By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLEVELAND — The March 13 evening service of First Baptist Church here was unique. No one at the church had been in a service where 100 people were baptized.
Amazingly, in many ways, the event wasn’t planned. For instance, 97 new Christians were signed up to be baptized but three more people came to bring the total to 100 people baptized.
No special occasion or event was held at the church which resulted in the many people making the commitments. The people baptized had made professions of faith mostly during the past six months or so.
In fact, baptisms are the norm at First Baptist. The church baptized 253 new Christians last year. First Baptist draws about 3,300 people to its five Sunday morning services. All of the services are held on site at the main campus.
The baptism only took about 30 minutes because three ministers were baptizing — Jeff Lovingood, senior associate pastor; Jim Gibson, senior executive pastor; and Rusty Asble, recreation pastor. Men in the church built portable baptismals just for the occasion. Allan Lockerman, senior pastor, led the second part of the service — presenting a new vision for the the church.
The event, understandably as family and friends of baptismal candidates gathered, drew a crowd which was “wall to wall” or about 1,325 people in a sanctuary which seats about 1,200, reported Lovingood.
Those baptized were made up of about one-half children, one-third young people, and the rest middle-aged and older adults, he explained.
The church is praying to see 300 new Christians baptized this year, Lovingood noted.
“The Lord has just shown us favor. People have gotten excited about Jesus,” explained Lovingood, who has served the church for about seven months. Formerly he was a minister at Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville.
“It’s amazing what can happen when you have that army of members all who are about Jesus.”