September 2019

My first baptismal service

September 11 2019 by Paul Kim

On the Lord’s Day, March 1, 1981, a new church was inaugurated at a small church building in Albany, Calif., near UC Berkeley.

The small sanctuary was only half-filled with my family of five, friends and visitors – a total of 23 people. Not knowing what to expect as a young pastor, I had prepared everything for the inaugural service, including printing (by faith) 50 Sunday bulletins, setting up refreshments and, of course, preaching the sermon.
On top of that, I included the two biblical ordinances of the church, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Needless to say, it was a full program.
Moreover, this was my first baptismal service in pastoral ministry. Three college students I had ministered to in Los Angeles wanted me to baptize them at the inaugural worship service.
It was an unforgettable moment. As I waded into the baptistery, I reflected on my own experience of being baptized at Kaumana Drive Baptist Church in Hilo, Hawaii, in October 1972, just a year before going to the mainland to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
During seminary, I had learned about the importance of baptism in the history of Baptists. I had frequently observed the baptismal services led by the late W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Church in Dallas. I could not believe I was now participating in administering this sacred command of Jesus.
As I prepared to immerse the first candidate into the water, I found myself imitating Dr. Criswell’s gentle and gracious manner.
Three months later we received an offer from the East Bay Baptist Association to move, rent-free, to a larger church building on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, hence the name Berkland Baptist Church was born. Over the next 10 years the church grew from my family of five to over 500 active church members. We were one of the pioneers of collegiate church planting, making disciples through the ministry of intercessory prayer, inductive Bible studies and building lifelong co-working relationships.
By God’s grace we were able to baptize more than 700 new believers. The California Southern Baptist Convention recognized Berkland as one of its fastest-growing churches, and the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) invited me to the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis in 1987 to share a two-minute testimony of our church growth. The media team came to record a film of our campus ministries at Berkeley and Stanford titled, “Catching the Spirit.”
After 10 years of fruitful pastoral ministry in Berkeley, my wife Rebekah and I felt God’s call to move to Cambridge, Mass., to plant a new branch church in 1991, BBC-East, while our very first homegrown disciple, Pastor Andy Pak, would take over as the lead pastor of the Berkeley church, BBC-West. Even though thousands of miles away, our vision from the very beginning was to plant churches on multi-site campuses, but still remain one family, united in one spirit.
Only God knew this was just the beginning of multiple church plants within the university community both at home and abroad. Upon graduation from college, many of those baptized in our churches joined the church staff as homegrown workers. Over the years, they have gone out to serve as campus directors, church planters, pastors and missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission.
Even in our retirement, Rebekah and I have been committed to raising up leaders for the 21st century. My wife, who serves as the Southern Baptist chaplain at Harvard University, recently earned her doctoral ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Her dissertation was a culmination of over three decades of planting churches. She has been the most instrumental Bible teacher and disciple-maker of our collegiate ministries from the beginning of our church in Berkeley in 1981. Through her in-depth, lifelong pursuit of the meaning of what a church is, we have built a family of God through our eternal relationships in Christ.
Now we pass the baton to the next generation of pastors and missionaries that they may obey our Lord’s command to baptize disciples of all nations in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.)

9/11/2019 5:06:16 PM by Paul Kim | with 0 comments

The courage to stand

September 10 2019 by Kelvin J. Cochran

Many Christian Americans in today’s culture are faced with a choice whether to live out their faith or keep their jobs.

