People crowded onto Jacob Riis Park and Beach in Queens on a hot July afternoon witnessed a rare event for a New York City beach — 51 people showing a public witness for Christ through baptism.
As exciting as that Saturday beach baptism was for The Journey Church, one of the city’s largest Southern Baptist churches, it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary.
The Journey is on pace toward 140 baptisms this year — close to the church’s average over its 18-year history. Since its founding in the days following 9/11, the church has baptized more than 2,750 people. On a typical weekend the church draws 1,000 people for worship in three Manhattan locations.
Kerrick Thomas, The Journey’s lead pastor, said the baptism totals stem from a longtime emphasis on outreach and engaging people who don’t know Christ with the Gospel.
“New York City is one of the most unreached cities in America,” Thomas said. “We see reaching people who do not have a relationship with Christ in this city as our primary mission field. We’re very focused on evangelism training and equipping our people to talk about their faith with their friends and coworkers.”
Reaching people in New York City isn’t easy. The biggest challenge The Journey faces when trying to engage people with the Gospel is busyness, Thomas noted. Whereas some people have the idea that New Yorkers are rude, he said they can be some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They just don’t often have the time to give you their attention.
The Journey Church uses a variety of tools to train its members to share their faith and invite people to worship services. Its primary tool is “The Difference Maker,” a book written by the its founding pastor, Nelson Searcy. They also host evangelism training events three to four times a year.
“We will even have them write out their salvation stories so they can in turn tell it to a friend in three to four minutes,” Thomas said. “Then we’ll share with them how to share their faith with several different methods, whether it’s one-verse evangelism or some other method.”
The Journey’s pastors regularly teach a sermon series on evangelism and its importance in the lives of believers, such as a series this September titled “Go,” focusing on the Great Commission.
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Source: Baptist Press