Grace Baptist Church: The baptisms jumped from 342,198 to 349,737 last year

NASHVILLE — Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, Tenn., was in tough straits two years ago.

The church had gone 12 months without a pastor. Sunday morning attendance hovered around 120. And, in 2008, the Southern Baptist congregation baptized only three people.

That changed last year when a new pastor and a new approach to ministry led to 53 baptisms and 200 new people showing up on Sundays.

Those additional baptisms helped the Southern Baptist Convention— the nation’s largest Protestant denomination — post its highest number of baptisms in four years. Baptisms jumped by 7,539. Specifically, the baptisms jumped from 342,198 to 349,737 last year, reversing years of decline. Baptist leaders say the numbers show the convention’s renewed focus on reaching nonbelievers is working.

“We’ve tried to focus on getting outside the four walls of the church,” said the Rev. Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist about 30 miles north of Nashville. “We’re taking the Gospel to where the people are.”

The Rev. Frank Page, vice president of evangelization for the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, believes focusing on baptisms can unite contentious factions of the turbulent convention.

Page, a former convention president, was recently nominated as the next president of the Southern Baptist executive committee, based in Nashville.Getting Baptists to work together, and to disagree civilly, will be at the top of his agenda.

“We’ve been known as the fighting Baptists, and I believe that has hurt our evangelistic outreach,” he said.  For more go to : http://www.usatoday.com

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