By Gabriel Stovall
When SBC President J.D. Greear and NAMB VP Johnny Hunt teamed up to launch Who’s Your One a year ago and promoted the second Sunday in September as Baptism Sunday, they probably didn’t know any of the people you’ll read about here. But there’s no doubt that these stories are the kind of fruit for which they and thousands of Southern Baptists across the country were praying.
Mark Hoover is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hayti, Missouri. His brother Dusty still lives in their old northeast Mississippi stomping grounds near Tupelo. Dusty was the first person to cross Mark’s mind once he got wind of Who’s Your One.
“My one was my own younger half-brother, Dusty,” Mark says. “I witnessed to him long distance.”
Given the circumstances of Dusty’s life, some may have considered the younger brother’s salvation a long shot. But not Mark.
The two brothers shared the same father, but not the same home. In fact, paternal lineage aside, Mark and Dusty’s lives were about as opposite as opposite gets.
“We met when we were teens,” Mark says. “Our father tragically killed (Dusty’s) mother, then killed himself with a gun. I was raised by my mother in a Christian home. I was a friend to my little brother, and he was to me—despite leading completely different lives.”
Mark says his brother has had “many heartaches,” including a recent divorce. But as it often happens, Dusty’s pain pried open a door for Mark to share the gospel.
“He was extremely depressed,” Mark says. “But God used my brother’s valley and turned it into an awesome witnessing opportunity. I prayed for my one, and God put my brother on my heart.”
The relationship Mark began with Dusty while face to face with him in Misssissippi transformed into a more digital one as Mark moved away to accept the pastoral call. But Mark’s determination to see his brother come to Christ never wavered.
Fast-forward to Sunday September 8, 2019. Dusty is making the three-hour drive from Mississippi to Hayti while Mark is making sure the water in First Baptist’s baptistry won’t freeze them to death.
“Through phone calls and social media, I shared Scripture and encouragement with him,” Mark said. “Dusty really started reflecting on God’s Word and got saved. And then he drove all the way to Missouri for me to baptize him on Baptism Sunday.”
It can probably go without saying that Mark immersing Dusty’s body into baptism waters on that September Sunday morning was the highlight of their relationship with each other. Mark says it also added a priceless level of depth to their bond—the kind that goes far deeper than family blood lines.
“I am very blessed to have a brother who is now my brother in Christ as well.”
Motivated by both a general desire to see more people come to salvation in Christ, Dr. Wade Lott, senior pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Hiawassee, Georgia, crafted a Who’s Your One sermon series that climaxed with Adriana giving her life to Jesus and being baptized on Baptism Sunday. Adriana was somebody’s one, and now, as a new believer, she’ll identify and pray for her own one to follow her example.
While Adriana was stepping into new life in Christ near the Georgia-Tennessee border, Pastor Chase Smith of Trinity Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, was watching a family lineage of faith grow right before his eyes. On Baptism Sunday, nine people stepped into a muddy pond near Smith’s church to follow Jesus’ example in water baptism. But it gets better. Pastor Chase took to Twitter to share what made his Baptism Sunday experience so extraordinary.
“We had nine baptized today,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “Dads and grandpas baptizing their families made for a powerful afternoon. Plus, we got to baptize in a pond and almost got stuck in the mud.”
Pastor Chase, himself, was part of that extension of spiritual lineage as his daughter was one of the nine.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Tennessee, an entire family consisting of a mother, father and two boys were baptized by Pastor Jordan Easley at First Baptist Cleveland.
Two men, representing two completely different generations, were baptized at Ray’s Chapel Baptist Church in McDavid, Florida.
“So thankful that we were able to be a part of Baptism Sunday,” Ray’s Chapel pastor, Nathan Brown, wrote on Twitter. “We baptized an 8-year-old and an 84-year-old.”
Micah Fries has seen a lot of ministry in a lot of different places. Before taking on the pastorate of the Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Fries served as a senior pastor in Missouri and as an international church planter in Burkina Faso, West Africa. He also had a stint as the vice president of LifeWay Research. But still, what he witnessed at Brainerd during Baptism Sunday was enough to leave him speechless.