Photo credit

We are living in a season where one week we are receiving accolades for what God is doing through us in our careers, and the next week we are facing termination for expressing what we believe about the Bible.
This same bipolar culture existed when Paul and Barnabas were preaching in Lystra (Acts 14:8-20). As a man who had been lame from birth was listening to the gospel message, Paul perceived that he had faith to be healed. So he called out to the man and said, “Stand up!” The man leaped to his feet and started walking.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they concluded that he and Barnabas were gods and wanted to worship them. Paul and Barnabas were vehemently agitated, telling the crowd, “We are human beings just like yourselves.” Shortly thereafter, some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the exact same crowds into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city and left him for dead.
Here’s the disturbing part. Verse 20 says believers were in the crowd. They were apparently afraid to speak out on Paul’s behalf for fear that what happened to Paul might happen to them. The lacked the courage to stand.
Having the courage to stand means living out Christian values publicly as evidenced by Paul. Too many of us proudly live out our faith privately during church activities around other like-minded believers where it’s safe. When it comes to walking it out openly after the benediction, we are paralyzed.
Many of us can testify that our faith has caused us to achieve great things in our family and careers in pursuit of the American dream, having blessings we never thought possible. The Bible rightly declares, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Sadly, many of the redeemed in this untoward culture are silent and passive when it comes to disclosing Christ as the source of our blessings. Like the crowd in Lystra, they see what has happened to believers who have stood publicly and are fearful of the same circumstances if they took a stand. This fear causes many to conclude the cost for standing is too great. So they devise passive plans to avoid the possibility of having to make a choice. Some even avoid interacting with other believers at work who courageously live out their faith because they don’t want to be guilty by association.
Avoidance is proof that we have more fear of worldly consequences than faith in the Kingdom consequences of living out our faith.
God understands our fears. He is a very present help in the time of trouble. What He doesn’t understand is how a believer will strategically plan how to avoid being discovered as a child of God when we profess embracing the whole truth of scripture. What He doesn’t understand is why we don’t stand as a unified body with other believers who are being persecuted. Overcoming our fears begins with confessing our fears.
If you’re scared, don’t try to hide it.
If you’re scared that you will lose your friends for standing on the truth, say you’re scared. If you’re scared you will lose your job, say you’re scared. If you’re scared you will lose your business, say you’re scared.
If we will simply be honest with God, talk to Him about it and stop trying to avoid the conversation, He will hear us and embolden us with courage and strength to stand.
Jesus made a promise that whatever we lose standing for Him will be restored a hundredfold in this life, with persecution, and afterwards with eternal life. Moreover, Jesus also promised that if you try to hold on to your life (livelihood), you will lose it. But if you lose your life (livelihood) for His name’s sake, you will gain a life that is exceedingly abundant above all you may ask or think. I am living proof of this promise.
So, what does this passage of scripture teach us about the courage to stand?
1. Christians who have a track record of courage to stand are chosen by God for divine assignments to do unexplainable wonders for His glory. The cowardly are never chosen for divine assignments.
2. Christians who have courage to stand grieve when men bestow honor on them for work that God is doing through them. We are just human beings performing works that are wrought in God.
3. Christians who have the courage to stand demonstrate divine boldness, living out their faith under high-risk conditions. Paul was stoned and left for dead. When he recovered, he went right back into the city where he was stoned.
4. Christians who have courage to stand are not dismayed or discouraged by threats and challenging conditions. They serve and perform with strength and valor in hostile work environments.
What shall we say to all these things? Don’t be afraid to live out your faith. Stand! God will give you courage and strength. Our back is not against the wall. We are not at the end of our rope. Throwing in the towel is not an option.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelvin J. Cochran, chief operating officer at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, holds a doctorate in interdisciplinary leadership from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He is the former fire chief for the city of Atlanta and former U.S. Fire Administrator under President Obama.)

9/10/2019 2:17:17 PM by Kelvin J. Cochran | with 0 comments

BAPTISM SUNDAY: Creating a culture of celebration

September 6 2019 by Noe Garcia

Why Baptism Sunday? I became a Christian at the age of 18 and several years later I followed through with baptism. Why did it take so long?
The truth is, no one told me about it. I rarely saw it done in a service or emphasized in the church, not to mention I was afraid to stand before a hundred people. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a common theme that I hear from baptism candidates.

