The churches that comprise the Warren County Baptist Association led the state in baptisms in 2015-2016. They baptized 1,209 people of the more than 14,000 state-wide baptisms, which is about 100 more than the year before.
Director of Missions John Mark Toby said the reason is simple: “Focus on Jesus. Jesus said, ’And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ Churches that focus on Jesus reach people, and those that don’t, don’t.”
Toby said the No. 1 tool for reaching people in Warren County churches has been the Sunday morning worship service. When services are focused on Christ, then people tend to hear the gospel and decide to follow Jesus.
Toby expressed concern about churches where a worshipper can be in a service for an entire hour and barely hear the name of Jesus or His work on the cross mentioned. He repeatedly says, “You must keep Jesus central.”
Warren Association is intentional about celebrating baptisms at regularly scheduled associational meetings. Toby asks pastors to send pictures of their baptismal services, and then those pictures are put together with a PowerPoint presentation set to music that is shown at their associational board meetings.
They often have pictures of 100 or more baptisms set to a four-minute song. This a highlight of quarterly associational meetings. Keeping the focus on baptisms helps pastors affirm and appreciate each other as well as encourage each other toward greater evangelistic faithfulness.
Leading in baptisms has been a pattern for Warren County churches. In the 2014-2015 church year, three of the top 10 baptizing churches in the state were from this association. At this year’s annual meeting in Florence, the Kentucky Baptist Convention will recognize Hillvue Heights, Crossland Community and Living Hope in the Top 10 Baptizing Churches category. But also in the Top 10 category in worshiper to baptism ratio, the KBC will recognize Lighthouse at Nolin and Lifehouse.
Steve Ayers, pastor of Hillvue Heights, the top baptizing church in the state, with 531 baptisms in 2014-2015 and 504 in the 2015-2016 year, believes the pastor is the key when it comes to reaching people for Christ.
“Evangelism is a discipleship issue,” Ayers said. “If we are not discipling people to be evangelistic then what are we discipling them to be?”
At Hillvue Heights, baptism is a big deal. Ayers explained, “We believe baptism is the first step of obedience and the open confession of salvation. If a person will not do the first thing Jesus said to do, then they will not do the last thing.”
The baptisms in Warren Association churches took place through large and small congregations led by full-time and bi-vocational pastors. Richardsville Baptist, with bi-vocational Pastor Kenneth Whitaker, baptized 27 people last year. Community Church, with bi-vocational Pastor Charles McCutchen, had 27 baptisms in 2015-2016. Franklin Community Church baptized 71, Southside Baptist baptized 10 people, and the Chin Mission of Living Hope, with Pastor Ram Hare, reported 113 baptisms.
When asked where they go from here, Director of Missions Toby replied that they are praying for 2,000 baptisms in one year. They currently are in their sixth year of baptizing more than 1,000 people annually. They hope to be baptizing 2,000 people a year by 10 years from now.
“To meet this goal, we hope to see some new churches started and some existing ones strengthened,” Toby said. (WR)