What a remarkable summer at Falls Creek and CrossTimbers! The combined numbers of 8 weeks of Falls Creek Youth Weeks, 11 sessions of Children’s Mission Adventure Camp, Indian Falls Creek and Associational Children’s Camp total 3,643 people who came to faith in Christ and a total of 8,447 decisions that were made during the summer of 2017. These decisions validate all the investments made by so many people to make these two campgrounds such wonderful places of new birth and spiritual renewal.
But now what happens to those who have made decisions? The answer does not lie with the camps, the association or the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The answer lies with the local church. The church must now give focused attention on moving these newborn babes in Christ forward in their walk with the Lord. Nothing short of a full-court press will do.
The first step is moving these new Christians from making a decision to embracing the first act of obedience—baptism. We, as Baptists, do not believe in baptismal regeneration because the Bible does not teach it. However, biblically and historically we have placed a major emphasis on baptism. Why?
Baptism was always a concomitant act by those embracing their new faith. Time and again the New Testament shows a clear pattern—believe and then be baptized to publicly display faith in Christ. Oklahoma Baptists dare not ignore such a clear pattern. Each child, teen and adult reached for Christ at camp deserves a healthy start to their Christian life by revealing, through baptism, their faith in the One who died, was buried and arose from the grave for their salvation.
Every person who came to Christ at camp needs to follow the Lord in baptism. I realize the rights of parents must be respected in regard to children and teens; yet, the church should not take lightly its responsibility to follow up on these decisions. Follow-up can be a great opportunity to share Christ with unbelieving parents.
While baptism is the first and incredibly important step of discipleship, we must next take responsibility to “teach them to observe all I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Newborn babes deserve better than being thrown in with the rest of the crowd. These new believers deserve special attention, and the church owes them a serious plan for spiritual development.
Yes, Sunday School/small group ministry, Wednesday evening youth worship and Sunday involvement are important, and each of these activities can be significant factors in the growth and maturity of a new believer. However, I am calling on Oklahoma Baptist churches to do more.
New believers need special attention to get them started on the path of becoming lifelong disciples. Each new Christian needs to be taught the simple disciplines of quiet time, prayer and witness, and they deserve mentors who focus on getting them started in the Christian life in a positive way. New believer’s classes, small group meetings and personal one-on-one approaches with specific focus on issues for new Christians is imperative for healthy beginnings.
God gave us a great harvest at Falls Creek and CrossTimbers this summer. Now, what will we do with the harvest? Conserving the harvest is up to the local church. What will your church do?