On Sunday, April 7, N.C. churches from the mountains to the coast “filled the tank,” celebrating new life in Christ and professions of faith through baptism as part of national Baptism Sunday.

Collin Terenzini was thrilled to baptize three people at Shaw’s Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville this past weekend, and he’s already looking forward to filling the church’s baptistry again in the coming weeks.

Near the end of Sunday’s service, the father of a middle school student that Terenzini baptized responded to the gospel during the invitation and trusted Christ as Savior.

“It was great to see him come to support his son,” said Terenzini, who has pastored Shaw’s Creek for two years. “He gave his life to Jesus, which means we will fill the tank again.”

From the mountains to the coast, scenes similar to the one at Shaw’s Creek played out in churches across the state and beyond as part of national Baptist Sunday, which is also known as “Fill the Tank” in North Carolina.

The special baptism emphasis, which takes place following Easter, encourages pastors and churches to call people to repentance and faith in Christ and follow through in believer’s baptism.

“‘Fill the Tank’ is a celebration of our new life in Christ and our profession of faith in Him,” said Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptists. “It’s been amazing to see God move during this ‘Fill the Tank’ season as so many across the state step forward to profess their faith through baptism.”

At New Vision Fellowship in Madison, Pastor Jeremy Parker baptized 17 people during services on Sunday, April 7. Those baptized ranged in age from 8 to their 70s and included brand new believers in Christ to those who had never been baptized by immersion. 

Before each person was baptized, Parker had the individual, a relative or a friend share a testimony of their conversion and how God had worked in their lives.

“There were a lot of wet eyes in our congregation,” Parker said of the responses to the testimonies and baptisms.

The individuals baptized included two young sisters, a married couple, an engaged couple, a mother and her daughter, and a father and his two sons.

Parker said New Vision Fellowship has been conducting Baptism Sunday the week following Easter for several years. Last year, the church baptized nine people.

“I like the idea of celebrating baptisms the Sunday after Easter,” Parker said. “It gives a nice, practical way to have an application in your invitation from Easter Sunday when you’re going to have one of your largest gatherings for the year.”

Many churches found Easter Sunday was instrumental in leading people to accept Christ and commit to baptism. At Hillcrest Baptist Church in Raeford, Pastor Trent Haywood used his Easter sermon as a way to invite people to take a step of faith in baptism. His church had signed up for Fill the Tank, but they had yet to see anyone make the decision to be baptized.

“I told my people, I said, ‘Even if we don’t have anybody (to baptize), we’re gonna fill the tank next Sunday,’” Haywood said. “’But your pastor’s been praying that somebody in this place will. (God’s) done some big things this year, and it’s only April now.’”

Haywood found that his prayer was answered. Following Hillcrest’s Easter service, four individuals stepped forward in response, indicating that they were ready to be baptized. Later in the week, another individual made the decision to be baptized, bringing the total number of baptisms on “Fill the Tank” Sunday to five.

“God really answered that prayer,” Haywood said. “People stepped up, stepped forward and have taken that next step of obedience. So very thankful for that.”

Some churches chose to celebrate “Fill the Tank” on Easter Sunday as part of their morning services. In central North Carolina, Pastor Robert Wise had the opportunity to celebrate four baptisms on Easter morning — though his church, North Brook Baptist in Cherryville, only had two baptisms scheduled leading up to their service.  

After a last-minute phone call on Saturday evening, Wise and his wife had the opportunity to lead a church member’s daughter to the Lord before their Easter service the next day. During the service, a gospel proclamation led another individual to profess faith in Christ and make the decision to be baptized.

“I’m just trying to hang on,” Wise said, “It’s literally just been amazing.” 

In total, North Brook had the opportunity to celebrate 10 baptisms throughout the month of March. Wise expects more baptisms to come in the following weeks, after others made professions of faith after Easter Sunday.

“All I can say is ‘Wow,’” Wise said.

On the state’s east coast, Wrightsboro Baptist Church in Wilmington baptized five people, including children and a man in his 70s. The church’s senior pastor, Eddie Eaton, said the elderly man showed the excitement of a child as he was baptized.

The church has also seen an uptick in baptisms in recent months, causing the congregation to schedule them monthly. Eaton regularly teaches about baptism during expositional preaching through specific books of the Bible. He also consistently brings it up in conversations with people as he has gospel conversations and disciples people who are new to the faith.

“As a church, we have only one thing to do: the Great Commission, to make disciples who will then make disciples,” Eaton said. “While we often complicate this with other activities – I call it ‘busy stuff’ – our true purpose is to make disciples who make disciples.”

Eaton said the state convention has emphasized “Fill the Tank” in recent years, which he points to as a key reason N.C. Baptists have seen an increase in baptisms across the state. 

When Unzicker became the executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in May 2021, one of his first acts was to encourage participation in “Fill the Tank” Sunday, an emphasis that has continued in subsequent years.  

In 2023, N.C. Baptists celebrated more than 16,000 baptisms, a 41 percent increase from 2022. According to Unzicker, not all of that can be linked to Fill the Tank Sunday, but he thinks it’s had a big impact.

“It’s become a routine – Palm Sunday, then Easter, followed by Fill the Tank Sunday. Churches are now deeply embedding intentional evangelism and soul-winning into their activities,” Unzicker said. “Fill the Tank has reinvigorated this focus, encouraging churches to strategically pray, give and go forth to reach people. They celebrate the resurrection one week, and the next, they demonstrate new life in Christ through public professions of faith in baptism.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Samuel Heard, editor and content coordinator for N.C. Baptists, and Chad Austin, managing editor for the Biblical Recorder, coauthored this article. Additional information from Baptist Press was included in this report.