RIO RANCHO, N.M. (BP) -- Matt Sellers says the use of attractional, evangelistic events under the God's Plan for Sharing initiative is like throwing gasoline on an already blazing fire for his two-year-old church plant.
|God's Plan for Sharing in 2012 is focusing on evangelistic events. Brad Bennett of Real Encounter Outreach performs stunts at a crusade sponspored in part by Harmony Baptist Church in Rogersville, Mo. Bennett gives his testimony at 20 to 25 such events each year. Photo courtesy of Real Encounter Outreach|
Following its introduction in 2010 by the North American Mission Board and most state conventions, the second phase of GPS is under way across the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2012, GPS is focused on event evangelism.
Sellers is pastor of Paragon Church in Rio Rancho, N.M., which runs 150-175 per Sunday. On Easter, the church plant drew a record crowd of 300. Rio Rancho -- with 90,000 people -- is a northwest suburb of Albuquerque.
"The whole idea of a church plant is being outward-focused from the get-go," Sellers said. "All our people are already involved and engaged. We didn't need GPS for that. We're already out in the community, reaching out to neighbors. What GPS has done is to come alongside of what we were already doing."
During the introduction of the GPS initiative in 2010, Sellers said Paragon Church conducted door-to-door evangelism, left door hangers on front doors and advertised on area billboards. That laid the foundation for 2012, he said.
"We're doing different things this time around," Sellers said. "We rented out a concert hall seating 1,000 for our Sunday Easter service. We had 300, and 50 percent of them were visitors."
Paragon is planning other GPS events this summer such as backyard Bible clubs, block parties and Vacation Bible School. Paragon, which normally meets in Rio Rancho's Cleveland High School, recently rented an indoor city aquatics center to baptize 17 new believers.
"GPS has enhanced what we're doing already and keeps our evangelistic drive going," Sellers said, adding that Paragon ranges in age from infants to 75-year-olds and draws retirees, young families and high school students who are Anglo, African American, Native American and Hispanic.
In Missouri, under the leadership of Missouri Baptist Convention director of evangelism Gary Taylor, GPS enjoyed incredible success in 2010 when Missouri Baptists deposited Gospel door hangers and church invitations on some 900,000 front doors.
With a theme of Here's Hope, Missouri Baptists have been challenged to create special events or Big Days as part of phase two of GPS in the Show Me State. Missouri Baptist churches are being encouraged to plan and execute four Big Day events in 2012 and 2013, Taylor said.
Big day events are not only found in larger cities, conducted by large churches. Take Rogersville, Mo., with a population of 3,000, for instance. In February, Harmony Baptist Church partnered with a nondenominational church and Real Encounter Outreach to stage an extreme sports event at a high school gym in Rogersville, which attracted a full house of 1,800 to witness the aerial stunts of professional cyclists and hear the Gospel, Jim Bates, minister of youth and children at 300-member Harmony Baptist, said.
Working with Brad Bennett of Real Encounter, based in Springfield, Mo., the two churches promoted a free evangelistic event featuring motorcyclists, BMX bike riders and skateboarders. More than 260 decisions for Christ were made that night.
Midway through the show, Bennett gives his testimony and shares the Gospel with the crowd, which is made up not only of children and teens but usually their parents as well. He does 20 to 25 such events per year.
"The hook is the entertainment," Bates said. "The Real Encounter guys are outstanding athletes on the motorcycles and BMX bikes. They do amazing things -- back flips, front flips, spins and even make the bikes walk.
"The key to this or any evangelistic event is the follow up," Bates said. "Event evangelism absolutely works. The key is to follow up."
In another Missouri town, Randy Conn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morehouse, Mo., plans this year to use sportsmen competitions and dinners, block parties and a revival as evangelistic events in his town with a population of 800. First Baptist, which averages 60 people in weekly worship services, has seen 53 salvation decisions since January as a result of evangelistic events.
"GPS has been a great tool for First Baptist Morehouse," Conn, the church's pastor for the last 12 years, said. "Easter Sunday, because of the sportsmen dinner and other events, we had the largest Easter crowd in the church's history, 150 people.
Conn believes evangelistic events work, "but some things need to take place in order for them to work. The church has to be praying for the lost of the community and for the success of the event," he said.
"You can plan an event and do it in your own power and still have poor results. Or you can seek the Lord and have tremendous results. Don't underestimate what God can do with what He has provided."
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. For GPS-related church resources, visit www.gps2020.net
. For an online Gospel presentation related to GPS, visit www.findithere.com
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