New Hope Baptist Church sees 40 baptisms in 40 days

By ROGER ALFORD, The Christian Index

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. – Pastor Rhys Stenner recalls the day a small tree in his yard was crushed.

A team of tree cutters had been called in to remove a fallen oak tree which leaned precariously against an ash tree, creating a hazard that needed to be dealt with.

“I told them, ‘Watch out for that little tree; it’s my wife’s favorite,” said Stenner, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville. “Well, a branch broke this little tree, essentially reducing it to a stump, a trunk. But in three or four months, shoots appeared. And within a year, it looked really good. Today, two years later, it is majestic, twice as high as before. We see what happened with this tree as a parable in that during the pandemic we were crushed, and now we see this wonderful growth.

New Hope Baptist Church had seen 40 baptisms in 40 days. This number has since increased to 50 baptisms in 60 days, and more baptisms are planned.

New Hope, one of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s major congregations, averaging about 1,800 people in Sunday worship over the past decade, has seen baptisms increase as COVID-19 cases dwindle and that people felt comfortable in public gatherings. Now, salvation decisions at New Hope are poised to top pre-pandemic numbers with half a dozen to a dozen people typically praying to receive Christ at Sunday services.

“We can’t particularly explain it,” Stenner said, “I pray it’s a gesture of God. It’s not a mighty flowing river, but we’re excited about the momentum we’re seeing.

JJ Washington, evangelism catalyst with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said churches across the state are reporting signs of revival similar to what New Hope is experiencing.

Earlier this year, more than 1,500 Georgia Baptists attended evangelism training sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, an indicator Washington says the state’s largest church group is ready to put the pandemic aside and to return to the conquest of souls.

“We see renewed enthusiasm both in the pulpits and in the pews to win our state for Christ,” he said.

Stenner said COVID-19 had had a dramatic impact on churches for the better part of two years.

“We’ve gone through a size, and we’re starting to see the benefits of that,” he said. “It’s still spring.”

At New Hope, Stenner saw “great joy” in the congregation as new believers submit to Christ.

“Baptist churches are always happiest when they baptize people,” he said. “There’s always joy in the house when you see that.”

The post-COVID turnaround at New Hope, Stenner said, came around the first of this year.

“There were times when it felt like a long winter, and somewhere around January we suddenly felt a surge, like we had a breeze behind us,” he said.

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