NAPLES—April found herself searching for purpose and struggling to find direction. She had grown up attending church with her family, so she did an online search for Baptist churches near her and found First Naples. On January 23, after years of searching for purpose, April found life change.
And she’s not alone.
For more than a year, the baptismal waters have stirred almost every Sunday at First Naples as individuals have experienced life change. Pastoral staff say the same verb can be applied to the hearts of church members.
“When one [person] takes a step of obedience, it’s an exciting thing to share that with the church body,” said Andy Wells, communications pastor at the southwest Florida church.
Over the past 19 months, dating back to the arrival of new lead pastor Alan Brumback in August 2021, the church has seen men, women and children—from 8 to 80 years old—express a desire for believers’ baptism.
In baptizing almost every Sunday, the church has witnessed 250 baptisms from October 2021 to September 2022 and is on pace to surpass last year’s number with already 197 baptisms from October 2022 to the convention-wide Baptism Sunday, when 93 were baptized.
Daniel Scroggins, director of next steps for First Naples, said the April 16 Baptism Sunday, which has been deemed as “Fill the Tank Sunday,” merely highlighted what God had already been doing for more than 19 months at the southwest Florida church.
It’s not just baptisms the church is after, but genuine life change. Beyond the immediate first step of obedience in baptism, Wells said that discipleship is another important emphasis for the church.
‘Baptism is not the finish line; it’s the starting line to the rest of your walk with Christ.’
“Baptism is not the finish line; it’s the starting line to the rest of your walk with Christ,” he said.
Because of this, new believers have multiple opportunities to become integrated into church life through the “next steps” of attending a Discover First class, getting plugged into a group, and finding an area of service.
“In the past year we’ve received over 1,200 connect cards from people indicating an interest in salvation, baptism or church membership,” Wells said. “Each person receives personal text messages, emails and phone calls from our next steps team. … God is the One who changes hearts, and we are the ones who help walk with them in their spiritual journeys.”
Creating a culture that celebrates genuine life change is something the church hopes will sustain the spiritual growth of the church as it seeks to fulfill its mission to glorify God by being a multigenerational, multiethnic, multiplying church, raising up the next generation of disciple-makers, church planters, missionaries and world-changers, to reach Naples to the nations.
Wells attributed this continual “move of God” to not only the preaching, teaching and worship of the church but also the renewed vigor for soul-winning and excitement surrounding a fresh vision.
“Everything we do at First Naples goes back to a clear vision … The preaching, worship, groups, events … all go back to an emphasis to reach Naples to the nations,” he said.
“Life change is happening here because people are getting excited and have a vision that they can rally behind. God is working through His people.”