- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2024

A church that baptized 4,166 people last year at Southern California’s famous Pirate’s Cove will lead a “Baptize California” effort to immerse 30,000 people on Sunday.

After that, the hope is to go nationwide with a “Baptize America” event in June 2025, said the Rev. Mark Francey, pastor of Oceans Church in Irvine and leader of the statewide campaign.

Mr. Francey said Baptize California has enlisted more than 300 congregations in 54 of the state’s 56 counties as participants, each of which will host special events on Sunday.

He said the church is funding 85% of a “million-dollar endeavor” to make the baptism event a success, with the balance coming from outside donors.

“Our church is excited about revival,” Mr. Francey said in a telephone interview. “We want to see God awakened. We’re tired of the darkness in California. We believe that God wants people to know about it, and if we will put our money where our frustration is, that God could do something great.”

Along with the in-church baptisms, he said larger outdoor events will also be held, including one at Huntington Beach that could see as many as 10,000 baptized there.

“We have, I think, six regional events in the state from San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, the park there, Santa Cruz, Redondo Beach, all the way down to San Diego with the flagship event being this Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19” at the Huntington Beach site, he said.

“This year we can go somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 people baptized in one day, which would be the largest synchronized water baptism in history that we know,” Mr. Francey said.

“We’re swinging for the fence, we’re praying for the fence, and we’re preparing for it,” he said, using a baseball analogy. “We’ll let the results stay in God’s lap, but we’re trying our best to do our side.”

He said that Baptize California’s national expansion is a new iteration of a 1970s evangelistic revival that captured the attention of millions of young adults.

“What God’s doing in California is not going to stop here,” Mr. Francey said. “It’s going to go to all of America. Like [God] did it in a new way as the ‘Jesus People’ movement. We believe that if God could do that 30,000 In California, it could happen all over America, and we’re not going to stop there.”

The pastor said the newly baptized will be directed to congregations for further spiritual growth.

“Our goal is to get all of those people plugged in to thriving, healthy local churches all over our state,” he said. “For us, the win isn’t just people getting baptized, the big number there. The win is to see people give their hearts to Jesus Christ, get plugged into vibrant churches, become disciples of Jesus Christ and one family at a time turn America back to God.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of a baptism ceremony planned for Huntington Beach.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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