“I feel so clean!”
That’s what one young woman said after coming out of the Rock River. The Rock is a typical midwestern river. Dirty. Full of run-off from farms and roadways. Nobody swims in it. But she felt clean. That’s what baptism can do!
Heritage Church baptized 87 people Sunday, August 12, 2012, in a river a few hundred yards from their Rock Island, Illinois, campus. One woman had been baptized as a child but now followed the Lord in believers’ baptism with her two teenage grandchildren. Most people had been saved within the last two years. Terry, the girl who felt “so clean,” received Jesus as Savior on Sunday morning and followed him in baptism immediately on Sunday afternoon.
Almost four years ago, Pastor John Bray challenged Heritage never to go another week without someone coming to Christ through the ministry of the church and its members. He had lights installed on the crosses at each of their four campuses that are lit when someone comes to faith. Those crosses have been lit on 188 consecutive weeks.
Bray said, “We’re a large church and should have regular professions of faith but that challenge sharpened our focus. Smaller churches might not be able to celebrate a decision every week but why not every month? Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus.”
Heritage began focusing on the importance of soul-winning when they were a church of 80 back in 1981. They began an evangelism program and in the first four months there were 17 people who received Jesus as Savior. All of those people were already connected to the church in some way; they just had not been asked. Today the church ministers to over 2,800 people each weekend in four locations.
John and Patty Bray have been the lead pastor team at Heritage since 1973. “Our growth was slow for a long time,” he said. “It took 20 years to get to 200. Nobody in town really knew we were here but we just kept focusing on reaching people for Jesus. I’m convinced that every church is surrounded by people who need Christ, so every church can grow.”
“I feel so clean!” The world is full of people who need to experience that.