Several thousand students packed Neville Arena at Auburn University on Sept. 12 for a worship event and ended the night with a spontaneous baptism service at a nearby lake.
An estimated 200 people took part in the unplanned baptism service in a lake near Auburn’s Red Barn following Unite Auburn, a worship event organized by several area church, community and campus leaders. Auburn’s head football coach Hugh Freeze, assisted in the baptisms, according to several news reports, and the watching crowd cheered as each person went under the water.
Bruce Pearl, head coach of Auburn’s men’s basketball team, said he and his wife, Brandy, have been involved in a similar worship experience, Ignite Auburn, held in past years. Pearl partnered with men’s basketball assistant coach Chad Prewett and his wife, Tonya, to plan the Unite Auburn event. Several campus and collegiate ministers from area churches were involved in planning as well.
Music and messages
The event included messages from Jonathan “JP” Pokluda, author and lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and Christian author Jennie Allen, along with music from Atlanta-based Passion Music.
Allen and Pokluda also joined students in the water during the baptism service.
Warren Johnston, a junior in finance at Auburn, said, “I’m really excited to just see the amount of students that showed up and for them to experience the presence of God here in Auburn, in Neville Arena.”
“I’ve seen Auburn basketball beat Kentucky, I’ve seen Auburn football beat Alabama, but I have never seen something like I did on Tuesday night,” Floyd said.
In a Sept. 13 Facebook post, Tonya Prewett said she was “Still in AWE of what God did last night! What started as a vision back in January exceeded all expectations. God moved. Students responded.”
Prewett told Alabama news outlet WSFA in Montgomery that she is already getting calls from other universities to bring similar programs to other campuses. She said something special is brewing.
“We see God moving in our local churches,” Prewett said. “Last night was just a ripple effect of what is already going on.”
Chris Megginson, a sports information strategist for The Scorer’s Table, was among those who also took to Facebook to offer perspective on the students’ response to the gospel message.
“If you know people who were part of this, invest your time in them,” Megginson wrote. “Whether a ‘decision’ was made or not, continue to love them and be there to support them in their life with prayer and service. If they made a decision, help them understand what it means to follow Christ, and that it isn’t a singular moment.”