During the month of July, members of Foundations Church, an Open Bible church in Williamsburg, Virginia, gathered each Wednesday evening for powerful teaching, worship, and prayer. They were rewarded with salvations, baptisms, and rededications.
The city of Williamsburg is known internationally as the premier center for the preservation and interpretation of American colonial history. A destination for tourists from all over the nation, the city celebrates the Fourth of July in a big way. The Governor’s Palace is decorated, and people dress in costume to participate in patriotic festivities such as the reading of the Declaration of Independence, a torchlit procession of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums, patriotic sing-alongs, and a huge fireworks display above the Governor’s Palace.
Michael Hines, the church’s lead pastor said, “We have a tradition of doing Freedom Nights in July because we live in Williamsburg, the cradle of the American Revolution, and we also want to celebrate our freedom in Christ rather than just our national freedom. We noticed how many churches shut down for the summer and pastors disappear when in fact people’s lives don’t shut down and their bandwidth for leaning into the things of God increases.”
Michael and Bonni, his wife and the church’s co-pastor, capitalized on the “freedom” theme and planned services around topics such as freedom from pride, freedom from fear, freedom from prayerlessness, freedom from sickness, freedom from silence (encouraging people to talk about Jesus), and freedom from hypocrisy. On Freedom Nights the church combines their regular midweek small groups, youth group, and community events and meets outside on a couple’s farm in the countryside. A simple stage made from pallets illuminated by a string of lights serves as the backdrop. The church uses the couple’s pool for baptisms.
The first night fewer than a handful of people had signed up, but by the end of the four Freedom Nights some 31 people chose to get baptized. Nearly a third of them were folks who had given their lives to the Lord during the COVID-19 lockdown or immediately afterwards, another third were people rededicating their lives, and another third were people who’d just never yet taken that step of obedience.
Several folks came from other states as far away as Maryland, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania to support friends or family who were being baptized or, in one case, to be baptized.
On the night Michael and Bonni spoke on freedom from hypocrisy, a girl who had grown up in the church and came from an amazing family came up to Bonni shaking, saying she had thought her good works would get her to heaven. Bonni led her to the Lord. Several others came to faith in Christ as well.
Anther amazing story revolves around a gentleman around 45 years of age. About six months prior the parents of this man had asked the Hines to pray for their son as he was in the hospital. As they were leaving the hospital room, Bonni told Michael the gentleman was one of the angriest men she had ever met. However, someone invited him to a small group that met on the Hines’ screened-in porch during COVID lockdown and he came. He was still angry, still wasn’t saved.
As the group went through Francis Chan’s study on Mark, the gentleman desperately wanted to hear God’s voice for himself. One night this angry man got saved. Two weeks later he was sitting in the small group when he heard God speak to him about his life. He was so overcome with emotion he ran out of the house, and then returned to tell the group what had happened but was so overcome he ran out of the house again. God had revealed Scripture to him that addressed an issue he had wondered about his whole life. Everyone rejoiced with him as he was baptized during the Freedom Nights. Bonnie said, “Never would I have guessed he would be on my screened porch accepting Jesus. It gives you hope! It is not impossible for anyone to accept Christ.”