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Church outreach events drive GPS 2012
Posted on May 3, 2012 | by Joe Conway

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Church outreach events are a main part of this year's strategy for God's Plan for Sharing, the decade-long national evangelism emphasis of the North American Mission Board.

Coordinated media campaigns are a part of GPS 2012 with an emphasis on social media efforts. Online ads lead people to the findithere.com website where they can view a Gospel presentation.
By design, GPS can be easily customized for any church or community. Even if churches have yet to participate, they can begin at any point, GPS team leader Ken Ellis said.

"A church can begin using the tools whenever they are ready," said Ellis, who was involved in the original planning for GPS as a member of NAMB's evangelism team. "And the events are scalable for any church. You may say your church cannot host a community crusade, but you can host a drive-by pickup of donuts and coffee for the people who serve your community, your law enforcement officers and firefighters."

Now in its third year, each GPS theme builds on the next. As part of this year's theme, Reaching Across North America, churches are encouraged to host a block party, a sports clinic or any type of evangelistic event that shows the community they care.

One of those churches is Paragon Church in Rio Rancho, N.M. Pastor Matt Sellers said the church plant made effective use of GPS at Easter.

"GPS has enhanced what we're doing already and keeps our evangelistic drive going," said Sellers, who led Paragon to rent a concert hall for Easter services and saw 300 in attendance, many who were first-time visitors.

The GPS process includes planning and promotion in odd numbered years, followed by campaign implementation in even years. The entire span of 2012 is designed for event evangelism connected with the local church.

"Attractional events are a tremendous evangelism tool," Larry Wynn, evangelism vice president for NAMB, said. "When a church prays for those who will attend, uses multiple avenues to invite people who don't know Christ, gives priority to the event, is faithful to the Gospel and does a good job with follow-up, it will see great results."

Ellis agrees. He sees limitless application for GPS strategy.

"GPS is nothing more than a mobilization process," Ellis said. "And it meets Send North America when you are going to a city or planting a church -- you are being mobilized to share your faith. With GPS we say you are mobilized to go across the nation or walk across the room. You get up out of your comfort zone and go. You are bounded only by God's call and your own imagination."

Send North America is NAMB's strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.

"All of these efforts tie back to the local church," Kevin Ezell, NAMB's president, said. "NAMB is not going to sponsor or organize events that don't try to connect people to a church where they can grow and be discipled."

Coordinated media campaigns are another aspect of GPS. NAMB invested $1 million for media buys in dozens of markets across North America. This year 35 state conventions and Canada participated in the "Hope, Find It Here" media promotion. A majority of funds this year have been invested in social media efforts. The ads lead people to the findithere.com website where they can view a Gospel presentation.

In all, NAMB has set aside some $15 million for GPS campaigns every two years through 2020.

A church customization kit is available from NAMB, but the GPS website, gps2020.net, has multiple resources for evangelism outreach by affinity -- everything from campaign promotion to church-hosted events. Evangelism resources, primarily Gospel tracts, also are available in 16 languages.

"Another great tool is the Evangelism Response Center," Ellis said. "We want churches to know that they have a backup for their evangelistic events. By promoting the ERC toll-free phone number -- 1-888-JESUS20 (537-8720) -- a church can increase the opportunity visitors have to hear the Gospel. Some people who attend an event may never return to the church. But they might find an ERC card in their welcome bag and call."

Reaching Across North America will conclude at the end of 2012. The remaining campaign themes include Serving, Sharing, Start Something and culminate in 2020 with Celebrating.

"I'm excited about where we will go with Serving Across North America in 2014," Ellis said. "We will begin meeting soon with our state convention partners, association staffs and pastors to plan."

In 2013, the North American Mission Board will sponsor a Find It Here Bible distribution project. Southern Baptist churches will receive a complimentary box of four dozen Bibles to distribute in their communities. Additional Bibles will be available for purchase if churches need more.

"As I work with churches I like to ask them a question," Ellis said. "'If your church closed its doors tomorrow, who in your community, other than your members, would know you were gone?' We need to be visible in the community, but more than that we need to love our community."
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Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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