Well known pastor and author Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church recently reached a milestone well worth celebrating. The influential ministry has officially baptized 50,000 people.
“This weekend, we will soar past another historic milestone as we baptize the 50,000th person baptized into the Body of Christ at Saddleback Church,” senior pastor Rick Warren posted on social media. “Imagine all the amazing personal stories of changed lives behind that number! 50,000 individual lives transformed by Jesus since Saddleback Church began. This is unprecedented in history!”
In recent years, churches have as a whole seen a reduction in involvement and attendance. However, Saddleback’s accomplishment is evidence that faith isn’t dead in the United States, even if it sometimes seems that way. In addition, the longevity of the congregation, which enjoys an existence of around 38 years and 26,000 attendees each weeknend indicates a commitment to serving Christ within the community. When addressing why his church has enjoyed the success it has, Pastor Warren said the following:
“I’m often asked: Why has this church, by God’s grace, been able to bring so many unbelievers to Jesus? Because of your LOVE!”
Warren was obviously referring to his congregational members and their efforts to reach out to new people and bring their co-workers, friends and family to Jesus. Saddleback Church popularized and perfected the purpose driven paradigm. However, they don’t operate using a program necessarily. Instead, it is a 100% relational way to minister to unbelievers, new believers, and all members.
“We just build a bridge of love from our hearts to the hearts of people who don’t know Jesus yet, and then Jesus walks across that bridge,” Warren explained. “This church was built on hospitality. How can people trust Jesus if they don’t trust you?”
Taking their substantial number of baptisms and averaging it out over the 38 years, the church has averaged 1,300 baptisms yearly. Of course, this number isn’t exactly accurate as the early years averaged substantially less when the congregation was smaller. Within the last 22 months alone, the church has baptized over 5,000 people. That averages out to an amazing 277 baptisms each and every month.
Some denominations do not practice the type of baptism utilized by Saddleback Church. In many congregations, baptisms are performed on infants or young children as a way to signify that they will be raised in a faith-filled home. The baptismal act in and of itself holds no bearing when it comes to that child’s way of life. In other words, they don’t choose to be baptized, their parents do.
Conversely, the baptism performed by Saddleback is performed on adults who are choosing it was a way to start their new life in Christ. There are many people who describe this type of baptism as “an outward evidence of inward change.” It comes after salvation, and is the first step in obedience to Christ. Therefore, when this information is taken into account, that 50,000 baptism number is that much more impressive because it basically means there have been 50,000 new believers added to Saddleback’s membership.
This is truly an amazing feat and one all believers should hope repeats itself across the nation. Smaller congregations shouldn’t get discouraged because they aren’t seeing these lofty numbers. Instead, they should seek to replicate the pattern of success Saddleback has enjoyed and implement their way of ministering into their own congregations and celebrate all new believers.
~ 1776 Christian