“What. A. Day.” Fries wrote on Twitter. “56 people were baptized today, publicly declaring their faith in Christ! It’s hard to put into words what happened today at Brainerd Baptist. I can’t even remember as much excitement as we saw today across all of our services. Thank you, Jesus.”
For Fries, this particular Baptism Sunday came on Sunday September 29, about three weeks later than the set-aside date of September 8. But perhaps that simply undergirds what Pastor Marshal Ausberry, Sr., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Virginia, had to say about what Baptism Sunday may have ignited.
“I sense a tremendous momentum coming out of Baptism Sunday that will energize our entire congregation to reach the lost,” said Ausberry in a September 9 article published at wordandway.org.
The day before that article published, Ausberry celebrated 10 people baptized in his congregation while four more gave their lives to Christ during the service and were slated to be baptized at a later time.
Ausberry, who at the time, served as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, called Baptism Sunday something potentially bigger than just a day.
“I walked away thinking that it would be an awesome move of God if Baptism Sunday morphs beyond the SBC,” he said in the article. “The purpose is not for another Hallmark card day, but to help God’s Church to stay focused on the main thing, winning souls to Christ.”
What brings a diehard Tennessee Volunteers’ football fan out of the comforts of his stable ministry job at a megachurch smack in the middle of the Bible belt?
That’s what coaxed Pastor Chris Phillips away from what many would consider a “dream ministry job” at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, to Denver, Colorado—a city with just one Southern Baptist church for every 32,000 people. And on Baptism Sunday, Chris and his wife Libby saw one of the most confirming signs that God’s hand was squarely on their lives and ministry.
On September 8, Chris rejoiced as three people were baptized at Journey Point Church, the Denver church plant he started in June 2017. Were there churches across the country that baptized more on Baptism Sunday? Yes. But that wasn’t the point.
“Of course, on a day like Baptism Sunday, you want to be able to say you baptized 100 people,” he said. “I baptized three. And you might be tempted to say, ‘Well, that stinks.’ But when you start to compare it and realize you’re in a place that’s 92 to 95 percent lost, you start realizing that there’s a great work being done in those three.”
One of the three is the pastor’s son, Rhett Phillips. But the other two—a mother-daughter pair named Elena and London Malloy—are the main characters in a story he loves to tell.
Like most new church plants, Journey Point is portable. It meets in an elementary school, and Chris, his wife and whatever volunteers he can find work hard to put together and tear down their worship setup each week. He isn’t complaining though, considering his relationship with the school is responsible for two thirds of his Baptism Sunday story.
“My wife has a background in early childhood education,” Chris said. “We used that to open up a door here, and we just started serving.”
After a season of serving the school’s population, the school’s principal, who wasn’t a churchgoer, opened their doors to the Phillips family and Journey Point. From there, the principal started visiting, and Phillips’ wife was able to minister to a first-grade girl and her mom—the Malloys.
“My wife got to give London the first Bible she ever owned, and they started coming to our church,” Chris said.
Soon, visits turned into regular attendance, and regular attendance turned into both mother and daughter trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. And on Baptism Sunday, after Chris baptized his own son and Elana, he then allowed Elana to baptize London.
“That was just an unbelievable experience to see a part of that family come show their faith to Jesus on the same day and in that way,” he said.
The Malloys are two of the more than 40 people who have come to faith at Journey Point since 2017, and Chris has been able to baptize a little more than half. But the Baptism Sunday trio is the kind of fruit that reminds Chris of why he doesn’t mind the rigor of doing ministry in a place like Denver.
“In the south and just that Bible belt region, boy there are so many great churches down there, and there are a thousand other guys who would’ve been happy to take my job there,” he said. “But God just started breaking my heart for the lostness here in Denver. And when we see things like what happened on Baptism Sunday with Elana and London, it just lets us know we’re in the right place and doing God’s will.”
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