Speaker 1: You’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from the North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the Gospel. Now, here are your hosts.
Kevin Ezell: Well, thanks for listening. This is Kevin Ezell, here with Johnny Hunt. Brother Johnny, we want to ask pastors to save an upcoming date on their calendars. You want to tell us more about what’s going on?
Johnny Hunt: Kevin, you’re exactly right. We want to ask every pastor, every church staff member to mark their calendars for a special Baptism Sunday of all days, Easter Sunday, which is April the 12th. This is going to be an exciting day that every pastor will want to be a part of.
Kevin Ezell: Well, Brother Johnny, what is the basic purpose of Baptism Sunday, and on Easter?
Johnny Hunt: Well, first of all, you could not have asked a better question. When I think about the purpose of Baptism Sunday, first of all, the majority of our churches are going to have the largest attendance of the year, so many unbelievers. If you’re part of a Who’s Your One campaign, you’re looking for opportunities to get your people to engage their one like, “Hey, I want them to be there Sunday.” Well, you’ve got to preach the gospel on Easter Sunday. If not, you’ve not even mentioned the resurrection. So, when you talk about what happened on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, what a time.
Johnny Hunt: Then you’re really giving your people an opportunity in that you preach the Gospel and then think of spontaneous baptism. You’re simply asking the people to be obedient to Jesus, to be obedient to the word of God, and that is we’re to make disciples, we’re to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, we’re to teach them which is a discipleship that’s going to follow. But what better way to encourage the people? And then to rally the troops, to tell them we’re not only going to present the Gospel, here’s what you’re doing. You’re actually calling the people with the Gospel to come to faith in Christ and then to be baptized.
Johnny Hunt: J.D. Greear helped all of us to see that there’s not a single occasion in the Book of Acts that when a person professed faith, they were baptized immediately. The Ethiopian eunuch, he came to Christ. “See, here is water. What does hinder me to be baptized?” And listen to this simple truth, nothing if you believe with all your heart. And he said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And that was it. And he took him down into muddy water, factual, and baptized him. So we are hoping every Southern Baptist church will join us.
Kevin Ezell: I want a perfect picture on the resurrection of the death, burial, and the resurrection of Christ being baptism.
Johnny Hunt: Unbelievable.
Kevin Ezell: We had the first ever baptism Sunday on the SBC counter in September of last year and saw God move in some incredible ways. Would you want to share with our listeners some of the stories that you’ve heard afterwards?
Johnny Hunt: Yeah. Let’s just start personally. As many know that are listening to this podcast, I stepped away from Woodstock officially the last Sunday in December.
Kevin Ezell: Where’s that church located?
Johnny Hunt: It’s northwest Atlanta, a little town of Woodstock. And some, to make them feel more comfortable, that are my age, just a reminder, it’s not where we had Woodstock in the ’60s. But anyway, God really moved. But I challenged my co-pastor then, now my pastor, Jeremy Morton, “Jeremy, let’s do baptismal Sunday.” I’ll never forget, and this is the typical response and I’ll mention others. He said, “Johnny, what if nobody comes? Do you think anyone will come?” So, Pastor Jeremy preached that day and he gave the invitation, and 122 people slipped out and came. There was such weeping, there was such brokenness, and certainly we had trained our people, so don’t be afraid. Every individual made sure they understood the Gospel and then we took them back and we baptized them right then.
But even while people were being baptized, others were falling under conviction, because I believe there’s conviction when there’s obedience to the word of God. So that happened there. But please hear this, that’s a large church. The young guy that called me and said, “Listen, we’ve not baptized anyone in four years, and we’ve gotten involved in this Who’s Your One? And on that particular day, four people came.” Hey, any way you slice it, that’s a 400% increase. What would happen in a Southern Baptist convention? Listen to this, factual. Facts: 15,000 reported no baptisms last year. But there’s another research we do that shows that it may have been as many as 21,000 of our 47,000 churches. So that is not to slam anyone. Know this, we love you and we want to encourage, we want to be part of seeing it turned around and God saving people in your church and them being baptized. But what if every church did that on the Sunday that the most people are expected to be there?
Kevin Ezell: That’s amazing. One hundred and twenty. How long did it take to baptize 120?
Johnny Hunt: Oh man. One of the things that’s really funny, you have to be careful of it, it drains your pool. There’s so many gowns and shirts and they come out soaked.
Kevin Ezell: Did you just hose down the last 50?
Johnny Hunt: But you begin to think, “Gosh, it’s getting harder.” Well, the reason it’s getting harder you’ve got to push them down a lot farther, and there’s not as much water.
Kevin Ezell: That’s great.
Johnny Hunt: It’s a long time.
Kevin Ezell: Well, how can pastors begin preparing now for baptism Sunday on Easter?
Johnny Hunt: I would go ahead and preach a message on baptism, the act of obedience, salvation, and then encourage to people to bring them, tell them what you’re going to do on that day. Then we just went to Walmart and bought, we decided to design a little bit of a shirt that talked about new life that every candidate would wear. And then we bought a bunch of shorts, different sizes, so girls and guys shorts, T-shirts, different sizes. We chose to put new life on the front of the T-shirt, and then you have lots of hairdryers. Whether it’s one or if it’s 122, and I have some other glorious stories to share of some that even saw phenomenal numbers of people coming to faith in Christ.
And then you train your lay people, your deacons, get your staff – everybody’s on red alert – to be at the front. You got men and women standing across the front in this. People are responding and we’re saying, you ladies come to these ladies, you men come to these men and they’ll take you back and make sure there’s clarity on Gospel and on what baptism is, and then they’ll be baptized.
