What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Where 1/4 of Baptisms Come From

Okay, confession: I'm not a Southern Baptist.

Yes, I do live and minister in the south, and yes, I'm a Baptist, but I'm not a member of America's largest Protestant denomination.

However I do have an affinity with many of their pastors and people and their concern for reaching others with the Good News about Jesus. Here in Huntsville, Alabama there are about 50,000 Southern Baptists and many of their churches are doing a great job telling people about Christ.

So when I read this week that over 1/4, or to be specific, 26% of the baptisms recorded among Southern Baptist Churches last year, stemmed from Vacation Bible School, I was both pleased and surprised.

Pleased because I believe the younger someone comes to faith in Jesus the better. That makes sense for a lot of obvious reasons.

Pleased because I remember the first person I ever led to make a faith commitment to Jesus was in VBS. I was 15 and taking my first stab at teaching. Yes I know it sounds unusual for a 15-year-old to be teaching VBS. Then, as now, VBS teachers are hard to come by, so my church was desperate enough to let me be in charge of a class when I volunteered. Only 69 percent of Southern Baptist churches continued the tradition of VBS last year, compared to 81 percent in 1997. The primary reason? Not enough teachers.

The boy I led to Jesus in my first teaching experience was 12 years old. I taught the "Junior Boys" all week in the basement of Mt. Calvary Free Will Baptist Church in Perryman, Maryland; even had to come up with my own curriculum since the church was trying to save money. I still get a gigantic spiritual high from that experience. You never forget the people you lead to Jesus - especially the first one!

I had no formal training, no curriculum (no teacher's book, no student books, no visual aids, nada), no adult in the room overseeing my teaching, yet God still blessed my feeble efforts. Not only did one 12-year-old boy come to faith in Christ (which is the age at which I received Jesus as well) but I had my first experience teaching eternal, life-changing truth! There aren't words to tell you how my heart was stirred! That week was a pivotal point in my life.

Communicating Scripture would become a lifelong pursuit. I began to realize my purpose in life that week in VBS and a little over two years later I would stand before my church and tell them I was sure that God had called me to preach and teach His Word. [That may sound mystical to some, and, yes, it is rather mystical.] I didn't know then that I would see hundreds more come to faith in Christ over the next 35 years.

When I also say that I am "surprised" at the percentage of baptisms that stem from VBS I mean pleasantly surprised. With all of the efforts Baptists make to get people to come to Christ: the evangelistic crusades, outreach events, advertising, emphasis on personal evangelism, etc., I would have put VBS farther down the list of evangelistic successes.

I'm glad I was enlightened. There is something encouraging about knowing that reaching out to children with the Good News about Jesus still works!


  • At Wednesday, June 06, 2007 8:54:00 PM , Anonymous Sherry Kanaras said...

    Hello there, Brian, I'm a voice from your past....This is Sherry, Stan and Pat Parnell's girl. Mrs. Louise forwarded your link to me. I was very young, but some of my fondest memories are of you, your brothers and friends singing in church. I don't think we have ever experienced music like that since. I still go to Mt. Calvary, can't imagine attending anywhere else. I have a 16 yr old son who is 6'7", and he keeps me very busy. Just wanted to say 'hello', and I plan to visit again soon to read your mind!! Sherry Kanaras,

  • At Thursday, June 07, 2007 7:14:00 AM , Blogger Pastor Brian Atwood said...

    Sherry, Thanks for reading my mind! Great to hear about you still going to Mt. Calvary and having a son to keep UP with with. Tell your dad and mom and my old friends at Mt. Calvary hello for me! Brian


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