Saturday, August 21, 2010

Baptism on Grassy Creek

Baptizing Cayla Crute
I'm still a little bit stunned over it, to tell the truth.

Today Amanda and I and the children went back to Granville County, NC, to baptize Cayla Crute, the daughter of Charles and Tammy Crute. Ordinarily I would not go back to a previous pastorate to do a baptism, because the people need to embrace the pastor the Lord has provided for them. For those involved in church regularly, they should look to the one the Lord has provided to them at that time. That is why I did not go back to baptize another person who had come to Christ just at the end of my tenure at Amis Chapel. That family was involved in the church. 

Family, friends at baptism
Cayla's family is a different case, and while I will not go into the delicate details for their sakes, I can say that it was appropriate to come and minister to this family when their daughter specifically requested me to baptize her. So I did that today. She had made a public profession of faith during Vacation Bible School commencement at Amis Chapel at the end of June. Amis Chapel's pastor, Terry Howard, attended today's baptism as well, and I count him a friend in Christ, and a valuable colleague.

Several years ago when I was pastoring Amis Chapel, I was at the Grassy Creek Community building for a supper. I walked out to the creek with several of those who had been baptized in that spot many years before and listened to stories of their baptisms. 

It is an historic spot, because Baptists have been baptizing in this Grassy Creek since about 1754. They came to this place just two miles from the state line into North Carolina, fleeing vicious persecution in Anglican Virginia, in order to practice what they understood from the inerrant Scripture to be the correct mode of baptism and congregational worship. 

Baptizing Cayla in Grassy Creek
And it was not just any group of Baptists. Elders Shubael Stearns and brother-in-law Daniel Marshall did the baptizing, even baptizing Grassy Creek Baptist Church's first pastor, James Reed. Stearns and Marshall were the dynamic duo who led the great Sandy Creek Revival and planted scores, no, hundreds of churches that became the backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention a century later. (Daniel Marshall also planted in 1771 the Bush River Baptist Church in Newberry County, SC, the church in which I was baptized over 200 years later.) Thousands of Southern Baptists trace their spiritual heritage to these two men.

So as I stood there on the bank of the Grassy Creek some years ago, I asked the Lord for the privilege of baptizing someone in that creek one day, in order to connect somehow with that great heritage of revival and spiritual awakening of those New Light Separates. 

Their call of repentance and revival fire lit up the Colonial American South, formed the philosophical backbone of the Regulators of North Carolina who fought for local self-government against the Royal North Carolina colonial government. When they lost the Battle of Alamance, they moved to East Tennessee not to be bothered until they received word that Patrick Ferguson was coming with an Army of American Loyalists to the British Crown to burn their homes. Then these Overmountain Men marched back across the mountains and destroyed Ferguson's army at King's Mountain, the turning point of the first War for Independence in the South.

Cayla Crute baptized
Today I baptized Cayla Crute in Grassy Creek. The Lord answered that prayer of mine from 2006. I didn't really think about it that much in the moment. It was a beautiful day with a beautiful baptism. Cayla is a sweet girl. It was a joy and honor to baptize her. She had specifically asked her mom to let me do it for her, and I am grateful. The Lord used her to answer that prayer to participate at some small level in the evangelistic mantle and revival anointing that Stearns and Marshall wore. What a blessing.

Then, almost as a sign of the mantle of evangelism at work, something unusual happened.

Baptizing Daniel McGee
As Cayla and I slowly trudged out of the water at the swimming area of the Grassy Creek Recreation Area, Tammy Crute came to me with a young man, a teenager named Daniel McGee. He asked me to baptize him. I asked him for a basis for baptizing him and shared the Gospel with him. Daniel has been living with the Crutes for about a year, and he said he had been reading the Vacation Bible School material that Cayla had brought home this summer. He wanted to make a public profession of his faith through baptism. I led him in a prayer asking forgiveness of his sin and giving control of his life over to Christ Jesus. I explained to him that baptism does nothing at all for him, but it announces his being buried with Christ in baptism and being raised from the dead through new life in the Lord.

Baptizing Daniel in Grassy Creek
So I called together the remaining witnesses to Cayla's baptism, and we headed into Grassy Creek a second time and baptized Daniel McGee. I pray that his decision to be obedient to Christ will follow in his public profession and membership in a local church very soon, and I entrusted him to Terry Howard who counseled with him during the outdoor celebration meal for Cayla.
Daniel McGee baptized

What a joy to baptize two, one of them led to the Lord there on the banks of Grassy Creek. What a blessing to perform a baptism in that historic waterway, where once nearly 250 years ago the firebrands of revival and spiritual awakening baptized many.

May the Lord do it again in our day. Oh, how we need an awakening in our land. I fear it is our only remaining hope.