2,700 free crosses serve as a catalyst for salutes and baptisms at the Church of Georgia
By DIANA CHANDLER, Baptist Press
CALHOUN, Ga (BP) – Resa, the wife of Pastor Shane Parrott, wanted to know what had taken her to install a 16-foot wooden cross on the lawn of their home.
“I said, ‘I really don’t know. But for the real kicker, I’m going to put some Christmas lights on it.
“At the same time, this church member called me and said, ‘Hey pastor, I have about 10 pieces of wood. I would like to make a few crosses and see what happens.
The initial distribution of 10 free crosses that the church member built as the COVID-19 pandemic ensued, led church members and volunteers to build and donate nearly 2,700 crosses of 6 feet in a few weeks. He continued until the pandemic rendered the hundreds of two-by-fours needed for construction unavailable.
As people came, Parrott shared the gospel with each person, asking them if they had a personal relationship with Jesus. By the end of the 2020 pandemic, Parrott had baptized 168 people and church attendance had rebounded by 200, almost to pre-pandemic levels.
“These crosses, they probably served as more of a catalyst to bring people from the community into our church,” Parrott said. “People in the community who were looking for something, they didn’t know what they were looking for. But when they come here, we made sure that they not only had a physical cross … but got the Gospel message behind that cross, and it just spread.
“It spread like crazy throughout our community, so they knew I was here everyday and we were here and we were building crosses. There would be people lined up in our church aisle ready for us. If we said we were going to start distributing them at 10 o’clock, people were there at 8 o’clock.
Heritage Baptist baptized so many people – approximately 1,200 in the past 12 years – that it has worn out the baptistery for 12 years. The church installed a new one on Friday (March 19).
“I’ll be baptizing on Saturday night, so it must work by then,” Parrott said Friday. The pastor will baptize believers on any day of the week, with or without a regular worship service.
He thinks the baptistery has worn out because although it is supposed to be emptied regularly, the church has only emptied it maybe three times a year. He can’t risk the pool being dry.
“Most people will schedule baptisms, fill the baptistery, then empty the baptistery. We can’t do that, ”Parrott said. “We have baptisms on Wednesday evenings. We have them on Sunday morning. We have them Sunday night. We have people who will be saved and who want to be baptized immediately. We have spontaneous baptisms from people who, when they hear the Word of God, realize that their baptism (of believers) is irrelevant. So it happened.
Parrott baptized two people after they returned to Calhoun around 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 20, as they believed they couldn’t wait until Sunday. He baptized two more people on Sunday, totaling about 25 baptisms so far this year. Heritage baptized 148 people in 2019 and 50 in 2018, according to the church’s annual profile.
Generosity was evident during the pandemic. As people sent donations to cover the cost of the lumber, a business owner called Parrott, crying and offering to cover the full cost of the construction.
“He said, ‘What that tells me is that Jesus is available to everyone.’ I said, ‘Sure He is.’ And so he paid the entire bill for the lumber. And he said to go buy more. … It didn’t cost the church anything. Parrott plans to start the construction of the cross and the gift again.
A church member is covering the cost of the new baptistery and installation, Parrott said.
“He hadn’t always been to church, and when he came to church here, his whole family was saved. And so he thought, ‘Now listen, I’m not trying to buy anything, but it’s the least I can do. You know my family is going to be in heaven with me now, so I want to buy the baptistery and pay for the installation. ‘”
Generosity has enabled the church to increase its benevolent activity in the community.
“To see what we did and see how God moved during what was supposed to be a really downtime, it was amazing to see that,” Parrott said. “He then showed us that He was not confined to the walls of the structure (the church building).”