Nine members young and old from First Baptist Church in Lenoir City were baptized Sunday at the Tugaloo Beach Pavilion off Highway 444.
“One of the things that I love actually doing this is because a lot of times people attribute it to a building or to a baptistry and it really should be attributed to Jesus,” the Rev. John Hunn, senior pastor, said. “I mean it’s the three marks of the Christian ... death, burial and resurrection. What I think it does is it simplifies the symbol that Jesus gave us and — I want to hesitate that it’s more meaningful because I don’t want to take away from people who do it there — but there are distractions sometimes in a building where here it’s just you’re out in the open and it’s about as raw as it can be in a good way. I think people just really appreciate the fact that it’s not about a building, it’s about the three symbols.”
Hunn emphasized the baptisms were “faith in action” and holding the ceremony outside mirrored how Jesus Christ was baptized.
“It’s really the first step of obedience,” Hunn said. “We don’t think it’s part of salvation, but it’s a step of following Jesus. It’s an outer symbol of an inner reality. That’s really what the Bible teaches. ... I think the reason the Scripture gives is because salvation is almost always a personal private moment and it appears to me that the Bible teaches baptism because what you do is you share publicly what’s happened to you in private. The point is it’s people marking themselves out, saying, ‘I want everybody to know I’m a Christian,’ and it’s not a secret. It takes the personal private moment and it makes it public. I think that’s really cool, so everybody can celebrate what’s already happened to them.”
Hunn, the Rev. Mark Shaddix, FBC student minister, and the Rev. Chris Harding, family minister, each baptized people of different ages.
“One of the things that we’ve been talking about lately in the life of the church is for folks who were baptized at a younger age who maybe wasn’t as meaningful for them, so coming forward to make this a memorable and meaningful experience,” Shaddix said. “We talked about how if you can’t remember that experience in transformation from your childhood to now then you’re not going to have very much confidence in the life you’re trying to live out if you’re questioning, ‘What did that even look like back then?’ ... We call it a celebration, so I think everybody sees it that way that we’re celebrating new life, life transformation, eternity transformation. Baptisms aren’t an actual transformation in and of themselves but an outward representation of that transformation that’s happening inwardly.”
Bob and Betty White recently converted from Methodist to Baptist. Betty said the couple had been sprinkled, but Sunday was full immersion.
“Definitely is important for us because we have just recently gotten more into the Bible and we just feel like that it puts us closer to him, to Jesus,” Betty said. “... You have to think that’s what they’re saying that we were dead in our sin and we were buried in our sins and when we come up we are resurrected and are free from that sin.”
Lauren Mason was baptized in front of friends and family for the second time. Her first baptism was as a child of about 7 or 8 years old, but now at 34 a more recent rededication to Christ made her want to do it again.
“I remember getting baptized, but I feel like the transition from child to adult and my experiences and my time with the Lord now, I feel like it’s transformed me,” Mason said. “Being a mom and raising my kids and knowing how every single day I need the Lord to parent and to be a good wife, to love others, I need him every day. I made that decision in 2015 to rededicate and now this is just a moment that symbolizes my relationship with him and what he’s done to change me.”
Mason said she felt loved and forgiven.
“I just want that testimony to show others that no matter what they’ve done, no matter how they feel, no matter what shame they have, that the Lord loves them,” she said.
Hunn hopes to have another baptism service in August at Lenoir City Park.
“I didn’t grow up in church so it’s always bothered me when I’ve pastored younger people or even older people that have said, ‘I don’t remember my baptism’,” Hunn said. “Part of my motivation is it should be memorable. When you get out here like this, it just makes it a little bit more memorable.”