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Denver church mobilizes to help city ‘Find it Here’

DENVER (BP)–The task at hand for members of Riverside Baptist Church: slip small plastic bags containing a couple of brochures on doorknobs or gateposts in assigned neighborhoods near their church.

The opportunity to share Christ so simply is one of the key reasons the Denver church joined thousands of others nationwide in distributing millions of the bags as part of the “God’s Plan for Sharing: Across North America” effort developed by the North American Mission Board in conjunction with state convention partners.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for ministry,” said Devon Gibson, one of 16 members of Riverside’s Koinonia “impact group” which distributed 750 of the packets in 45 minutes.

“It’s all about getting out of the actual church and getting into the neighborhood of the inner city,” Gibson said. “That’s what God has called us to do. We come [to church] to get equipped, but our ministry is outside.”

Riverside distributed more than 12,000 of the packets in neighborhoods surrounding its campus as well as in Castle Rock to the south where it sponsors a church plant. Each of the packets contained the main “Find it Here” brochure and information about the church — including a brochure about an upcoming rock-climbing event for youth.

The packet distribution, which followed prayerwalking in the same neighborhoods in previous weeks, was just one element of a comprehensive implementation of the campaign at Riverside.

Pastor Jim Shaddix said larger churches such as Riverside often don’t participate in denominational initiatives because of their ability to develop and implement their own contextualized campaigns. But this campaign — known locally as Across Colorado — was different.

“With the quality of those television ads and the production of that much material, this was just a really cool way to get the Gospel out,” Shaddix said. “We had to ask the question, is there something we could do right now that would have as broad a reach and be as effective as this? And our conclusion was, no we couldn’t.”

The national campaign is expected to touch approximately 15 million homes nationally this year based on orders of materials from state conventions, with about 500,000 of those in Colorado. In addition, NAMB developed a “Find it Here” advertising campaign and funded $1.2 million in media buys which was coupled with an additional half million dollars from state conventions. In all, more than 24,000 TV spots, more than 7,000 radio spots, print ads, billboards, yard signs and banners have been incorporated into the initiative.

Riverside ramped up a comprehensive campaign that included three main components to supplement the television advertising campaign funded by the Colorado Baptist Convention and NAMB.

“Where I Live” encouraged members to put up 250 custom yard signs, prayerwalk their neighborhood and distribute the door-hanger packets.

“Where I Work” included printed desktop displays that could be put in break rooms and on bulletin boards.

A social networking campaign encouraged individuals to link to the FinditHere.com website from Facebook, Twitter and other outlets.

Then it was simply a matter of execution. Training in January and February was followed by assembly of the packets, prayerwalking and finally distribution of the information packets in March. The church’s Hispanic congregation planned events in area parks throughout March where they distributed the “Find it Here” brochures. And to reinforce the effort, Shaddix also themed an eight-week evangelistic sermon series on “Find it Here.”

“Some of the coolest things have been the behind the scenes,” said Dennis Blythe, the church’s leadership pastor. “Some or our senior adults who aren’t going to be able to walk neighborhoods, they’re spending hours stuffing packets and doing everything they can.”

All activities were designed to culminate in Easter celebration services and follow-up efforts with those who respond — whether through the church directly, the “Find it Here” website or the national toll-free phone number.

“I want you to know,” Shaddix told his congregation March 28, “because of your effort we’ve had people already calling the switchboard…. Our prayer is that God would bring some of those folks here next Sunday, as well as to other churches, where they could share in the worship experience, be in the midst of God’s people and give their lives to Jesus Christ.”

Shaddix said that while his church has done media for special events and emphases in the past, the scale of the “Find it Here” campaign was different in its involvement of individuals through small groups. The church encourages its impact groups to be involved in missional activities, so it was a natural fit.

The Koinonia group of 16 single adults that met the morning of March 27 is a good example, having done some mission projects but nothing involving the entire class that touched the neighborhoods so directly. They quickly gathered in the church parking lot, prayed, then fanned out with their assignments.

“Some of those lofts cost like a half a million bucks, but half a block away will be an apartment complex with poor people. It’s very unusual,” said Tom Straley, who helped pick the neighborhood because he has been involved in personal evangelism efforts there with several other men in the church.

Koinonia leader Don Cook said he was excited about the “Find it Here” campaign when the pastor began sharing it with the church.

“What attracted me to it was that the infrastructure was already in place, and all they had to do was follow directions to go do that stuff,” Cook said.

Earlier that morning, another impact group quickly covered another assigned area about a mile away, in a more traditional city neighborhood of renovated bungalows.

Kathy Lopez and Debbie Skaggs covered their assigned homes quickly, praying for each family as they walked up the block. “Lord, we know that your Word never goes out void,” Skaggs said as she began praying for residents of each home. They had been there two weeks earlier to prayerwalk the area, but the extra prayer coverage seemed a natural part of the experience.

“There are so many people that are lost and don’t know the Lord,” Skaggs said, “and I figure God can use those packets so powerfully and in so many ways to bring people to know Him.”

Lopez’s husband Adrian, who delivered packets one block away, said the “Find it Here” theme has become his favorite approach for sharing Christ with others.

“When I see people hurting or just having a problem, I just ask them, ‘Would you like to find hope, purpose, peace and life?'” he said. “… And I share how it’s found at the foot of the cross.”
James Dotson is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more information on Southern Baptists’ “God’s Plan for Sharing: Across North America” initiative, visit www.gps2020.net or www.findithere.com. For more reports on what other churches are doing related to GPS, visit www.namb.net/gpsstories.

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  • James Dotson