Feature

No Excuses

Nearly 200 Minnesotans take a step of faith

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We were young and full of motivation to reach the world for Christ—but we lacked practical wisdom on how to do it. Week after week a dozen of us met in a church basement discussing the theology and methodology of evangelism. College students can live in the world of theory, and that’s exactly where we were stuck.

Then late on a Saturday night, after two hours of debate, someone had a thought, a remarkably simple thought that changed everything. This person had the audacity to suggest that we stop talking about sharing the gospel, leave the room, drive to a busy downtown location—and actually share the gospel. So we did. With a sense of nervous excitement we popped up out of our chairs and into our cars, headed straight for the mission field. After sharing the gospel on the streets for two hours, we returned rejuvenated. It was a pivotal moment at a critical time in my life. I’m not sure if we affected anyone on the streets, but I know this experience made a difference in me. The simple step of going and doing replaced sitting and talking, and this changed everything.

Three Challenges

I serve as the lead pastor at Freshwater Community—an average church in an average town. Like every other C&MA church, we preach the Fourfold Gospel and strive to make disciples. At the risk of being unconventional at times, we do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ, often using creative ways to teach spiritual truth. Once, we drove a dozen Harley Davidsons into the sanctuary to illustrate how God custom builds our lives. On opening day of fishing season I preached from a boat parked in our sanctuary to symbolize Jesus’ call to make us fishers of men. Meeting in a converted warehouse does have its benefits.

This fall, we challenged the congregation to step forward in their faith and apply Jesus’ words with immediate action. We did a series revisiting three of Jesus’ basic commands: His call to follow Him, His command to get baptized and His challenge to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him. We wanted non-Christians to cross the line of faith and Christians to refocus on living for the glory of God every day. This is the core of the gospel. What happened during the next three weeks was amazing.

In the first message I challenged the congregation to not just add Jesus to their life like a Facebook friend but to answer His call by completely surrendering everything to Him. The second week we challenged people to take a simple step of faith: to get baptized. In our staff meetings we came up with an idea; we would spontaneously baptize anyone who wanted it. (We did some research and found that other churches had done spontaneous baptisms—but never in the middle of a Minnesota winter.) Normally, we set a date and encourage people to sign up in advance. And usually we have a dozen or so people commit. In my experience many people desire to take the next step in their faith but lack the ability to follow through. Not this time. This time we made it easy.

Bigger Plans

We rented two hot tubs and placed them up front. We purchased T-shirts, shorts, underwear, bras, deodorant, combs, brushes, hair dryers, curling irons and towels. We mobilized a team of volunteers to provide childcare and video coverage, as well as to register people and direct them to the bathrooms to change. We even enlisted a guard to watch their personal belongings. It would be a day of no excuses.

We started the service with a couple of announcements and then went right into the message, a challenge to everyone who had never been baptized according to biblical standards to do it that day. I spoke on Jesus’ command to be baptized immediately and then covered all the excuses that might keep someone from doing it. We had everything the people needed, so I read Acts 2:38–41, paused 10 seconds and asked everyone once more what was keeping them from getting baptized that day. On the count of three we asked anyone who needed baptism to step into the aisles and go to the lobby, where volunteers would help them prepare. And God moved in an incredible way!

We believed that we could have as many as 80 people take this step, a huge goal for a church of 700. We thought we’d do about 30 baptisms in each of the two morning services and 20 in our evening service. But God had other plans—bigger plans.

Eighty-seven people decided to get baptized in the first service! One after another they came to the front. Some were baptized by the elders, some by their spouse, some by their parents and some parents by their kids. Others decided to have a person who was significant in their spiritual life baptize them.

It was an amazing experience to see Christians taking this simple step of faith. In the second service we baptized 55 more and then another 45 in the evening. We even baptized a woman who came back on Monday morning after thinking about it all night. In all, 188 people were baptized. The experience has had a profound impact on the entire church and created a buzz in the community.

I believe that God has much more in store for us than we can imagine; sometimes all we need to do is take a step of faith to realize it. This spontaneous baptism service was a pivotal moment at Freshwater. For many people, this was their first public step of faith; for others, it was long overdue. But for everyone involved this was a launching pad to be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be. This wasn’t just an emotional event; it was a significant spiritual step. Time will tell the real transformation that took place, but even now, we are seeing the fruit of people acting upon Jesus’ words and living for His glory.

As an Alliance church, Freshwater is committed to taking responsibility for the spiritual climate of our community. I believe that God has much more in store for us as a movement. We look forward to seeing how this unfolds around the planet as God’s people take action with His words and share His message.

The harvest is ripe—are you ready?

Invitation to Grace

“Come and see,” Isa told her aunt, Maria. Isa, a new believer, wanted members of her family to witness her baptism, so Maria came, along with her two young daughters and her own mother, Carmen (Isa’s grandmother). That day, God’s Word reached into Maria’s
heart.

After the nine scheduled baptisms, Joel did something he’s never done before: he asked if anyone wanted to give his or her heart to Christ and be baptized right there and then.

Maria stepped out of the crowd. “I want what these people have,” she said. “I want to be baptized.”

Joel invited Maria to descend into the pool. It was Maria’s first time in an evangelical setting, and she was getting baptized in her street clothes! For a Spaniard to make a decision like that before a crowd of 100-plus people is amazing. That’s a big step of faith!

Later, we met with her at her home, and she confirmed her newfound faith in Christ. While we were conversing and praying with Maria, Carmen spoke up: “That’s what I want, too!” She prayed to receive Christ as well. What a celebration! These two women—one 37 years old, the other 77—have suffered heartaches, deceptions, betrayal, sadness and so much more. Now they part of the growing work of Christ here in Granada.

God has put a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts. They have a story of transformation to tell and are inviting their friends to “come and see.”

—Joel and Nancy Martinez Alliance international workers in Spain

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