On Baptisms, Outreach, and Revival: An Interview with Pastors of a Thriving Church
In an interview with Church of God Ministries (CGM), the pastoral staff at County Line Church of God in Auburn, Indiana, recently celebrated 126 baptisms and a move of the Holy Spirit beyond what they could have ever imagined. In this exchange, senior pastor Stuart Kruse, children’s pastor Mary Ellen Rayle, congregational care pastor Steve Schlatter, outreach pastor Nathan Tatman, and high school ministry pastor Dane Kruse relived the amazing experience of Baptism Sunday, and offered experienced insights on baptisms, outreach, and revival.
CGM: What do you think is contributing to the amazing number of baptisms at County Line Church of God over the past three years?
Stuart: About four years ago we decided to put a much greater emphasis on being baptized. While we do not believe it is essential to be baptized in order to be saved, we still see it as an act of obedience and a very significant moment in our spiritual journey. We also began having our baptisms in our pond that is located on our church property. That has added excitement. We had someone film the service and then put together a highlight video of the day set to music. I believe that highlight video is one of the biggest reasons baptisms have grown in number. It promotes the excitement of what baptism represents in someone’s life. The leadership of the church has been willing to hold the ownership of the church with an open hand. This isn’t our church; it’s God’s church. I know that sounds like something everyone else would say, but we all have seen churches that die because the old guard won’t let go of how things are done. Second, I believe the Spirit is moving here because no one in leadership has an agenda. None of the pastors are trying to accomplish something in life and using ministry as a means. I also think it is important to promote to your congregation what God is doing in people’s lives. People love to be a part of a church that is making a difference. If you don’t tell them what is happening in people’s lives, they will never know.
Mary Ellen: God is working in the lives of broken people and bringing them to County Line. Sometimes it is through friends, and sometimes they are literally driving down a country road because God drew them there. We can’t explain what God is doing, we are just trying to follow him.
Steve: Definitely God is up to something, and people are seeing spiritual change in their lives. We have stayed true to Scripture and tried to stay humble before the Lord. Our emphasis on outreach has been intentional.
Nathan: The groundwork was laid years ago. We are now enjoying the fruits of the labor for those that have gone before us. We view our roles as being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us and, with wisdom, continue to move forward.
Dane: Leadership that raises the banner of outreach. Encouraging our people to invite their friends, family, and co-workers. The right staff people in the right positions. Practical, relevant, and challenging teaching within an engaging and creative time of worship. Sharing people’s stories of how Jesus has changed their lives. And a congregation that embraces change—even longtime attenders.
CGM: Please describe what a day of baptisms at County Line looks like.
Mary Ellen: This year we had a one-hour indoor service with congregational singing, worship choir numbers, video clips, and teaching about baptism. We estimate about 1,400 adults and children were in attendance. Then the people moved outdoors into lawn chairs around the pond. We lined up those being baptized into lines according to which pastor was going to baptize them and walked the lines out to the shore. Each person’s name was announced on a sound system from the beach as they were baptized. It was accompanied by cheers and clapping. After the initial 102 were baptized, another 24 came forward.
Steve: It seems that each year the excitement builds as people and youth sign up for Baptism Sunday at the end of August. We gather for worship, which seems to get sweeter each year, and this year Stu did a wonderful job of presenting the emphasis and desire to follow Jesus’ example of baptism. We have such a wide variety of people who have joined our church family; it is amazing to see these people with backgrounds wanting more than they have received in their past experiences. They seem to be growing in Christ and hungry for more.
For more insights on outreach and revival, click through to Page 2 below.