ESTANCIA (BNM) - Despite a year marred by an ongoing pandemic, economic uncertainty, and ministry adaptations, First Baptist Church, Estancia, baptized nine individuals, including a mother and her three children.
First Baptist’s pastor, Jonathan Richard, said that the church transitioned to online services during the first four weeks of the pandemic, before moving to drive-in style service for several more weeks, and eventually returning to in-person gatherings supplemented by a Facebook livestream of the services.
The first online service coincided with the previously scheduled baptism of one of the church’s students. Richard said it was important for the church to go ahead with the baptism because of the student’s leadership growth and her ongoing discipleship. While the church remained closed to the general public, Richard baptized the student with only her family in attendance. According to Richard, the student’s grandfather was one of the first people baptized at First Baptist’s current facility, and she was the “very first one to be baptized over the internet” from the same facility.
Later in the year, three children were saved during a drive-in worship service after their grandmother brought them to church. According to Richard, the children were baptized once the church returned to indoor, in-person services. Before the service, the children’s mother approached Richard to express interest in salvation and baptism for herself. “She came to me privately prior to the service and just said, ‘my kids have been telling you about Jesus and about what the decision they made, and I’m ready to make the same decision. Would it be possible for me to be baptized alongside them?’ And so we did,” Richard said.
Richard said church members adapted well to the various changes last year, adding, “as far as adapting, we’ve been really blessed by the Lord because we were able to hire a student pastor about a year and a half ago. He has a background in discipleship. He’s been trained in discipleship [and] disciple-making techniques, and he’s done amazing things with our students. And, I would say that at least half of the ones who baptized this year were a direct result of his ministry in our church.”
Estancia, like many New Mexico communities, is rural and somewhat isolated. Richard, who has pastored the church for the past 13 years, said he has always made it a point to connect with other pastors across the state for fellowship and encouragement, and that 2020 was no different. “I didn’t stop doing that [last year]. In fact, I think I’ve worked with people far more when COVID hit than when I did prior.”
Last year, Richard was also a member of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Executive Director Search Team. He described his involvement on the team as “a rare opportunity or advantage to hear from different parts of the state about what was going on, and get encouragement statewide, just because of what we were able to do.” In 2020 the search team hosted listening sessions at several regional Baptist associations statewide.
According to Richard, First Baptist is continuing to livestream its worship services to meet the needs of church members who cannot attend in person.