The water in the baptistry at Hillvue Heights Church is never still.
That’s entirely by design.
During the past 12 months, more than 600 have been baptized by the Bowling Green, Ky., church.
Baptism is a focus of the church and believers move in and out of the water regularly every Sunday of the year. It is chlorinated, circulates through a pump, is heated and never empty.
“We don’t have a goal on salvations because we can’t save anybody,” said co-lead pastor Jamie Ward. “We believe once people are saved, that’s our work to follow up. Baptism is part of the discipleship process, not salvation. Our goal is to walk alongside people.”
Only one Sunday in the past year did Hillvue Heights not have a baptism on the way to the record No. 600. The church still has a couple more Sundays until the end of the fiscal year.
It’s the most in a year for a church that celebrates baptism in a special way. Since Steve Ayers became pastor in 1991, as of Aug. 10, the number of baptisms stood at 10,749 and counting.
Ayers and Ward don’t always do the baptizing. They leave that up to the one who led the person to Christ — a parent, friend or even a Sunday School teacher. The pastors will do the baptizing, but it’s open to others. The 600th baptism was a young boy whose Sunday School teacher, Daniel McBride, did the honors. Kathy Turlock, the children’s director, and Pastor Ayers were in the water with them.
“We (as pastors) don’t baptize the majority of these people,” Ward said. “That’s controversial to some people. Our thought is if you led somebody to Christ, you can baptize them. Let’s remove every barrier we can. That’s been real exciting.”
On the Sunday when the 600th baptism was completed, three more came forward for baptism and wanted to get baptized immediately after the service, Ward said. The church accommodated them, and more than half of the 4,000 in attendance that day waited around to watch. That made 16 baptisms on the day.
“That’s just the blessing of the Lord on us,” Jeff Crabtree, pastor of faith development, said.
Ayers is ‘cheerleader’ for association and state
Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, marveled at the accomplishment of Hillvue.
“I prayed for the last two months with them to pass that 600 number,” he said. “I knew they wanted to do it and it was a goal for the church. My contribution was to pray. They’ve been giving me regular reports saying, ‘We think we might get there this year.’ I’m encouraged for them.”
Gray said he has heard Ayers say that if you’re not willing to do the first thing Jesus said to do, which is baptism, you may not be willing to do the next thing. “That’s a good word,” he said.
Hillvue Heights’ focus on baptism stretches beyond its own church walls, Gray said.
“The unique thing about Steve, Jeff (Crabtree), Jamie — and all the leadership at Hillvue Heights — is they want to see the whole state have success in baptism,” he said. “Steve is a cheerleader for the local association. He will ask pastors ‘How are your baptisms going for the year?’ It’s not just about Hillvue Heights. Steve desires to encourage churches all over the state to be evangelistic.”
Crabtree said Ayers keeps up with specific churches in the association.
“He’s always focused on who’s baptizing. Steve’s influence is big,” he said.
Hillvue Heights is the perennial state leader in baptisms and it’s not even close, typically doubling the next total. Crabtree said the 2018 Annual Church Performance (ACP) reveals the nearly 2,400 Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky average 4.5 baptisms a year. Many churches reported zero baptisms, he said.
“If we could just help the zeroes get one or two, it would increase the total number dramatically,” Crabtree said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press