Sunny Side of The Stream: 300 Churches Across California Baptize 12,000 on Pentecost Weekend

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on May 25, 2024

Twelve thousand people were baptized across California last weekend. The effort, dubbed “Baptize California,” united more than 300 churches of various denominations and connected new believers with local churches.

The event was the brainchild of Mark Francey, pastor of Oceans Church, which has two campuses in Orange County — the heart of the Southern California surf scene. He told The Stream that unity of the Church, as well as evangelism and discipleship within local congregations, were the key to his vision.

“We have Baptists, Presbyterians, Calvary Chapel, Charismatics, and Pentecostals — everybody working together,” Francey said. Other than the immaculate conception, sinless life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, baptism is “one of the only things” all Christians agree on. “Jesus prayed in John 17 to make make us one. That was His prayer for the Church, that we be unified. So, I get excited because it’s not just about getting a bunch of people baptized in one day. It’s about seeing the Body of Christ work together for an assignment that connects us.”

An estimated 19,000 gathered at the flagship location in Huntington Beach last Saturday and Sunday. Image courtesy of Baptize America.

Most of the people who were baptized at the event registered before arriving and may have been responding to extensive online advertising. Once registered, they received a series of messages about the meaning of baptism and what to expect. Organizers at each location preached the Gospel on both Saturday and Sunday, and the purpose of baptism was clearly explained numerous times.

After being baptized, people also were told about the next steps for discipleship and why it’s important to get involved in a local church. Each was given a map of vetted, registered churches across California showing them where they might go to find Christian community.

“We’re equally as excited about the follow-up process now of getting many of those 12,000 that got baptized on Sunday connected to churches,” Francey said.

The Death and Burial of the Old Life

Francey knows the power of baptism himself.

“I got saved at 18,” he said. “I didn’t get baptized till I was 19, and there was just certain things in my life that were lingering — old nature, old habits that I felt like I couldn’t shake. When I got water baptized, I felt like there was a greater authority and a greater clarity and freedom.”

The Bible teaches that in water baptism, we’re identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Francey said — burying our old nature and rising in resurrection power. He said baptism is a powerful “outward sign of an inward commitment.”

“I think there is a transformative nature to water baptism,” he said. “When we surrender our hearts, we pledge our faith — and there’s something very powerful that happens when we come out of those waters. So it’s definitely a spiritual, special, supernatural type of interaction with God.”

History and Vision

Baptize California was part of a vision Francey received from God to reach the state, nation and world with similar events in years to come. He drew from several inspirations to put it together, including a historical event and a prophetic dream.

On August 17, 1990, thousands of people were baptized at Pirate’s Cove near Newport Beach, deep in the heart of Orange County and a significant site in the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s: an LA Times report from the day of the event said about 3,000 were expected to be baptized.

Check-in booths and an info tent were part of Baptize California’s effort to share with registrants the meaning of baptism and next steps in their relationship with God afterward. A beach wheelchair (center) increased accessibility to the water. Image courtesy of Baptize America.

In early 2022, Francey, read about that event in a book about spiritual awakenings in American history. He felt that God wanted him to organize and pay for the same kind of event to unite the Church. He felt that God would bless it and it would be bigger than the one he had just read about. In his mind’s eye, he began to see a picture of Pirate’s Cove with his church and friends there — Baptize SoCal; then his thoughts progressed from Baptize SoCal to Baptize California to Baptize America, and then similar events in various nations. He wrote down his thoughts, prayed about the vision, shared it with his wife, and then his church board.

Baptize SoCal

“Everyone I shared it with was excited,” Francey said. He announced to Oceans Church in 2022 that he wanted to hold Baptize SoCal in 2023. When Francey later saw a trailer for the Jesus Revolution movie — the story of evangelist Greg Laurie’s personal testimony, which features a mass baptism at Pirate’s Cove — he thought it was as if God had made a trailer just for Baptize SoCal. “That was just God’s sovereignty that He told us to do it and then made a movie about it.”