Photo from Facebook
We want people to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord and Savior,” said Noe Garcia, seen here in a baptism service earlier this year. His church, North Phoenix Baptist Church, holds a baptism Sunday emphasis once a month and gives new believers a chance to tell their stories from the baptistery.

This is why we work very hard to create a culture in our church where it is a good thing to make a decision for Christ. Every week when someone comes forward during the invitation, our church will explode in applause and celebration. People are literally celebrating and cheering! It’s incredible.
Some would say we have to be careful with emotionalism. Some ask why we do this. I say if the angels in heaven rejoiced over one who repented (Luke 15:10), then the church should not be afraid to follow suit.
This past year we have seen an explosion in decisions for Christ. I know it is not all about numbers, and I was a pastor who was anti numbers in fear of being only about numbers.
But I realized in my fear of being portrayed as a pastor who is numerically driven that I instead was passive about helping people make decisions for Christ. In other words, I would rather have been liked by people and not push obedience in fear of looking numbers driven than be obedient to Christ and not care about what people thought.
Well, I finally stopped caring about the opinion of others and we push numbers! Why? Because each number represents a soul, and souls matter to God.
I can’t expect people to respond if I never give them an opportunity. People are dying and going to hell, and we must live with a sense of urgency. Yes, numbers matter. I want to cast the net and see God save many, and see many walk through the waters of baptism.
Here is what we have seen work:

Casting the Net

I teach our staff to constantly cast the net at every event, service or one-on-one meeting. We have seen over 350 people give their lives to Christ this year by doing this!

Celebrate in Service

We consistently tell stories of life change in our services. Sometimes the life change is the best-kept secret in the church. We have made it a priority to share and celebrate in the service.

Baptism Sunday Emphasis

We have a baptism Sunday emphasis once a month and take the time to tell their stories from the baptistery. We want people to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

Different Ways to Respond

Not all want to come forward during the invitation, so we have created multiple avenues for them to respond: text, connect card, connect box, etc.

Social Media

We push baptism on social media and provide a link on the post so people can easily register.
In the last three years, we have seen our baptisms triple and have experienced the joy of seeing people walk through the waters in obedience. We are thrilled to “Fill the Tank” this Sunday and cannot wait to see how God is going to move!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press is releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to Noe Garcia is senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/6/2019 11:12:47 AM by Noe Garcia | with 0 comments

Missional impact in your state

September 6 2019 by Paul Chitwood

My first international mission trip took place on a farm in central Kentucky.
As a new pastor in the community, I often found myself interacting with migrant workers from Central and South America. I soon realized that most were spiritually lost.


From conversations with farmers, I learned many of them were as concerned as I was about the eternal state of the souls of these (mostly) men who were so far away from their homes and families.
As we began to pull together churches in our association and piece together a plan to begin a migrant ministry, we found an organization ready and eager to help us: our Baptist state convention. With the assistance of our state convention staff, we were soon seeing people from all over Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua come to Christ – though we never left Kentucky.
Ministries in our 41 Southern Baptist state conventions vary from state to state, but their mission is the same: help churches reach their state and our world for Christ.
As we enter the fall of the year, most of our state conventions are promoting their annual state mission offering to support these vital ministries. My family will be giving to support the work in our state. As grateful and enthusiastic as I am for Southern Baptists’ support of international missions, I’m also thankful for and supportive of the ministry and mission work of our state conventions.
From my past experience as a pastor and state mission leader, I have seen firsthand the missional impact of state convention ministries. Where I served in Kentucky, more than 100 missionaries in the state receive varying levels of support for their work.
Ministries to refugees, migrants and ethnic minorities often are led or assisted by state convention team members and resources. State conventions help facilitate church planting, church strengthening and revitalization efforts as well as provide evangelism training and coordinate disaster relief ministry. In many states, collegiate work is led by the state convention and support is also provided for the ministry of local Baptist associations.
One of our adopted daughters was rescued and kept safe by our state convention’s orphan and foster care ministry before she came into our family. The lives of unborn children are being saved by crisis pregnancy centers that are often funded, in part, by the state convention. Several state conventions are actively involved in lobbying efforts for legislation to protect unborn children from the horror of abortion.
Many state conventions provide training and funding for prison ministries, through which inmates are hearing the gospel, trusting Christ and being baptized by local churches. Women in the adult entertainment industry are being shown pathways to freedom and salvation, and churches are equipped for ministry to the homeless and those suffering addiction.
Across America, people are finding new life in Christ as churches work together through their state convention ministries. In addition to your church’s ongoing Cooperative Program support, your annual state mission offering is an opportunity for Great Commission and Great Commandment giving. Will you join my family and be a part of what God is doing through these ministries by giving through your state mission offering this year?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Chitwood is president of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board and a former executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