Johnny Hunt: And it happened to be Kevin that we already had maybe seven or eight that were going to be baptized. So as the invitation continued and we continued to make the appeal even from the pool, that if you’re sitting there in your pew and God’s dealing with you, notice the workers are still up front, come on. So people kept coming almost the whole time.
Kevin Ezell: That’s incredible.
Johnny Hunt: So it wasn’t like 122 came, we baptized them. It was a wave. Wave after wave of obedience, and we’ve all seen it on television, the Billy Graham crusade, you’ll watch and here comes this crowd of people and a lot of those are staged where he has his own people respond to just make it easier to see that others are responding as well, but they literally came in waves to Christ.
Kevin Ezell: That’s amazing. Well, what advice do you have for pastors when it comes to practically executing a baptism? You covered some of that, but any other tips you would give to a pastor in practically executing a baptism Sunday?
Johnny Hunt: Really, we hear it from everybody we interview. Whatever we model, our people are able to see. It’s the old monkey see, monkey do. Don’t feel bad, my wife loves monkeys. But the bottom line is we model and I just began to say, “Men, I get the privilege. I’ve invited two of my friends. They’re going to come in and they both need Christ. Or believe it or not, I prayed with my one to receive Christ and he’s going to be baptized or she’s going to be baptized on Easter Sunday. Or my son or my daughter’s coming to be baptized on that day.” So I think… And then the main thing is talk it up every Sunday, whether in message somewhere that you mention the Gospel and you say, “Oh, by the way, just another reminder that come Easter,” and just keep it before them. They say sometimes you have to say it over 20 times for the people to really get and remember what you’re trying to say.
So keep it alive, keep it before the people, let it be part of your Who’s Your One campaign that you already have started in your church and go with the flow.
Kevin Ezell: You’re very gifted in this and I think it comes natural to you, but how would you or what kind of invitation should a pastor give on this particular Sunday?
Johnny Hunt: Yeah. Certainly you’re going to have, “come forward,” but as far as that, they can come forward, they can go to the side door. I mean wherever you want to put people. Say, “Hey listen, God’s speaking to you,” and it depends on your room, but in our room, there’s doors out the side and the back and the front. So we can actually say, “You don’t have to come down this aisle right here. You can go to that person or just turn around and notice there’s people standing at the entrance where you came into the building.”
But the main thing is make it as easy as you possibly can and just say, “Hey, just go with them right now. Or those of you that want to respond, just come and stand right here with me, and in a moment we’re going to lead you out.” And a lot of times I may just do a bow-your-head invitation and prayer is talking to God. Someone said, “Just because you pray a prayer you might not be saved.” But one thing’s for sure, you won’t get saved without praying a prayer, and that is you’ve got to call on God and talking to God is prayer.
So we just get them to see if this is the attitude of your heart, that you want your sins forgiven, you want Christ to come and live within your heart, you want to receive the gift of eternal life, make the Gospel clear and then however you invite them, come now. And then we saw an afterglow of this, the next few weeks people… the greater numbers were coming. “Should have come last week, my friend was baptized last week.” “I’ve thought about it all week, how God spoke to me.” So I think it just continues to happen.
Johnny Hunt: This may be a good place just to insert it and say a word about a name that’s a household name in our Southern Baptist convention, David Platt. And David Platt reached out to JD Greear and it happened to be that David and I were texting every week and he was asking me to become a prayer partner with him. And he just said, “You know, Johnny, God has broken my heart for the preaching of the Gospel and calling people to obedience and calling people to be baptized and to be saved.” And so he said, “Just pray for me.”
So David even began to ask the same questions. So, preacher, you’re in good company when you begin to say, “Hey, what would you do if you preached and nobody responded?” We’re all ready and we’ve got all these clothes. So David called us a few days before he was going to do baptismal Sunday and said God had really blessed and he had a good number of people that had already trusted Christ and were going to be baptized that day. But when David gave the invitation, to his surprise and to God’s glory, Kevin, over 500 people came that morning. They baptized for 10 hours. Ten hours. He said he would go home, rest a little bit, come back, and it was glorious.
Johnny Hunt: And then a couple of weeks passed by, and again, we were texting back and forth, and he said, “Pastor Johnny, God’s just captured my heart. I’ve got the greatest burden I’ve ever seen.” And many listeners know that, I guess the first time I ever laid eyes on David, he was a student at New Orleans and I’m doing chapel. Then it was not too many more years after that he was teaching evangelism as a PhD. And so David has meant a lot to a lot of us out there and still does mean so much to me. But it was just a couple of months after the baptismal Sunday we all participated in in September, Kevin, he turned around and made the appeal again and had over 300 more to profess faith.
And he wanted to tell me the stories. “Pastor Johnny, I know you’d rejoice,” and he has over a hundred languages on any given Sunday morning. And he began to just talk about how different cultures were coming in. They have their baptism pool out in the lobby.
Kevin Ezell: Yeah, oh yeah.
Johnny Hunt: And he just said that just hundreds of a language group would surround and begin to sing in their tongue and praises to God, and he just said, “I’m so emotional, I can hardly type this.” And so it’s been a blessing, whether it’s David Platt with over 800 baptisms in two particular Sundays or whether it’s the dear brother that baptized four, or you baptize one where you’ve baptized none. That is not necessarily the relevance we’re looking for. The relevance is we are preaching the gospel and giving an opportunity to the people to obey the word of God.
Kevin Ezell: Right. Absolutely. Well, pastors, thank you so much for listening to this episode of Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. We hope you will plan to be a part of Baptism Sunday on Easter Sunday this year. Afterwards, please send us your stories or tag us on social media using the hashtag #BaptismSunday so we can celebrate with you. And as always, if you have any questions at all, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time.