Baptism in totality, Gospel outreaches, church festivals mark solar eclipse • Biblical Recorder

Baptism in totality, Gospel outreaches, church festivals mark solar eclipse • Biblical Recorder
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SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio (BP) – Pastor Billy Glover sought the best Gospel witness when 3 minutes and 52 seconds of totality covers Steel City Church in the solar eclipse April 8. He’s offering baptisms in total darkness in the church parking lot.

“We see it as an opportunity for people that have come to Christ to experience that opportunity to come from death into new life that way, coming out of the darkness,” Glover said. Those baptized can say, ‘I did this at a time when the world went dark and I came out of that darkness.’”

One student has signed up for baptism during totality and a couple of others are considering it, Glover told Baptist Press.

Several Southern Baptist churches in the 15 states in the path of totality are planning events surrounding the eclipse, including weekend festivals, outdoor worship, Gospel choral performances in the public square, personal evangelism, free and discounted parking, meals, bounce houses, games, giveaways and more. Free eclipse glasses for attendees are de rigueur, and pastors are also preparing for any unknowns accompanying the rare event.

The Arkansas Baptist Convention (ABC) is offering resources to help churches conduct outreaches during the event, with several churches hosting evangelistic and humanitarian events.

As city tourism and business leaders began marketing the event for economic enrichment, “God just stirred it in our hearts about the same time,” ABC Women’s Ministry Specialist Andrea Lennon said, “(that) we need to capture this and use this for evangelism.”

The ABC offers an informational video and additional information to equip churches to utilize the eclipse for Gospel outreach, and Lennon said many are hosting and participating in events.

Tourism and business leaders predict a million to more than 20 million people will travel within the U.S. to see the eclipse, with additional international visitors expected. Already, 31 million live along the path of totality.

The last total solar eclipse in the U.S., marked by the moon completely blocking the face of the sun, was in 2017. The next isn’t expected until 2044.

In Bell County, Texas, where the expected influx of visitors has prompted an official state of emergency, Coryell Community Church in Gatesville is hosting Eclipse at the Cross, a free, hours-long community event with Bible-based devotionals immediately before and after totality, entertainment, games, free parking, food vendors and more.

“We see this as an opportunity to do outreach in our community,” Lead Pastor Eric Moffett said. “We want to proclaim the Gospel and provide families a free and safe place to have this wonderful experience together.”

The church is one of several participating in a city-sponsored “Block Out the Sun Party” April 6-7 in downtown Gatesville, with Sunday including a multidenominational time of worship.

“Sunday, the city has allowed churches to kind of take over the festival,” Moffett said, allowing worship, public baptisms and free space and equipment for churches to conduct outreaches. Coryell will fill one of the worship time slots and conduct outreaches in partnership with Gideon Fellowship and the Salvation Army.

Numerous congregations are marking the eclipse in Arkansas, including Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant, Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot, Southside Baptist Church in Heber Springs, Wooster First Baptist Church in Greenbrier and Balboa Baptist Church in Hot Springs Village, among others.

Sitting on 14 acres along Interstate 30, one of Arkansas’ two major thoroughfares, Indian Springs Baptist anticipates large crowds.

“We have a great location by the providence of God,” Senior Pastor Matthew Duran said, noting a weekend of events. “We are blessed to be right on Interstate 30, and when I say right on it, I mean we are right on it.”

Indian Springs Baptist will host a pre-eclipse revival block party from 4-7 p.m. Sunday with preaching, music and testimonies alongside bounce houses, games and food trucks and other fun, followed on Monday with free parking, food trucks, a prayer tent and numerous volunteers in play.

“And then we’re going to have senior citizens, they’re going to work the interstate with their golf carts and such,” Duran said, “passing out water and just checking on people, because (the city is) expecting the interstate basically to be shut down four hours” as traffic compounds during the event.

In addition to having fun, Duran wants people to know the love of God and Indian Springs’ love for the community.

“We want outsiders to know,” Duran said, “that the local church is focused outwardly, on people who are perhaps different than us, think different than us, all of that. We aren’t here to set up a barricade to the Gospel, but to proclaim it.”

At Mount Carmel, visitors will find the church’s 40-acre site open to the city on the day of eclipse, Senior Pastor David Mitchell said, with food trucks, bounce houses, music and other activities. The church family will focus on personal evangelism and hospitality during the event, Mitchell said, describing Cabot as a small community saturated with the Gospel.

“We’re a very evangelistic church, and we don’t want people to feel like there’s a bait and switch,” he said. “So, we will have our church family there, ready and able to share the Gospel, but we’re not going to stop what we’re doing and have an evangelistic presentation during the eclipse.”

Southside Baptist will participate in events sponsored by the multidenominational Heber Springs Ministerial Alliance. Southside Pastor Elwin Ollar is the alliance president. Activities include a 7:30 a.m. Sunday worship service at a city park amphitheater and several downtown booths offering refreshments and sharing the Gospel Thursday through Monday across the city.

After the eclipse, Southside plans to reach out to those who visit booths through texts and emails, encouraging them to link with a Gospel-centered church in their respective communities.

“One thing that’s got us in a dilemma is the unknown,” Ollar said, “because all the food vendors have already warned everyone that on Thursday before the Monday the 8th, that they will not be coming back into town making any deliveries,” because of anticipated crowds and heavy traffic.

“It’s unreal,” Ollar said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to share the Gospel with people from all over the world.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)

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