Recently a friend in ministry shared that he was frustrated by the lack of baptisms the church he is serving has experienced. He asked for advice, and since I get asked this question a lot, I thought I’d share my response here:
Hi Jason, by God’s grace we see quite a few people get baptized here at CCV, just under 1,900 in 15 years in fact. I’m not sure there are any secrets, but here are a few things we’ve learned that work in our context.
1. We’ve made a commitment to grow through conversion growth only. That’s important because the people you currently have will dictate whether or not the church you serve has an outreach focus or an inward focus.
2. I give a detailed explanation of the gospel once a month and call for a decision by having people fill out a 3×5 Baptism Decision Card. We tell them we will baptize them immediately after the service, or at our monthly baptism service the following week. We rarely ask people to come forward. I’ll simply say, “As you leave give your card to an usher in the back and come back next week at 1pm for the baptism service.” Truth be told we baptize people 7 days a week around here, not just in a service. We also have a baptism page on our website with a link to sign up to partcipate in our next baptism service.
3. We record a video of our baptism services and show that video during the following week’s service during communion. We want to ingrain evangelism as a core value, and nothing does that better than showing videos of your most recent baptisms.
4. I personally lead by example. I meet once a week without fail with a non-Christian to lead them to Christ. When we first started CCV we had 7 families from our street alone come to the church. I mention this simply to say that an introvert can do this, and that it’s really about commitment rather than skill.
5. I make it a priority to pray the following prayer at least 4-5 times a day: “God give me your heart for people far from you in this area.” I want the people who are in my area without Christ to be in my thoughts constantly.
6. I preach a sermon series about evangelism once a year, usually a month or two before Easter (which is a prime evangelistic season for us). I find that does more for me than anyone else.
7. Usually in the fall we organize a “Decision Day” when as a staff we’ll email and call every person in our database and let them know we are having a special Sunday where we’re asking people to make a decision to make Jesus the leader and forgiver of their life. Our staff will set up appointments, pray, fast, etc. Usually on that Sunday we’ll see a large number get baptized. That’s important for more than just numbers; it’s about congregational focus.
8. We plaster all over our facilities and communication vehicles a stamp that looks like this (See image left). What that means is we as a congregation pray everyday at 2pm for God to bring 2,000 people in our area back to him. So far we’ve baptized 1,845 people, and we adjust that number each time we baptize another. There’s nothing special about the number “2,000.” There’s no time frame we’re trying to accomplish it by. It’s just a goal we’ve put before ourselves as a congregation that will help keep evangelism a priority.
9. Make sure you do an excellent job of following up and discipling every person who becomes a Christian. We do that by offering a 5-week group experience called “Foundations” where everyone is taught the 5 aspects of what it means to be a fully-devoted follower of Jesus. Hopefully that new group will continue on, so that a newly baptized person will have a ready-made network of comrades in the faith. With new converts, strike fast with regards to getting them plugged in and connected.
10. We’ve taken a picture of every single person that has been baptized at our church and placed them into a collage that’s on our office wall. I did that mainly for me, as a reminder of God’s amazing grace, but also to pray for those who are now under our care as a church. It’s humbling in more ways than one.
Well, I hope this encourages you.
The high number of baptisms we have at CCV comes not from having a skilled pastor or staff, but from prayer, teaching, planning, execution, and a ton of hard work. With a special group like the people we have at CCV, this is easy to pull off. They often push me more to stay focused on evangelism than I do them.