Florida’s beaches, rivers, lakes and even pools came alive May 7 with the gospel testimonies of 1,285 new Christian believers as 112 Florida Baptist churches partnered for “Acts 2:41 Sunday — Baptizing Coast-to-Coast.”
From the sandy white Gulf beaches of Perdido Key in Pensacola to the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean that stretch from Jacksonville to Miami; from the Suwannee River to lakes and state parks in every region, thousands of Florida Baptists and onlookers gathered to celebrate and witness the hundreds of Christians who publicly professed their faith through baptism.
Several churches reported that following the public c, those who watched from the beach and other public places listened to gospel presentations and were led to the Lord and baptized right on the spot.
Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director-treasurer Tommy Green created Acts 2:41 Sunday and challenged Florida Baptist churches to engage in the effort.
“My desire was to celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ in a unified manner across our state,” Green said. The idea was sparked after a conversation with David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Florida, about the church’s annual beach baptism celebrations.
“I thought it would be exciting for churches to join together from coast-to-coast. The conversation stirred my heart to extend the challenge for Acts 2:41 Sunday.”
With nearly 1,300 baptisms reported, Green said, “The results of the day demonstrate the power of the gospel and the evangelistic passion of our churches. It is thrilling to witness the incredible reports of our Florida Baptist churches celebrating baptisms throughout our state.”
While a handful of Florida Baptist churches baptized large numbers of new believers, the majority of churches baptized less than 20 and some in single digits. Each soul making a public commitment to Christ was cheered and celebrated.
Many pastors baptized their own children or grandchildren, as did Elbert Nasworthy, pastor of Myrtle Lake Baptist Church, Land O’ Lakes, Florida. “It was such an exciting time,” Nasworthy said, referring to the baptism of his grandchildren, Isabella and Anthony Cobb. “Tears were flowing as I was able to say, ‘I baptize you my brother and sister in Christ.’”
More than a dozen Hispanic churches united through the Miami Hispanic Fellowship of churches to celebrate the public professions of faith together. Led by Pastor Moises Robaina, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Adonai, as many as 300 people gathered at Virginia Key.
Located at the entrance to Key Biscayne with the Miami skyline looming in the background, the crowd saw the testimony of 83 persons who were immersed in the water.
That strait was the one many of the Cubans crossed as refugees to reach America and now it has become their waters of baptism and testimony of transformation by Jesus.
Through an interpreter, Robaina, a Cuban native, said he had not seen this kind of public demonstration and witness since arriving in this country many years ago. He said he had been asking the Lord to send revival and the opportunity to see a great movement of the gospel as he had seen through revival in Cuba. On Sunday the pastor said his prayers were answered as churches and believers gathered to give a public testimony and the gospel was preached.
The day was filled with amazing stories of new believers coming to know Christ and following in believer’s baptism.
For instance Andres Lavanderos, pastor of Oak Harbor Church, Mayport, Florida, baptized a 73-year-old man the pastor had led to Christ the week of the baptism. Paula Phillips said she had been praying for her husband, Ron, to be saved for 50 years.
Louis Egipciaco, pastor of Elevate Church, Miami Lakes, Florida, performed 11 baptisms in the shallow waters of Key Biscayne. He said he loves how public beach baptisms are.
“The worst invention probably was a baptistery because it’s the most hidden form of a public testimony,” he said.
Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, Florida, applauded the Acts 2:41 emphasis.
“Specific baptism events like Acts 2:41 help our church focus on intentional evangelism. … Acts 2:41 gave us a great opportunity to call people to respond to the (gospel) message and I’m grateful for that.” (BP)
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