By Matthew Hodges, Director of City Outreach
On Sunday, November 2, 2014, we had the joy of baptizing Miss Brianna Fisher. Brianna attended our Summer Sizzle city outreach event in July and joined us for worship the following Sunday. Over the next few months, she began to actively attend our youth ministry Bible studies and through the work of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Pastor Kevin Schaub, and many other members, she wanted to be baptized as an outward profession of her faith.
Her baptism was a great moment for our church to celebrate the faithfulness of God in answering our prayers that we might begin to see men and women within walking distance of our church building joining us in worship. And, although we rejoice over Brianna as one of the first, we continue to be mindful that there are more from our 27701 zip code who we would hope and pray to see walking to First Baptist, joining with us in worship, being baptized, and becoming active members of our church body. It’s our hope and prayer that the words spoken to Paul in Acts 18:10—“ … I have many people in this city”—would be true of our ministry in the city of Durham.
That Sunday morning was an amazing day of worship, and Brianna’s baptism, an amazing sight that could simply pass us by if we don’t stop and reflect. We know our church has a long history of preaching the gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ. We value doctrine and verse-by-verse expositional preaching. Our classrooms are filled with men and women eager to think biblically and eager to apply the gospel to every area of life. All of these things are good, but sadly, they are not known by many in our surrounding neighborhoods.
There is still a very strong perception in the community that churches like First Baptist are not a place for African-American or Hispanic individuals to attend, worship at, or become members. By the grace of God, the baptism of Brianna—as, Lord willing, the first of many from our surrounding community—is something for us like the first day Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers’ uniform, or when Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, or when Pastor Fred Luter became the first African American President of the Southern Baptist Convention, or when Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Brianna’s baptism leads us to rejoice and say, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).
This blog post isn’t so much written for the praise of Brianna, but for the praise of King Jesus! Jesus prayed in John 17:21 “that we may all be one.” Brianna’s baptism was the first step for us becoming one with her, but there are many steps still to take for us to be truly one with her. I will share more in a later post on what it means to truly be one with others in cross-cultural ministry.
Lord willing, the perception in the community of churches like our own will one day come down like the Berlin Wall as the hammer of salvation leads us out to engage cross-culturally with men and women from different ethnic and socio-economic groups—whatever the cultural barriers might be. Please pray with us that we be faithful to pray and proclaim the gospel, so that the waters of our baptismal pool, and our future “New Member Sundays” grow to reflect more and more the diversity that we will see and experience for eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth.