Initiative Sees Over 3,000 Baptized
Rick Ross, the district superintendent of North Carolina, was troubled. Deeply troubled. As he reviewed 2016 annual reports from churches throughout the district, he noted at least half of them had one or no salvations for the entire year. It was evident, many churches had lost their reason for being.
But what could he do, a newly elected district superintendent, to reignite a passion for evangelism in scores of churches?
God had the answer.
“The median-size church, 50 percent of all AG churches, is 75 — that number hasn’t changed a bit in 33 years. That has got to change,” Ross says. “God gave me water baptisms as one thing to highlight to kickstart churches, and to return us to the reason we exist — to reach a lost and dying world.”
With the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Ross created the NC3000 initiative and presented it to ministers at the North Carolina district council in April 2017.
“NC3000 is similar to the day of Pentecost where 3,000 were saved and baptized,” Ross says. “Only the challenge I presented was for the district to have 3,000 baptisms in a year — something that has never been done before in the North Carolina district.” As Ross explains, 3,000 baptisms means roughly 3,000 new Christians who make a public declaration of their faith. He challenged ministers to baptize a number of people equivalent to 10 percent of their current church size over the next year.
His message to North Carolina ministers struck home. Ross says that churches recording no salvations reduced by 13 percentage points, from 41 to 28 percent; churches reporting no water baptisms reduced by 10 percentage points, from 43 to 33 percent. Ross was also excited to report that the district exceeded 3,000 baptisms in a year’s time!
Mike Rakes, lead pastor of Winston Salem First Assembly of God, says that the renewed emphasis on evangelism has led to 150 people being baptized since April 2017 and a 5 percent jump in attendance at First Assembly.
“I think our people are discovering a more natural rhythm of living naturally supernatural and engaging with friends and co-workers on spiritual topics,” Rakes says. “We have been seeing more people get serious about their faith and following Christ in water baptism. Our entire congregation gets excited when it’s water baptism Sunday.”
At Generations Church in Goldsboro, Pastor Josh Clark says they have recently exceeded 50 baptisms and have seen attendance go from 180 to about 225, noting that several entire families have come to Christ during this time.
“It’s one thing to hear about people accepting Christ, it’s another to be face-to-face with people who have just accepted Christ and are starting their journey of faith,” Clark says. “[NC3000] has definitely ignited a fresh passion for evangelism — we’re very excited about our church and the direction of the AG.”
For Pastor Greg Davenport and his 1Hope congregation in Sanford, seeing more than 30 people get baptized and about 40 percent growth so now the church regularly runs 200 people, has given him a vision for even greater things over the next year.
“Our church’s theme this year is Reach 600,” he says. “We asked for 150 people, including teens and older children, to allow the Holy Spirit to lay four friends on their hearts who are unchurched and unsaved. Then we’re going to hold four big evangelistic days that they can invite those friends to, and we’re praying that at least 120 [20 percent] will make the decision to accept Christ.”
Davenport has also integrated a discipleship path for new believers so that they aren’t left wondering, What next?, but instead have a series of steps prepared for them to take them from salvation all the way to leadership training.
However, without exception, each of the ministers point to the district office and Ross’ leadership as the catalyst for the renewed focus on evangelism.
“I’m grateful for the leadership of our superintendent, Rick Ross,” Rakes states. “He energized us at district council last year in such a way that every pastor present determined we were going to see more people not just come to faith, but follow Christ in water baptism.”
Ross reports that churches throughout the district are buying into the vision, as in addition to seeing more souls saved, baptisms increased, and attendance rise, giving to the district initiatives (such as church planting) jumped more than $100,000 last year and is on pace to jump another $100,000 this year.
In his message to the district council this year, Ross spoke on Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents. “Is it possible that we’ve become so caught up comparing ourselves to each other that we’ve lost the talents we have been given?” he asked. He urged ministers, over the next year, to take their church to the next level.
He explains that churches fit into size categories, and that not all ministers are called to lead a mega-church. However, each one can move his or her church up a level in attendance.
“We used to say that [attendance] numbers don’t matter,” Ross observes. “But numbers do matter because numbers represent souls.”
As Clark put it, “there’s a hunger” now in North Carolina churches to see souls won, baptized, and discipled for Christ.
“There is a new optimism in NCAG [North Carolina Assemblies of God district] that we really are making a difference,” Ross confirms. “There’s an excitement for our pastors to once again get back to the Kingdom business!”