9/6/2019 11:09:39 AM by Paul Chitwood | with 0 comments

BAPTISM SUNDAY: Pastors, teachers & baptism

September 6 2019 by Vickie Munton

I was the girl who had trusted Christ, but was baptized before my salvation experience. As a young adult, I heard a message on baptism and for the first time truly understood the answer to the questions of “Why should we be baptized?” and “When should we be baptized?”


My heart was stirred and I felt an urgency in seeing it accomplished, so I was baptized shortly thereafter. The Holy Spirit did His work, as the pastor was simply obedient to present the message clearly.
When I counsel a child, often the statement I hear is “I want to be baptized,” not “I want to trust Christ as my Savior.”
Careful to explain what baptism is and the reason for this simple act of obedience, I am given the opportunity to share the gospel with them. Sometimes I am privileged to lead them in a prayer of salvation, while other times I trust the Holy Spirit to plant a seed of faith in their young hearts.
Whether it’s a child who is understanding baptism for the first time, a teen who made a commitment at a youth event but never obeyed the Lord in baptism, or an adult who has their baptism out of order, often the catalyst that God uses is a faithful pastor or teacher who reminds them that when the Holy Spirit stirs their heart toward obedience, now is the time to obey, not later. Postponed obedience is not obedience at all and can be a stumbling block to spiritual growth.
When Jesus showed up at the pool of Bethesda in John 5, He saw more than just a crowd of needy people. He saw a particular man who had no hope of healing. Watching as others were healed by stepping into the water that had been stirred up by an angel, this man knew that his only hope was for someone to come along and help him.
Then Jesus walked into the middle of this multitude, verse 3 says, and had compassion on a man who had been sick for 38 years. Jesus looked to this man that He could heal without a word, but instead called him to an act of obedience – “Get up.” Choosing to obey, his life was changed forever.
Pastor, maybe you are the one who needs to stir up the water. Some are blind to the truth about baptism. Others may just be paralyzed by fear or pride. It’s not your job to convict or convince someone of their need for baptism – the Holy Spirit does that; it is your opportunity to shed light on a subject that just might bring hope to a believer who is struggling to take this next step in their Christian walk.
The miracle here, of course, is not just that the man was healed physically. Not even knowing who it was that healed him, the man went to the temple, possibly searching for answers. Maybe he went there to worship God and give thanks for his healing. Maybe he hadn’t been to the temple in years – or ever. Jesus found the man there and revealed Himself to him. The point is: The same man who needed to be healed was found once more because Jesus knew this man needed more than physical healing – he needed to take the next step in obedience.
Baptism is that next step that many in your pews need to take, so don’t forget that Sunday, Sept. 8 is Baptism Sunday.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press is releasing a series of articles and columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to Vickie Munton,, serves alongside her husband Doug, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill.)