At Baptize SoCal in May 2023, 4,166 people were baptized at Pirate’s Cove. Shortly afterward, in July, Laurie himself led another mass baptism at the site for 4,500 people. The 1990 and 2023 events each broke American mass baptism records.

Last weekend, Baptize California — with a flagship event at Huntington Beach after the last Sunday morning service of more than 300 churches — roughly tripled Baptize SoCal’s numbers. There were also about a half dozen other mass beach baptisms all along the California coast over the course of the weekend.

Testimonies

“I walked the beach both days,” Francey said. “I have never seen more joy and happy tears in my life anywhere. I mean, it it really felt like someone ripped a page out of the book of Acts and we were there filming it.”

Scores of volunteers helped staff the event. Image courtesy of Baptize America

Among the testimonies: a Satanist repented and got baptized.

Francey baptized a family of about 17, including extended family, that came after a man and his wife had spent about 20 years praying for their kids. Their daughter had strayed from the family because of mental illness, but decided to come to this event. Three of their four kids were baptized, and the other one had already been baptized recently. The daughter with mental illness and her older sister, who was recently baptized, hadn’t talked for years.

“When her little sister got baptized, they started crying. They were hugging each other,” Francey said.

Fancey’s cousin, who also is a pastor, told him, “Mark, I’ve never seen anything like this in the last 60 years of my life in California.”

One of Francey’s dreams come true was seeing pastors with varied backgrounds working together. Several pastors prayed together on the stage at Huntington Beach. “It demonstrates across denominational barriers that we can work together,” he told The Stream. “From small churches and big churches alike, there were pastors there and the beautiful thing is a lot of these guys were in the water baptizing people. So that was a beautiful picture of the Church.”

A Dream of the Future

From 3 p.m to 7 p.m., attendees experienced an atmosphere vibrant with prayer, testimony, and worship, culminating in mass baptisms along the Pacific shore. Courtesy of Baptize America

Francey said he had a literal dream in 2013 in which he was on a beach with his wife, telling a crowd that he had moved to California from Idaho to start a church called Oceans. He saw himself on a stage talking to the crowd of around 200,000 people on the beach. They were getting baptized by the thousands, and others were getting healed and getting out of wheelchairs.

“It was like the book of Acts, like miracles from the Bible happening,” he recalled. “I’ve shared that story with a million people since I moved to California because I got the name for our church in that dream. But I always thought that picture was like a metaphor of revival. I never thought it was maybe an actual picture of the future.”

But after Baptize SoCal, a member of his team shared an image of what Baptize California could look like. “When he opened his laptop, I could see this pier at Huntington Beach. I could see the stage set up, and I told him, ‘I’ve seen that before. I saw that in my dream in 2013.'”

However, that exact dream hasn’t been fulfilled yet. The stage was set up facing the ocean this year, and in his dream it was parallel to it, with far more people lined up along the shore.

“I actually think I saw a picture of the future,” Francey said. “We’re building the local church by getting people saved, and then getting them to take the next step to get committed to churches to start their discipleship journeys. I think we’re actually doing what God asked us to do. Matthew 28 says to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.’ I think the discipleship of nations is connected to water baptism because Jesus said that. Maybe God in His sovereign genius knew that if you can get people interested in baptism, that could actually be one of the great ways to get people interested in the discipleship journey.”

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For next Pentecost Sunday — June 8, 2025 — Baptize California is expanding to Baptize America. Signups are already open for individuals and churches. Francey requests especially that pastors sign up their churches to be host sites, saying his desire is for Baptize America events to be held in every major city. He imagines gatherings at churches, bodies of water and stadiums filled with worship and above-ground swimming pools. Francey also would love to be able to hire a dedicated staff for Baptize America instead of relying on the Oceans Church staff. He asked that people consider donating if they believe in the vision of helping the lost to get into an atmosphere where they can hear the Gospel, respond to it, get baptized immediately, and then get connected with local churches and discipleship resources.

“There is an interest to get baptized,” Francey said, “because people know that’s how you start getting closer to God.”

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow her on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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