BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (KT) – Hillvue Heights Church leads the state in baptisms by a large margin but the work doesn’t stop there.
They do everything they can to begin discipling new Christians on next steps.
More than 600 have come in and out of the baptismal waters in the last fiscal year alone, a record for the church that has baptized nearly 11,000 since 1991 when Steve Ayers came aboard as pastor. The baptismal pool is never empty.
Baptisms are important to Hillvue. That’s obvious. So what comes next?
The church emphasizes to the baptism candidates that this is the beginning, not the end, of the Christian walk, said Jeff Crabtree, the pastor of faith development at Hillvue. Let’s put it this way: They don’t just hand them a towel and wave goodbye.
“It’s our work to follow up,” said co-lead pastor Jamie Ward. “Baptism is part of the discipleship process, not salvation. Our goal is to walk alongside people.”
They also make sure before anyone is baptized, they understand by being able to answer these four questions:
1)What is salvation?
2)Why do I need to be saved?
3)What is baptism?
4)Why do I need to be baptized?
So before they ever step into the water, Crabtree said, they are educated on the baptism process and exactly what it means. Classes are offered for children and adults and nobody gets baptized unless they understand, he said.
“We have classes (for childen and adults) before baptism and classes post-baptism,” Crabtree said. “We have a six-week small group session (after being baptized). People have that option to walk through and we begin discipling them. The next step (after being baptized) is to be in the Bible and begin studying scripture.”
So it’s never about getting them into the baptismal pool but also helping them as they begin the new walk as a Christian. Crabtree said some who come forward to accept salvation don’t immediately agree to be baptized. But Hillvue doesn’t forget about them.
“Our Christian walk is a process and not everybody is in the same place,” Crabtree said.
Hillvue’s baptism team is charged with getting the candidate ready and making the experience memorable and pleasant, from providing clothes to taking photographs that come to the person being baptized before the next Sunday.
“All the focus you can bring to it,” Ward said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a funeral and they will have a baptismal picture there.”
The baptism ministry team – a busy one at a church that only went one week in the past fiscal year without a baptism - speaks to the candidates and gets them with a staff member if necessary and prepares them generally for the experience.
There are times when a candidate wants to be baptized the same day they come forward in church and the baptism team has clothes ready for them. No stone is unturned when it comes to baptism at the large church in Bowling Green.
Crabtree said they work just as hard with the rest of the discipling process, too.
Hillvue sets goals for baptisms and Crabtree said other churches should do the same. Baptisms bring electricity and motivation to the church, he said. It’s always a time of celebration within a congregation at Hillvue, which has assembled its own ministry team that deals specifically with baptisms.
“(Co-lead pastor) Jamie (Ward) asked Sunday during the middle (of three) service, ‘How many of you were baptized at Hillvue?’ There were hundreds of people that stood up,” Crabtree said. “Most churches are dipping and dropping. A dying church has nothing to get excited about.”
Crabtree said nothing motivates a church like watching baptisms because they are the result of someone coming to Christ.
“When is the church the most excited?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s during baptisms.”
Crabtree, who worked as a consultant in the western part of the state for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has been to a lot of different churches and he said, without question, Hillvue does it best when it comes to baptism.
“I’m not the end all of everything but I knew my 421 churches,” he said. “I guarantee you nobody is doing it any better than us.”
He said that goes from getting new believers into the baptismal pool to discipling them afterward.
“We don’t get 100 percent who say they want to be baptized,” Crabtree said. “But we follow up with them and try to answer their questions.”
READ MORE ABOUT HILLVUE'S 600 BAPTISMS HERE