9/6/2019 11:06:36 AM by Vickie Munton | with 0 comments

Remembering the life of a true friend

September 4 2019 by Dennis Hester

The Blue Ridge mountains will be a little bluer this summer, at least for me. And as the fog lifts and is burned away by the August morning sun, there’ll be one less mountaineer from Haywood County. On Aug. 4, I sat in Beaver Dam Baptist Church, and we celebrated the homegoing of Paul Mitchell Sorrells. He became a native of Cleveland County 51 years ago, and although he has not lived in the mountains since he married June Baldwin, from Franklin, in 1960. But there’s a part of Paul that will always live in Haywood County. 

Dennis Hester

The mountain influence lived deep within Paul the rest of his life. June settled into life as a school teacher, and Paul had a dual career as a Baptist minister and an English teacher. It was in his English classroom at Gardner-Webb College, now university, that I met Paul in 1972, as I began preparing for the ministry.
I took-a-liking to Paul right away. I smiled as I watched him with his out-of-date crewcut and his books tightly tucked under his left arm, taking long strides across campus like he was crossing the side of a mountain. He said when he was in college he walked in the grass, instead of walking on the sidewalks to keep from wearing out his shoes.
I quickly learned it was not just the soles of his shoes he was careful about. He was the epitome of frugal.
Often when he saw me walking to the snack shop across the street from the college, he’d say, “Hey, Doc! How about helping me get my cows back into the pasture.” Once I’d chased the cows into safety, I would return to the classroom, wet with sweat. I often reminded him that his cows wouldn’t be jumping the fence if he’d spend the money for a decent fence. He agreed, but never did.
I learned from Paul that most good sermons include a little humor. His sermons sparkled with humor and stories from his life as a mountaineer and country pastor.

Paul Mitchell Sorrells​

One morning some years ago I was listening as he offered his version of the story of Jonah at an old church in Gaffney, S.C.  “When Jonah came out of that whale’s mouth,” Paul proclaimed, “he was running so fast that you could have shot marbles on his coat-tail.”
His rare blend of Bible knowledge, spiritual wisdom and down-home common sense helped his listeners remember the truth of God’s Word and transformed many a life.
Pastor Paul Sorrells become a legend in Cleveland County. In his 60-plus years as a minister he served 18 churches as interim pastor and was named Pastor Emeritus at Beaver Dam Baptist in Shelby, where he served for 17 years. He also taught at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville for 23 years. Someone said, “The old preachers are gone, but not forgotten, and if we preachers don’t watch the way we preach and live, we’ll be forgotten, but not gone.”
My good friend Paul is missing today, but he is not lost, because we cannot lose someone when we know where they are. Jesus said, “Where I am, there you may be also.”
When Paul died, at 83 years of age, Aug. 1, a part of me died also, but he also left something behind that will always be a part of me. I now feel a greater desire to be unselfish, giving, loving and a true friend to others – as he had been to me.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dennis Hester is the minister of pastoral care and outreach at Konnoak Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and can be reached at

9/4/2019 2:41:08 PM by Dennis Hester | with 0 comments

BAPTISM SUNDAY: Repent, believe & be baptized

September 3 2019 by Willy Rice

Acts 2 says that Peter not only proclaimed the gospel, he concluded with a clear call to repentance, faith and baptism.

“Do it now,” Peter seemed to say. He “strongly urged” (CSB) them to be saved, and those who accepted the message were baptized that day.
There are many ways to do gospel invitations, but what seems to be inarguable in the New Testament is the vital importance of a direct challenge to repent, believe and be baptized.
For several years at Calvary Baptist Church we have enjoyed days when we intentionally emphasized a call to believe and be baptized. We have never had such a day when God failed to bless with a harvest. There is just something powerful about a direct call to trust Christ and an invitation to be baptized.
A few days ago, we had another Sunday when we called people to respond and scheduled a Beach Baptism service that evening. We were privileged to baptize 62 people that night. It is not uncommon for us to baptize 80, 90 or 100 people on such days.
We work very hard to proclaim a clear gospel and follow up with each person who responds, just as we would any other time. A specific call to come, profess faith and Christ and be baptized, either in that very service, or later that very day, always seems to have unusual power. We make preparations so people who haven’t prepared to be baptized can still take that step of obedience if they are willing.

Submitted photo
Pastor Willy Rice, front row, right, celebrates with 60-plus people at Calvary Baptist Church’s Beach Baptism. For special baptism days, Rice notes, “We work very hard to proclaim a clear gospel and follow up with each person who responds, just as we would any other time.”

Of course every technique or method can be abused or used carelessly. We should work very hard to make sure our invitations are clearly rooted in a call to repentance and biblical faith. Yes, we should be concerned about the integrity of our invitations but we should be just as concerned with making sure we do issue an invitation, an urgent appeal.

It is hard to improve on the biblical model and unwise to try to do so. Gospel preaching involves a call to repent, believe and be baptized. To continually separate our proclamation from a call to action is unwise and unbiblical.
I encourage Southern Baptists to fill the tank, proclaim a clear message of repentance and faith and then call people to action. You might be surprised by what God will do.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Willy Rice is senior pastor of the Tampa-area Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater and a former president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. Baptist Press is releasing a series of articles and columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to

9/3/2019 10:05:50 AM by Willy Rice | with 0 comments

4 steps to engage your community

September 3 2019 by Joe Maye

During the process of reaching the community around us, we must each move from thinking like a missionary to engaging like one. While it can be intimidating to make the transition from theory and strategy to actually entering the lives of people, it is well worth it. To make this transition, there are four characteristics we must embrace.

Be a person of prayer

Simply getting to know a person or plugging into a community is crucial, but it’s not the only goal. We must engage with people and communities in such a way that our hearts become connected – we must pour ourselves out before the Lord in prayer on their behalf. To do so, we need to plead with the Lord to draw our hearts to them in love.

Be a learner

A key aspect of thinking like a missionary is humility. We must be aware that we have much to learn about the beautifully diverse cultures and communities that God has created. If we are not careful, we can subconsciously impose our desires, ideas, preferences and systems onto the people we are hoping to engage. As humble learners, we can look for opportunities to meaningfully and lovingly serve the people or communities we are seeking to engage.
Here is a helpful list of categories for potential pathways of engagement:

  • Seasonal – Are there certain times of the year that present unique opportunities for engagement in contextually appropriate ways?

  • Social – Are there opportunities to provide or enhance experiences to build meaningful relationships and community?

  • Sports – Are there sports or athletic opportunities that resonate meaningfully that could be offered or enhanced?

  • Study – Do you have the skillset to provide support or share a desired knowledge to the person or community? Be careful not to assume that the desire to learn is there.

  • Spiritual – Are there cultural expressions of worship that could foster discussion where you can learn as well as provide a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus?

  • Service – Are there needs that you have the capacity and skills to meet?

  • Situational – Are there certain needs based on a crisis or situational occurrence that you have the ability to step into?

Answering these questions thoughtfully and humbly will provide countless ideas for us as missionaries to die to ourselves for the sake of the gospel. After all, this is how they will know what love is (1 John 3:16).

Be a seeker

One of the key purposes of intentional engagement should be to identify a “person(s) of peace.” This was a vital component to Jesus’ missional strategy in Luke 10. A person of peace in a community is a gift from God and an open channel for living water to saturate a community. This person can offer credibility within the community, as well as offer insight into how the community operates.

Be a friend

One of the most profound ways to reach those in your community is to be a true and courteous friend. When we speak to people, we should ask their names and pronounce them correctly. We should do whatever is necessary to remember them. Ask meaningful questions and listen intently to the answers. Allow people to share their stories as they are willing.
Inhabit these characteristics and engage with those in your community with boldness and humility knowing that the risen Jesus is with you always.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Maye is the pastor of Rise Church, Winston-Salem. This article originally appeared in

9/3/2019 10:02:59 AM by Joe Maye | with 0 comments