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GPS momentum builds across U.S., Canada

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Like many Southern Baptist congregations, Calvary Baptist Church has been involved in outreach efforts in the past. But this spring will see the congregation join others in its Baptist association touching the community in a way never attempted.

Known nationally as God’s Plan for Sharing: Across North America, the effort is designed to touch every household with the Gospel in anticipation of Easter Sunday services, April 4.

“In our county we’ve got 42,000 homes that we are attempting to touch,” said David Gifford, pastor of Calvary Baptist in Bowling Green, located in southwestern Kentucky. “Our church couldn’t do that by themselves … but when we break this up and we see the body of Christ working together, man it’s exciting to be on board with that.”

That’s the idea behind Across North America and the multi-year God’s Plan for Sharing, an initiative facilitated by the North American Mission Board with the participation of state and associational Baptist leaders. By linking evangelism efforts across national, state and associational levels, churches are able to plug into the larger cause and accomplish things that would have been difficult otherwise.

In all, state conventions have ordered or produced 17 million pieces of literature to be placed on each door in neighborhoods throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, NAMB has coordinated the purchase of more than 25,000 television ads, more than 7,000 radio spots and additional exposure through newspaper ads, billboards, yard signs and banners.

NAMB produced the ads and sent $1.2 million to state convention partners for the purchase of airtime and print space. State partners have contributed more than a half-million dollars to the purchases, bringing the total media buy to more than $1.7 million.

Advertising will direct people to a website, www.findithere.com, where they can view a Gospel presentation and a phone number, 1-888-JESUS20 (1-888-537-8720), to interact with a spiritual encourager.

In Kentucky, evangelism leader Ross Bauscher said he and his staff became excited about the possibilities of God’s Plan for Sharing in early summer 2008. By December, the Kentucky Baptist Convention voted to proceed full steam ahead. The result: Detailed plans are now in place to touch up to 1 million homes with prayerwalking and packets that include a Gospel tract and church literature.


Southern Baptist churches across 43 state conventions will begin in March to prayerwalk and canvas their communities in the weeks leading up to Easter. Through such saturation, boosted by the media outreach strategies, the churches, their Baptist associations and state conventions will reach millions of homes, sharing the Gospel and inviting people to Easter services.

Each region has adapted GPS to its own strategy and context. A church in Alaska, for example, will do outreach differently than in more temperate climes.

“In 10 degrees and 25 mph winds, prayerwalking is more like prayer driving,” said pastor Bruce Rowell of First Baptist Church in Palmer, a suburb of Anchorage, one of the state’s few urban areas. In the surrounding Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley, GPS may look a little different than it does in the lower 48. Hanging bags on doors or mailboxes, for example, becomes problematic, as most people have to drive to the post office to pick up mail. So churches in the Mat-Su Valley benefit from the flexibility of the GPS strategy, adapting GPS resources toward meeting their unique challenges.

“This is exactly what we needed,” Rowell said, underscoring how a common effort such as GPS can unify and mobilize churches in an area as frozen and spread out as Alaska.

First Baptist was able to partner with 10 churches situated along easily driven highways in the Mat-Su Valley Baptist Association, which covers more than 600 miles, encompassing some churches accessible only by plane. Building momentum through various pre-Easter events, the 10 churches will rally at First Baptist in anticipation of what God will do in their region.

Southern Baptist churches in Alaska plan to distribute more than 40,000 pieces of God’s Plan for Sharing materials. People who respond to literature and media spots will be directed to websites, telephone numbers and eventually a contact at a local church, and they’ll hear Gospel presentations all along the way.

Rowell said he’s anticipating a harvest on Easter Sunday. “We hope to double our attendance that day through our outreach,” the pastor said. “And each person there gets their own EvangeCube. We ordered around 400.”


Flashback to early last spring in a Philadelphia neighborhood where Christian Cesar, pastor of Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church, showed up about 9 a.m. to coffee, pastries and more than a dozen church members sorting literature-filled bags into piles of 20. This was part of a pilot phase of the GPS initiative in 2009.

Within the next hour, church members were halfway through the task of visiting every home in the neighborhood with GPS materials and information about their congregation.

“Over the past year we’ve seen our community brighten,” Cesar said. “Not as many drugs, not as much darkness and more people look to our church as a haven.”

Situated near major intersections in a low-income area, Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church sits in a strategic location for building its community. Following last year’s initial outreach, contact and communication have increased between church and its community.

At least three people accepted Christ during the initial outreach. Many residents showed up to the majority-Haitian congregation on Easter Sunday and many continue to attend.

An invitation like the ones being extended via GPS/Across North America can lead to life change among people not normally interested in church.

Gary Taylor, state director of missions for the Missouri Baptist Convention, noted, “We are told that 80 percent of unchurched people in America would be open to attending church on Easter Sunday if they were invited.

“This is so huge for the state of Missouri and little towns where people are going to share and saturate their towns with the Gospel,” Taylor said.

Missouri churches ordered 750,000 GPS pieces, and merely talking about it to their congregations has given pastors a chance to lead people to Christ.

“A 70-year-old man came up after a service saying he needed what the pastor was talking about. Another church shared a similar story,” Taylor reported. “It excites me to no end. We’re already seeing fruit and we haven’t even distributed the first piece!”

More than 40 Baptist associations in Missouri, encompassing some 1,000 churches, are participating. Television and radio ads are hitting the major hubs of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, with ads playing during the Final Four basketball tournament, “The Bachelor” and “Oprah.” Churches in Jefferson City, meanwhile, have prayerwalked their communities.

Churches on the West Coast, meanwhile, hope to gain similar traction.

The California Southern Baptist Convention has ordered 1.5 million pieces covering English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese people groups. To illustrate how simple it is, Mark Beigle, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Moreno Valley, Calif., had a door set up near his pulpit on a Sunday morning. He took a bag, hung it on the doorknob and said, “There. You’ve been trained.”

The California convention also will broadcast Find It Here advertisements more than 3,000 times through local television stations. The 42 other state conventions will use, in addition to television spots, billboard ads, radio spots and yard signs to send people in their communities to online or telephone-based opportunities for Gospel presentations.


GPS is a long-term strategy rolling out over the course of 10 years with the goal of every believer sharing, every person hearing by the year 2020.

“We are experiencing unprecedented cooperation from our state partners, associations and churches,” said Jerry Pipes, GPS coordinator for the North American Mission Board. “We see this as a long-term effort, but we are sprinting right from the start with Southern Baptists excited to be a part of something that could dramatically influence life in North America.”

The first step in the initiative, Across North America, is the first of six two-year campaigns that will carry GPS through 2020. This first leg of the vision is to saturate localities with the Gospel message through four primary strategies:

— A three-week targeted media saturation taking place March 20 – April 11 (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, etc).

— Prayerwalking in communities on the weekend of March 20.

— Churches distributing clear plastic bags March 27 containing a Find It Here Gospel drop-in piece and an invitation to Easter services to each home in their surrounding neighborhoods.

— Churches conducting a five-week follow-up process after Easter.

“It’s been the best buy-in from our associations and churches of any evangelistic effort we’ve undertaken,” said Sammy Gilbreath, director of evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions. “From small and large rural churches to inner-city churches, it’s the best received of anything like this we’ve ever done.”
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. James Dotson also contributed to this report. To find out more about Across North America, visit www.gps2020.net. Share your GPS story or video at www.namb.net/gpsstories.

    About the Author

  • Adam Miller