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A few weeks ago, Linda, J.R., and I arrived at the church building in Manatee for Wednesday evening Bible study. As is our habit, we got there about an hour early in order to run off the Sunday bulletin and complete a few other routine tasks that needed to be finished before the church met on the following Lord’s Day. To our surprise, we spotted another vehicle in the parking lot; a man stepped out of that car and approached me. “Are you the preacher here,” he asked? “Yes I am,” I replied, “and who might you be?” “My name is Bill Jennings,” he answered, “and I would like to know what a person has to do in order to join this church?”
I spent some time with Bill, explaining that this was a Church of Christ and that we operated on the principle that we “Speak Where The Bible Speaks, And Be Silent Where The Bible Is Silent.” In other words, we seek Bible authority for the things that we believe and practice. After inviting Bill to come in, I gave him one of our folders, containing a visitor card, a business card which included our meeting times and some of the articles that I had written dealing with first principles, such as faith, repentance and baptism. That Sunday, Bill was with us for Bible study and worship. After services, I invited him to have lunch with us at my daughter’s home in Bell. Bill accepted and we drove to Jessica’s house where Linda, Jessica, and my granddaughter Lacey, prepared a sumptuous meal.
After lunch, Bill and I studied the Bible with the help of a PowerPoint lesson that I had put together on my computer. Our lesson was about the Lord’s church and I contrasted that with a history of denominationalism. I advised Bill to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins and offered to be of assistance in any way that I could. Bill told me that he was going to study on the subject and that he would get back to me when he reached a decision.
Wednesday evening, I was again at the building early when Bill drove in. He entered the building, came up to me, and said, “Preacher, I have thought it over and I’ve decided to be baptized.” I asked Bill if he had brought a change of clothes with him and he had. He was prepared! Wonderful news, and as people began to arrive, I informed them that this evening we were going to have a baptism and that would be the main focus of our time together. When everyone had arrived, I read from the scriptures what the Bible taught regarding the subject of baptism. In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and in Matthew 28, verses 18-20, He charged His disciples to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the third chapter of John, Jesus spoke of a new birth when he said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven,” and in Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter urged his listeners to, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.” The man Saul, who had persecuted christians, was told to, “arise and be baptized and wash away your sins,” and Peter wrote that, “Baptism does now save you, not the washing away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God, 1 Peter 3:21.”
We then read from Romans 6:1-12 where the apostle Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Bill was convinced, he wanted to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins and that evening, Bill Jennings emerged from the waters of baptism, a new creature, having experienced that new birth. We thank God for a new member and our prayer, in Jesus’ name, is that Bill will continue to grow in the faith and be an asset to the work of Christ’s church in this area. Amen!
Gene Dumas is preacher at Manatee Springs Church of Christ.