When Michael Purcell arrived at First Baptist Church of Red Springs early this past Sunday, he realized he had forgotten to fill the tank.
The church intended to baptize someone that morning as part of the statewide “Fill the Tank” baptism emphasis, but without a full baptistry, Purcell wasn’t confident it would take place.
“I run up there, I turn it on, I hope and I pray and I said, ‘God, if this is your will, fill this tank,’” said Purcell, who serves as the church’s associate pastor of youth.
After rushing to turn on the water, Purcell went to teach Sunday School. During his lesson, he was repeatedly interrupted by church members warning him that the baptistry was still low on water.
Purcell prayed with his class for the tank to be filled quickly.
At the end of Sunday School, Purcell walked out of his classroom — only to be greeted by the hose of a firetruck, wrapped from the back of the church, through the hallway and up the steps to fill the church’s baptistry.
“God filled the tank,” Purcell said. “I said, ‘God, I left it to you. Despite my failures, despite Satan’s attempts to prevent this from happening — God, you overcame it.’”
As Purcell had been in the process of teaching Sunday School that morning, two members of the church — a security team member and the wife of the local fire department chief — had contacted the Red Springs fire department for help. Their call was quickly answered.
With a tank full of cold water, Purcell baptized the new believer during the morning service.
“If you fill it, God will send them,” Purcell said. “We saw that God said, ‘I’m gonna fill the tank, and then I’ll send them.’ … Honestly, I’m still dumbfounded by it.”
Just as in Red Springs, N.C. Baptists saw tanks filled and believers baptized across the state on Sunday, April 16, as nearly 450 churches pledged to participate in the statewide “Fill the Tank” Baptism emphasis celebrating professions of faith in Christ. The emphasis was held in conjunction with national Baptism Sunday.
As of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, 190 churches reported 1,135 baptisms across North Carolina as churches continue to share news of how God has moved in their respective congregations. In September 2021 — the last time N.C. Baptists held a statewide baptism emphasis — 320 churches reported nearly 1,600 baptisms.
“It’s been amazing to see so many churches coming together to celebrate baptism and new life in Christ,” said Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptists. “God is moving in the lives of so many people, and ‘Fill the Tank’ Sunday just highlighted His mighty work.”
I said, ‘God, I left it to you. Despite my failures, despite Satan’s attempts to prevent this from happening — God, you overcame it.’Michael Purcell, associate youth pastor, First Baptist Church of Red Springs
In the far northeastern corner of the state, Pastor James Harrington had a different challenge – his church’s tank was filled, but he had no one to baptize. The two individuals Harrington planned to baptize at Fellowship Baptist Church in Moyock on Sunday didn’t show up.
As Harrington was shaking church members’ hands at the conclusion of the service, a young man who had been visiting the church in recent weeks waited in the foyer.
“When everyone filed out of the church, he asked me about salvation and baptism,” Harrington said. “I shared with him how to be sure of an eternity with Christ. He then, referring to baptism, asked, ‘Can we do it right now?’
“There were a couple people still in the building, so they stayed to witness. I found him some clothes, and we had a baptism. It was so cool.”
Harrington said the man “was like a child at Christmas” as they embraced and talked afterward. The man had the handwritten card that Harrington sent him when he first visited the church two weeks ago.
“He wanted me to write his new birthdate on the card,” Harrington said. “He understood what it meant to be born again.”
While all baptisms are special, Baptism Sunday held some added significance for Mickey Willard, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Aulander.
Willard baptized a 13-year-old boy, who was the sixth member of the same family and fourth generation in the family line that Willard had baptized over the course of his nearly 40-year ministry, which has been spent mostly in eastern North Carolina. Willard had also baptized the boy’s father, two grandparents, great-grandfather and aunt over the years.
There seems to be a fresh move of God in the lives of people who are far from Him.Robert Hefner, pastor, Pleasant Garden Baptist Church
Brandon Mullis, pastor of Clear Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, had the privilege of baptizing his own daughter.
“Clear Creek baptized two this morning and even more special I was surprised when my daughter started church telling me she trust[ed] the Lord and wanted to be baptized,” Mullis wrote in a post on Twitter, along with a photo of him and his daughter in the baptistry.
Across the state, churches celebrated new life in Christ by holding baptisms in sanctuaries, swimming pools, the ocean and at least one in the back of a pickup truck.
Arthur Bien, pastor of Fountain Baptist Church in Bostic, baptized a man named Anthony in a trough from the bed of his pickup truck.
“It was a blessing to baptize another believer this morning! Anthony had given his life to Christ but after years of running decided to surrender it all to Jesus! What a joy it is to be #onmissiontogether! We got to #fillthetank today for the sake of the Gospel!” the church wrote in a Facebook post.
At North Brook Baptist Church In Cherryville, Pastor Robert Wise had planned on baptizing three people. He ended up baptizing twice as many instead.
In a Facebook post, Wise wrote: “Today was “Fill the Tank” day across the BSCNC – we had 3 to baptize from decisions made during our Resurrection Services last week – another caught me just before service and said she was there last week and made a decision so that made 4 – another girl trusted Christ during the invitation, so I changed clothes and baptized her and during that time a teenager trusted Christ and I baptized her for a total of 6 baptisms today!! We opened the service AND closed the service with baptisms! I am overwhelmed with the goodness of King Jesus!”
Robert Hefner, pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, said he’s been encouraged by how God has moved in his church and in other churches across the state and nation.
“[Fill the Tank] has been such an encouragement to me,” Hefner said. “There seems to be a fresh move of God in the lives of people who are far from Him.”
Pleasant Garden celebrated 10 baptisms on Sunday and is preparing to baptize more in the coming weeks — along with many other churches across the state. Hefner shared that in the Greensboro area, churches have been experiencing a renewal of professions of faith and baptisms in recent weeks.
“I’m rejoicing that God is moving at PGBC and so thrilled to hear and see of all the baptisms in our area, state and nation,” Hefner said. “May God keep moving among us!”
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.