The pastor of a Baptist church in South Carolina believes that the record number of baptisms his worship team has performed this month is a sign that Americans living in this "weird" and "angry" culture are craving the "grace and truth" of the Gospel.
"And I think that combination of grace and truth is so rare in our day that when a church, when a pastor, when a people actually attempt to be both, it's attractive," Pastor Wayne Bray of First Baptist Church of Simpsonville told Fox News Digital in a new interview.
Bray, who’s been pastor of the church since 2015, expressed his belief that God has blessed his approach to forming the faith of his congregation, and he’s seen that in the rapid growth his church has experienced in the last decade.
One of the most notable recent signs for Pastor Bray that his preaching of the Gospel was bearing good fruit happened around two weeks ago, when his multisite church conducted over 141 baptisms across all services on Dec. 3.
Bray said that number was "exponentially more" baptisms than they’ve ever had during their monthly baptismal services.
He told Fox, "But instead of the 20 or 30 like normal, that by Friday, the Friday before the third, we already had 80 – I think it was 84, 86 people scheduled for baptism."
Bray explained how this month, as opposed to his church’s usual method of having prospects declare their decisions to be baptized prior to the service in which they’ll receive the sacrament, he and his team of worship leaders allowed any and all attendees to make their decision on the day of the baptismal service.
He stated, "And so we had 55 additional people in the services make a decision to not just say, 'Yeah, I'm a Christian,' but literally 10 minutes later – after having a conversation with a counselor – they were in a baptistry pool and being baptized in the room."
This massive increase in the desire for baptisms at the church made headlines last week. Asked for comment by The Baptist Press last week, Bray said, "We have never seen anything like this in our church. To think that 141 people followed the Lord in baptism is truly unimaginable for me. I feel so blessed to be the pastor of Upstate Church."
He reiterated that sentiment to Fox, saying, "Our church has more than doubled over the last few years. It's just been ridiculous, and God's blessed it."
Bray expressed his belief that God is blessing his congregation’s approach to evangelization in a very political and divided time in our culture. "I feel like our culture's in such a weird place, man, where everybody's just angry and everybody postures themselves in any kind of discussion of politics or religion – we posture ourselves in defense and aggression. That's what I've found anyway," he said.
He continued, noting that his desire to teach both Christian truth along with an emphasis on Christ’s love and grace is what is attracting people to his congregation.
"The balance of both of those things is what I believe God's using in our context to bless – I think that's what brings revival. That’s what’s bringing the movement of the spirit. And that's what's attractive even to people in an aggressive culture who are postured in defense and aggression."
Bray’s approach is about transcending petty political arguments that dominate the discourse, by prioritizing love and grace for fellow man, while also not ceding the essential truths that Christ proclaims.
He said it’s about speaking "the truth in a loving way and you're not pushing people away, you're not hating people, but you love them, but you're not changing your convictions, but you're speaking those convictions in a way that's not condemning or hating them."
For Bray, the proof is in the record baptisms earlier this month and the fact that he has plans to open his church’s seventh site in Laurens, South Carolina soon.
"I mentioned I've been in ministry 20 years, but the last two years have been unlike anything I've ever experienced," he added.
He expressed to Fox just how moving seeing all the baptisms has been to him, not because it means there’s more revenue for the church that comes with new members, or that he’ll get recognition as a great preacher, but because of the hearts and minds that will be changed.
"And so, you know, that's what gets me up is knowing that people's lives are being changed and, you know, will the attendance go up? Probably. You know, will the offerings go up? I hope so. But that's not the purpose. I mean, the purpose is that people are stepping from death to life."