ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Following 2010’s inaugural success of GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing), GPS 2012 will focus on evangelism events aimed at helping Southern Baptists share the Gospel across North America in the days leading up to next Easter and beyond.
In 2010, thousands of Southern Baptists trekked door-to-door in American neighborhoods, placing door-hangers, Gospel tracts and invitations to attend church on front doors. In 2012, GPS’ “attractional evangelism” will include block parties, wild game dinners, sports clinics, antique car shows, skate-a-thons, golf tournaments and other events, said Thomas Hammond, the North American Mission Board’s evangelism team leader for the biennial GPS initiative.
GPS 2012 is aiming for churches to participating “at a high level,” Hammond said. “If the local churches get behind it, we’ll have a much greater level of success. Just a billboard here or there isn’t enough. Churches must support it and follow up.”
With a theme of “Hope: Find It Here,” GPS 2012 will utilize more Internet social media — like Facebook and Google Ads — along with “drive-time” radio spots, but less TV advertising, although some TV ads will run in dozens of markets across the United States. A half-dozen 30-second TV spots in English and Spanish already have been produced.
The external GPS website — Findithere.com — will include personal testimonies, Gospel presentations, tips on how to find a Southern Baptist Convention church and answers to spiritual questions. An internal GPS website — GPS2020.net — will offer tips to pastors and church members. A toll-free phone number—1-888-JESUS2012 (537-8720) also will be available.
In total, NAMB will make more than $1 million available for GPS 2012 for media buys, roughly $18,000 to $20,000 per state convention, Hammond said. The mission board is budgeting an overall $15 million for GPS campaigns every two years through 2020.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell said GPS 2012 will have his, the NAMB staff’s and NAMB trustees’ 100 percent support and commitment of financial and personnel resources.
Affirming GPS as dovetailing with NAMB’s new Send North America evangelistic church planting strategy, Ezell said, “GPS will incorporate our church planting focus in at least two ways. State conventions, associations and local churches can use GPS to go into an area that needs a church and use it to sow seeds for a new church plant to come. Second, GPS will be a great tool for existing church plants to use to evangelize their communities.”
Hammond recommends that state conventions and associations customize their GPS campaigns to fit their local culture.
“One size does not fit all,” Hammond said. “What works in Alabama will not necessarily work in New York. States must customize and do new and innovative things.
“The whole purpose of our current training is to walk a church through the process of seeing their community with fresh, evangelistic eyes,” he said. “We want to remind them of the things they used to do or use the things they do anyway and make these things more evangelistic, such as Vacation Bible School or fall festivals.”
No one is a bigger believer in using GPS for intentional evangelism than Sammy Gilbreath, state director of evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions in Montgomery.
“GPS 2010 was great for us in Alabama,” Gilbreath said. “Two Saturdays prior to Easter Sunday, we actually put a plastic bag with a Gospel witness on the doors of 989,000 Alabama homes. It gave our churches such a shot in the arm, especially those who were out in the community for the first time. All of a sudden, our churches said, ‘We can do this and reach people we haven’t reached.’ And 2010 gave us a good bump toward 2012.”
Gilbreath and his staff have set up 12 districts in Alabama and are inviting pastors and key laypeople in a district to attend a two-hour GPS clinic to learn about downloadable GPS resources, a free mapping service for a church’s immediate area and available deals for three-for-one billboard advertising across Alabama.
“We have also put together a task force for every attractional event we can think of,” Gilbreath said. The task force is made up of experts with practical experience in doing a particular event.
For 2012, Gilbreath and his team are visiting every association and asking local churches to commit to do four attractional events during the year.
“Churches already do some of these, such as revivals, Vacation Bible Schools and fall festivals. So they only have to commit to do one more. They also have to commit to make the four events intentionally evangelistic.”
Gilbreath believes the use of attractional events in 2012 will be even bigger than the successes of door-to-door evangelism in 2010 because such events give churches and pastors the opportunity to train their people on how to share their faith.
“Our office just does the planning and preparation and then we become cheerleaders. The churches have to make it happen,” Gilbreath said. “GPS keeps us focused on planning for evangelism and prevents us from falling into a lull.
“Our goal,” he said, reflecting GPS’ long-term impact, “is to present the Gospel to every person in Alabama by 2020.”
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.