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Invest and Invite: a successful strategy for reaching the lost

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (BP)–Personal evangelism is one of the most effective methods of sharing the Gospel with friends, family and strangers. According to an article written by Thom S. Rainer, author of “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them,” about two-thirds of new believers his research team interviewed said someone had shared with them personally how to become a Christian.

But what then is the next step? How do believers nurture new Christians to grow in their faith? What are the responsibilities of believers in following up those with whom they have shared the Gospel? Some good examples of sincere follow-up can be seen in the evangelism ministry of First Baptist Church of Colleyville, Texas, and one of its members, Ron Cogburn.

Frank Harber, pastor of the Colleyville church and former evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, recounted his church’s strategy for encouraging members to have a lifestyle of involvement in the lives of others, called “I2,” which stands for “Invest and Invite.” Members are challenged weekly to invest themselves in relationships with the lost and then invite them to church.

First Baptist Colleyville has quadrupled in size in the last two years, from 400 to 1,800 members, and from a budget of $1.2 million to $4.1 million.

“We tailor everything in our church for our people to come and bring people. That’s why our church has grown so fast,” Harber said. “The church is the New Testament strategy to reach people on this planet. So the church has to be involved in the mindset to do this.”

Regardless of the sermon topic, Harber presents the Gospel in every message. “People receive Christ every single week. Our people know that our church is a place that they are going to hear the Gospel,” he said. “We’ve created a climate where people know how to bring their friends.” Events and programs that are good entry points for new people into the church are noted in the church bulletin with the “I2” logo.

Inviting people to church is a powerful but sometimes overlooked method of follow-up, Harber said. But what about those outside our daily reach — those who respond to the Gospel through mission trips, business trips, or others with whom we are not likely to have regular contact?

Ron Cogburn, chairman of the deacons at First Colleyville and president of a Dallas consulting firm, has many times witnessed to people he is not likely to see again until Christ returns. On a business trip to Saipan, Cogburn shared the Gospel daily, with passengers he sat next to on airplanes, hotel employees and others he met along the way.

As people responded to the Good News of Christ, Ron sent home e-mails requesting tools to help them understand their new relationship with God, such as Filipino Bibles and a book called “Going Forward with Jesus Christ.” Cogburn also requested prayer for each person he had witnessed to and for those who had become new brothers and sisters in Christ through his witness.

One of Cogburn’s friends, Kyle Mabry, said of the e-mail reports, “I don’t want to over-dramatize this, but you almost felt like you were reading one of Paul’s letters. ‘Send this person one of these. Provide this person a copy of this.'”

While in Saipan, he also visited with a Baptist missionary, Bob Berkley, who made contact with the new converts and invited them to attend church services there.

Closer to home, Cogburn became aware of some impoverished Hispanic neighborhoods in Grapevine, not too far from his church — people not likely to enter the doors of First Baptist Colleyville. Upon discovering their plight and the fact that no church was doing significant ministry there, Cogburn inspired church leaders to organize an annual December event called Mission Colleyville.

The church advertised through fliers that they would send buses to pick up anyone who wanted to attend the event to receive a meal, free groceries and toys donated by church members. More than 1,000 people attended, and more than 200 responded to the Gospel that night.

FBC still visits that neighborhood regularly, offering assistance for physical needs and sharing the Gospel.

“Mission Colleyville has really jumpstarted a move of God in the Hispanic community,” Cogburn said. Since then, a church has been established in the neighborhood. Cogburn said FBC also works closely with GRACE, a local charity organization, to continue meeting needs in that area.

Harber acknowledged that follow-up may not always be possible, but that should not stop people from spreading the Gospel. He looks to the parable of the sower for his evangelism philosophy. “Evangelism is really sowing. Only one in four in the parable are responding in the different soils,” he said. “But the sower was maniacal about spreading the seed, which was the Gospel. Some people will only witness to people they think will respond. We should throw it out everywhere. We don’t know what’s going to happen. If we sow and faint not, we will reap.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOOK FOR THE LOGO and INFECTIOUS PASSION.

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  • Kay Adkins