christmastime article I wrote about not letting your Inner Grinch steal another Christmas (please share this with friends via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc)

Surprise! 174 Baptized

Dunkfest411 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11, 12, NKJV).

Last weekend, our church baptized 174 people. They didn’t see it coming. (Neither did we, not in those numbers.) We sprung it on them. Here are some comments from Facebook:

  • I was at the Saturday evening service and it was so incredible. Thank you Jesus!
  • Thank you Bill. What a wonderful surprise and something that I have wanted to do for quite some time. To do it at your offering in front of my own church while holding my wife and in the hands of Dave Hall and Jimmy Botts was something that I will always remember.
  • We got the sneak preview on Sat. night. It was AWESOME! Way to to to all of you that stepped up and got baptized this weekend. Praise the Lord! What great leadership we have!
  • Thank you Bill. It was a fantastic experience for me and my wife. To be baptized together and to have it witnessed by Neighborhood church was an honor and privelage that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Yeah Bill. Yeah Neighborhood Church. And especially, Yeah Jesus!
  • Dude, Praise God! What an awesome celebration of faith!
  • Loved the double dunkers. it was pretty awesome! worth waiting for the surprise

Dunkfest2It’s impossible to convey the electricity in the room (but thankfully not in the baptismal tank). Last weekend,we played “Baptism Catch-up.” We invited followers of Jesus to stand up and say so the way Jesus told us to say so: through water baptism.  We’re “dunkers” so this was pretty inconvenient.

We had shorts, shirts, unmentionables, hair dryers, changing rooms, towels, bags for everybody’s stuff, photographers… there was no excuse not to get baptized.

Our message was based on the gross but cool story of Joshua 5 (it’s part of a series called BirthRight).  The Jews enter the Promised Land through a great miracle. God parts the Jordan River. Now, they are in hostile territory, and have basically declared war on the Canaanites.  Joshua’s first order of business: CIRCUMCISE EVERY MALE IN THE NATION.  Joshua incapacitates his entire fighting force. Does that make sense?

Only if you see life from the divine viewpoint. God had spoken: there can be no VICTORY until God’s people fully embrace their IDENTITY.  That’s was the idea in Joshua’s day, and it’s the idea today.  BAPTISM is how we go public for Jesus; we tell God, the devil, angels, demons, the church, and a million people on the Internet that we belong to Jesus and he belongs to us. “Identity precedes victory.”

That was the message… it will be online soon. At the end, we prayed, pointed to a door in front of the auditorium, and said “READY SET GO!”

People flooded through the door. It was indescribable to see the power of God made so visible.  Tears. Smiles. Hugs. Laughter. Excitement. You could feel it. Our worship team, led by Jon Lepinski, came up, and continues our worship set (we’d cut it short, moved up [and shortened!] my message, and left time for baptisms and more worship at the end).

Dunkfest3Jim Botts and his team (led by Jennifer, Dave, and Janis) were ready. Get clothes, change, sign in, profess your faith, and go get dunked. It was so cool to see an army of volunteers helping people, encouraging, cheering, loving, serving. Our baptism tank is upstairs (behind one of our projection screens, the screen lifts up, making the tank visible in the auditorium).

In each service, one volunteer kept wiping the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs, so people wouldn’t slip.  Up, down, up, down, all service long. That is a heart of SERVICE and SACRIFICE.

I have some awesome stories… I’ll save those for tomorrow.

GOD IS GOOD.

IMG_1048CLICK HERE FOR A SPECIAL, FUN, FREE, ARTICLE I WROTE ABOUT TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF THIS HOLIDAY SEASON! Please tell your friends about it.