Less than one month ago, South Fork Baptist Church in Todd, N.C., did not have plans to put the statewide “Fill the Tank” emphasis on its church calendar.
But since signing up in early March, the church has seen several commit to be baptized on “Fill the Tank” Baptism Sunday, April 16.
“The Lord is doing wonderful things,” said David Cooper, pastor of South Fork.
Expecting great things
The church’s decision to commit to “Fill the Tank” Sunday began on March 7, when Cooper received the March edition of the Biblical Recorder. Seeing the cover image featuring his friend – Pastor Steve Corts of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons – baptizing a new believer piqued his interest and encouraged him to read more about “Fill the Tank.”
Cooper said that before receiving the Biblical Recorder, he had not given “Fill the Tank” much attention.
“When the ‘Fill the Tank’ initiative came out, as most of the time pastors are, I was busy,” Cooper said. He shared that he had also felt concerned not to “presume on the Lord” while anticipating baptisms, and so he had chosen to set “Fill the Tank” aside.
It was not until he read Pastor David Herman’s “Fill the Tank” story in the Biblical Recorder that he realized he had misunderstood the initiative.
“I read the article about [‘Fill the Tank’], and how it was about expecting God to do something … and I thought, ‘Wow. How wrong I was on how I viewed it,” Cooper said. “I’m always challenging the people to be expectant about what God can do. We should expect Him to do great things.”
Encouraged by the testimonies he read in the Biblical Recorder, Cooper signed his church up for “Fill the Tank” Baptism Sunday, praying with eager expectation that God would change lives and that the church would see people baptized on April 16.
God answered his prayer less than 12 hours later.
That evening, Cooper and his wife, Sandy, hosted a recently-engaged couple in their home.
The young couple, Baker Baird and Harley McClelland, were about to begin their first premarital counseling session with the Coopers when David Cooper asked Baird and McClelland about their testimonies.
“I always ask about their salvation, which is the most important thing to begin with in the establishment of their marriage,” Cooper said.
Baird shared that he had professed Christ and was baptized as a teenager — but he admitted that through Cooper’s sermons over the past few months, Baird had begun to realize that he had not experienced salvation until only recently in his life.
“I had been [preaching] for some time about how we’re new creatures in Christ, that there has to be a change somewhere in our life,” Cooper said. “And he said, ‘I realized that change did not come until later on … I really didn’t get saved until about a year ago. And I see that my baptism is out of order.’”
When Cooper told Baird that he had the opportunity to be baptized on “Fill the Tank” Sunday, Baird felt ready to respond — and so did his fiancée.
McClelland shared with the Coopers that she had been “chasing church” all her life but had never truly received Christ. After Cooper explained the gospel to her through Romans, McClelland prayed and asked God for salvation.
“That morning, I had made that prayer — and before I went to bed that night God had already answered it,” Cooper said.
Continuing to answer
The Lord is continuing to answer Cooper’s prayer.
On March 21, Jim Seatz, a regular attender at South Fork, called Cooper and told him that he felt he needed to be baptized.
Although Seatz grew up in church and had heard the gospel at an early age, he had not experienced salvation until five years ago, giving his life to Christ after God miraculously healed him after a car accident.
“I had been up to that point a person that had to be shown in order to prove things,” Seatz said, “And God showed me. He definitely showed me that He’s in control, He’s in charge.”
As Seatz explained to Cooper over the phone, although he had been saved five years ago, he had yet to respond to his salvation in believer’s baptism. He told Cooper that he felt the need to show his profession of faith through baptism.
“I believe we need to be obedient in what God tells us to do,” Seatz said. “And I feel like He’s told me to be obedient in what He’s told me to do.”
Little did Seatz know that Cooper had received another phone call from another church attender earlier that morning. Blanche Roark, age 77, had asked for an urgent meeting with Cooper.
“She said, ‘I prayed and received Christ … I want you to know I need to be baptized,’” Cooper said. “She said, ‘I realize that, you know, a lot of people — you worry about what people think … I’m not gonna worry about what anybody thinks anymore.’”
On April 16, Roark, Seatz, McClelland and Baird will be baptized at South Fork as part of “Fill the Tank” Sunday. By signing up for the “Fill the Tank” initiative, South Fork is joining nearly 400 churches that plan to celebrate baptism and new professions of faith on April 16.
Cooper is continuing to pray for changed lives, and God continues to answer. This past Sunday, March 26, South Fork saw another woman, 78, pray to receive Christ. Her baptism will take place shortly after “Fill the Tank” Sunday.
“I’m just saying, ‘Lord, I’m expecting more,” Cooper said. “It’s just amazing how when we just say ‘Lord, I’m expecting You to do this,’ sometimes, how He answers our prayers, just, ‘Boom!’ It’s all Him and what He’s done.
“I would like to see other churches experience this. I want other churches to realize — just expect God to do something. Just expect Him to do something.”