Musician Eric Kilby, 27, is baptized by Poly Rouse, pastor of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, Tenn., as more than 11,000 messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention watch and applaud. Photo by Matt Miller
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Two new believers, a Christian recording artist and a soldier who served in Iraq, were among eight people baptized at the Southern Baptist Convention June 21-22 in Nashville, Tenn.
The baptisms underscored the unfolding "'Everyone Can' Kingdom Challenge! ... Witness, Win and Baptize One Million!" championed by SBC President Bobby Welch. The two new believers were the results of the largest-ever Crossover evangelistic thrust to precede an SBC annual meeting.
"I just need to be saved," Billy Strong, 21, admitted after attending a Crossover block party June 18 at Ivy Memorial Baptist Church in Nashville, an outreach which was sponsored by Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.
Phil Gruita, pastor of Ivy Memorial Baptist Church in Nashville, baptizes Denise Lingefelt, 42, who said she is "getting cleaned up" after being mired in drug addiction and prostitution. Photo by Van Payne
Strong and Lisa Clark, 28, who also attended the block party, went to Ivy Memorial for the first time the next day. There, they became Christians. And two days later, during the afternoon business session of the nation's largest evangelical body, they were baptized.
Joining them was Denise Lingefelt, 42, a former drug addict and prostitute. Lingefelt, who grew up in 17 foster homes, five group homes and eight orphanages, had once worked temporarily in the Gaylord Entertainment Center, site of this year's meeting.
"I used to clean this place. Now, I am getting cleaned up in this place," she marveled.
Pointing to the white baptismal robe she was wearing, she tearfully added, "I'm finally going to get rid of all the dark that has been in me, and I'll be white like this."
Luke Charlton, 7, is baptized by Jim Cross, pastor of First Baptist Church in Donelson, Tenn., at the Southern Baptist Convention June 21. Photo by Matt Miller
Their pastor, Teopil (Phil) Gruita, originally from Romania, has baptized nearly 50 people in his first year -- in fact, his first pastorate -- at Ivy Memorial. Gruita showcases photos of each baptismal candidate on the walls of the church's baptistery.
"The photos show each person that they are being baptized into a family of God, into the church, and into the Christian community," he said. "It shows that they are not alone." Read More