South Carolina-based Transformation Church Lead Pastor Derwin Gray took to Twitter Saturday to share and celebrate the news that 20 men were baptized at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville.
The former professional football player for the Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers tweeted to his more than 22,000 followers: "We baptized 20 men at @TCTransformers Lee Prison today. It was a beautiful time being with the men."
Pastor Gray, accompanied by his leader of the prison teams, Ken Lake, and nine prison team leaders, visited the men's correctional institution where on Saturday Gray performed all 20 baptisms, Lake told The Christian Post.
He shared some of the men's reactions after they emerged from the water, saying they felt "freedom and excite[ment], identifying with Christ. Many of them hugged Pastor Derwin upon coming out of the water."
As far as the logistics go, Lake said, "We hold the baptisms in the chapel area and they have a regular baptismal font (oversized bathtub)."
Lake indicated that on the previous evening he and prison team leaders visited the Kershaw Correctional Institution and baptized 36 men, for a weekend total of 56 baptisms.
"We tell them on a regular basis their physical location (prison) does not define them," he told CP.
"They can be free in Christ (defined by their identity in Christ) and on fire behind bars. Many individuals who are not incarcerated are in bondage to addictions and not experiencing freedom."
He added, "Since we started the prison ministry in 2012 we've baptized 319 men."
Transformation Church holds services in four South Carolina Department of Corrections institutions "with the purpose of building relationships as inmates attend TC (Transformation Church) services and connect in TC groups on location. Inmates are valued as their true identity, which is not in their physical location, but their spiritual position in Christ," states the church's website.
Lake said one of the correctional institutions has weekly services, two have services twice monthly, and the newest location meets once a month. Gray visits the institutions three times each year to conduct baptisms and special events, he explained.
"One of our goals in the prison ministry is [to] value and respect the inmates during incarceration and do the same upon release. We invite them to join us at our Indian Land and Rock Hill (non-prison) campuses after release and encourage them to live out our five characteristics of a transformer: worship, connect, serve, give and invite."
In 2010, Transformation Church was recognized as the second fastest-growing church in America by Outreach magazine. In 2011 and 2012, the church was recognized as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in the nation.