ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As I travel throughout North America, I am awed by the work God is doing in this vast mission field. He is at work in the hearts of those who know Him and those who have yet to know Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am often reminded of my own spiritual journey. I received Christ as a rebellious teenager sitting in a jail cell at age 17. Most of those who had the greatest influence on my decision to follow Christ were Southern Baptists, so I naturally wanted to attend church with them. I chose to be a Southern Baptist for three reasons:
— They believed the whole Bible. As Zig Zigler puts it, “Genesis to Maps.”
— The Cooperative Program. I wanted to be a part of the greatest mission sending enterprise in the world.
— The former Bold Mission Thrust missions initiative. I wanted to join a group of believers that had the audacity to set a goal to fulfill the Great Commission.
Once again, Southern Baptists have accepted the challenge to reach North America with the Gospel. God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) is very simply a dream — every believer sharing, every person hearing. To put it even more succinctly, GPS is the vision of fulfilling the Great Commission in North America by 2020. Just like the Bold Mission Thrust a generation ago, GPS is an audacious vision.
Over the last year it has been a thrill to watch pastors as they hear about “GPS: Across North America” for the first time. The response is overwhelming. They want to join other believers and churches in being a part of a God-sized vision.
The first step on this journey is called “Across North America.” The goal is to reach every home in the United States and Canada through prayerwalking, Gospel distribution, as well as an invitation to attend church on Easter Sunday. It’s the first of six, two-year campaigns that will carry GPS through 2020.
Across North America in 2010 consists of four simple components:
— A three-week targeted media saturation taking place March 20 through April 11 (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, etc).
— Participating churches prayerwalking their communities on the weekend of March 20.
— Participating churches on March 27 distributing clear bags containing a “Find It Here” Gospel drop-in piece and an invitation to Easter services to each home in their surrounding neighborhoods.
— Participating churches conducting a five-week follow-up process after Easter.
I’m often asked, “How can something so simple make such a big difference?” When you get God’s people to do God things, He shows up and makes a huge Kingdom difference.
A great example is a church that participated in one of four GPS pilot projects last spring. At the time they were running about 300 in Bible study. The pastor had lost his vision, and the church was in decline. Seventy-five members joined the pastor in prayerwalking the community. As they prayerwalked, God broke their hearts for their community and a new vision was born. Instead of just hanging the bags on the doors, the members engaged lost people in the community as God opened doors for conversation.
The vision didn’t stop there. Those who participated began to recognize opportunities to share the Gospel in their circles of influence. To make a long story short, they had their largest attendance in 10 years on Easter Sunday and baptized 19 people. When God’s people do God things, He shows up in amazing ways.
Imagine what would happen if 50,000 Southern Baptist churches and missions joined hands and hearts and moved “Across North America” together. We would touch every home in North America with the Gospel, millions would begin relationships with Christ, families would be restored and communities and churches would be transformed.
Mark recorded the Great Commission in Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” If we all worked together this coming Easter, the Great Commission just might be fulfilled in North America.
Author Tim Sanders captures the spirit of GPS: Across North America in his bestseller, “Saving the World at Work.” Sanders recalls the story of Steve, who heard Tim’s challenge, “If there are people in your life who are important to you, and you haven’t given them sufficient recognition in the last three months, shame on you. If you have reduced your relationships to e-mail threads, shame on you.”
Steve managed nine engineers and felt guilty about the lack of personal interaction he had with his reports. Though he worked in the same building, he rarely spoke to them face to face and hadn’t shared a word of encouragement with any of them since their last performance appraisal.
Steve made a commitment to change. He met with all nine of his engineers and shared a word of praise for something related to their job performance. He also encouraged them for something in their personal lives and then related to them how much he appreciated them as individuals.
Two days after Steve’s round of encouragement, Lenny entered Steve’s cubicle with a gift: an Xbox along with a video game. Steve was thrilled but wondered how Lenny could afford such a lavish gift. He was stunned when Lenny told him, “I sold my chrome-plated 9mm semiautomatic.” He continued, “I’ve worked here two years, and if I died, you would only find out from payroll…. That’s how disconnected I thought you were from me…. I don’t have a single friend in the company.”
Lenny said his only friend was the Internet, and it was there he found the “suicide chat rooms.” Lenny had started a three-month process of preparing himself to pull the trigger on the chrome-plated pistol.
“I was almost there…. Then the other day … you came into my cubicle,” Lenny whispered. “You told me, ‘Lenny, I’m glad you came into my life.'”
That very day, Lenny sold the gun and bought the Xbox. With tears streaming down his face he said, “Sir, in exchange for my life, my soul, this gift is for you.”
GPS: Across North America and the story of Steve and Lenny are alike. They call for urgency and simplicity. There are Lennys all around us. They are our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Their need is urgent and not complicated.
They quickly need a word of encouragement and the simple message of the Gospel. May God use GPS: Across North America to move Southern Baptists to live and share with urgency. This is the first step of what will be one of the most exciting journeys we as Southern Baptists will ever take.
Jerry Pipes is team leader for the North American Mission Board’s prayer and spiritual awakening team. To find out how you and your church can take part, visit gps2020.net.
Praying Across North America
You’re invited to pray for every heart and every mile of North America, focusing specifically on those who need a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here are some ways you can prepare:
1. Pray with insight. Be aware of where you are praying. What do you see along the way? Do you see children’s toys? Then pray for that family. Do you see a street lamp? Pray that people will discover the light of Christ and that believers will be a light to the world.
2. Pray with intentionality. While we should always be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit leads us to pray, March 20 is a day to intentionally pray for those who need a personal relationship with Christ. Begin now to pray specifically for those in your community who need to hear the Gospel.
3. Pray with the heart of an intercessor. An intercessor is someone who “stands in the gap” — a gap between one person and their need for God or for God to work in their life. As people prayerwalk, look for opportunities to pray with people for people’s needs.
4. Pray with information. Do you know who lives in your community? How many single parents are there? What kind of crime rate is in your community? What unreached people groups live in your town? Be open to learning about the “hidden” needs in your community.
5. Pray with inspiration. Prayerwalk with Scripture verses. Pray God’s promises.
6. Pray for the impossible and expect God to answer. Don’t limit God and His ability to answer prayer. Pray big. Pray for those who are lost with faith that God can redeem anyone. (Ephesians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:6)