'MY HOPE': It's not too late to get involved
The Harrises were noticeably impacted and asked if it was too late for their church, First Baptist in Washington, Ga., to get involved. Learning that there are still many ways to utilize the opportunity, they went home and talked to their pastor, Kevin Madden, who enthusiastically got the ball rolling for their church to participate.
If you are just now hearing about My Hope America, it's not too late!
My Hope is based on Jesus' call to Matthew, and Matthew's desire to introduce his friends to Jesus (Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32). Patterned after this Gospel example, the My Hope steps include:
-- Look Around: Build a spiritual concern for those around you who need Christ; make a short list of family, friends and neighbors who need Jesus.
-- Look Up: Pray every day for each name on your list.
-- Look Out: Think of ways to build your relationship with each person.
-- Look Forward: Invite them to your home or other venue.
-- Offer hospitality and food, and meet in a cordial, friendly atmosphere. Watch one of the My Hope America video programs which provide a clear message of salvation. A Christian who is known to those listening should give a short salvation testimony (story of personal coming). Then give a clear invitation and lead a prayer for people to receive Christ and begin to follow Him.
-- Look After: Make the commitment and a follow-up plan for new believers so they become lifelong disciples of Jesus. You can start with the My Hope America free discipleship materials.
These steps can be used in many ways. Over the past 12 years much has been learned about which ways are most effective, and that God will give a spiritual harvest in each. Here are a few ways to use My Hope America, whether you've been planning this for months or just starting to prepare:
-- Homes. In all 57 countries where the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association previously carried out My Hope, the most effective way was in homes. Somehow, the close and informal relationships of a home are especially conducive to introducing family, friends and neighbors to Jesus.
-- Youth groups. Young people like to hang out together. Food, fun and friendship -- with fervent prayer -- are steps for bringing young people to Christ. These meetings can be held in homes, church buildings or other gathering places. At the youth gathering, show a My Hope America evangelistic video, have one or two young people prepared to give their brief testimony, then give a clear invitation and lead in prayer to receive Christ. The "price of admission" can be that each Christian youth bring a non-believing friend with them! Find out who received Christ, then begin the consistent, patient follow-up essential to see young people mature in Christ.
-- Small group meetings. A church's small group ministry leader can study the My Hope America materials and train group leaders so that each group begins to pray for and reach out to family, friends and neighbors. Group members can bring the people they're praying for to a "party," where a My Hope America video program is shown and a salvation testimony is given followed by a clear invitation and prayer to receive Christ. The group members then should follow up with their guests who made decisions for Christ.
-- Meetings in the church building. Prior to the meeting, train believers to reach out to family, friends and neighbors to bring them to the My Hope America meeting. Provide refreshments, show a My Hope video, then one or two believers can give their brief salvation testimony and the pastor can lead an invitation and prayer for people to receive Christ. Be sure to identify those who received Christ, and immediately connect with them to give them follow-up materials and begin discipleship meetings with them.
-- Community meetings. Some churches plan to strategically reach out to their entire city or community via My Hope America through a gathering in a home or community center in every block or section of the city. Several families work together to convene their family, friends and neighbors for something like a block party, and there they show a My Hope video, hear one or two brief salvation testimonies from believers in the community, give an invitation and lead in prayer. It's important to identify those who receive Christ so that loving follow-up can immediately begin with them.
-- Coffee houses, parks, informal gatherings. My Hope America fits well into personal evangelism of an informal style. My Hope videos can be shown on a smart phone or tablet for two or three friends as you drink coffee or relax in a park. The way will then be open for a conversation about faith. You can give your salvation testimony and kindly ask if they want to pray to receive Christ. You may be happily surprised when they may say, "I was waiting for you to ask." Then help them grow in Christ.
You can watch the My Hope America video programs in various ways; for details, visit www.MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org. My Hope resources also are available in Spanish.
Elaine Helms is the prayer coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham, director of ChurchPrayerMinistries.org and author of "Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know." She was the SBC prayer coordinator at the North American Mission Board from 2000-10.