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SPLASH people with God’s love

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The joy of a baby in the bathtub, happily splashing water on everyone within range, inspired a new approach to helping Christians share their faith.

“SPLASH” — Show People Love And Share Him — is a six-week study of the life and ministry of Jesus that focuses on how Christ helped people experience God’s love in the ordinary circumstances of everyday life, explained Ken Hemphill, coauthor, with his wife Paula, of the material.

“I never really intended to write the book,” said Hemphill, national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative. “I was bathing my grandbaby one day and, by the time I finished, I was wetter than she was. I walked away from that event and the Holy Spirit stopped me and said, ‘That’s what evangelism ought to look like. You get around Christians who love Me, then you get splashed with living water.'”

Published in December 2007, the material is in its third printing. Leaders of a Southern Baptist association in southwest Missouri believe SPLASH has the potential to mobilize the vast majority of church members who currently don’t talk to their friends, neighbors and co-workers about Jesus.

“This is a huge need for us,” said Jim Wells, director of missions for the Tri-County Baptist Association in Nixa, Mo. “It’s really caught on and our people have caught a vision for what it can mean.”

Wells invited Hemphill to conduct a SPLASH training for 64 congregations in the association after a strategic planning process with the North American Mission Board found Tri-County pastors believed evangelism was the No. 1 need in their churches. A Sunday night rally this past November drew 360 pastors and church members.

“It was a great success,” said Wells, who also serves as the Southern Baptist Convention’s registration secretary. “It’s the biggest thing we have ever done in our association’s 30-year history. Right after the event, I began hearing about churches already starting the process.”

The SPLASH concept is “a simple, natural process for living out the Kingdom life of impacting people in your SPLASH zones — circles of influence — with the Living Water,” said Kenneth Priest, an associate in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s church ministries department. “The focus is to be prepared to simply share your story of life in Christ with the people around you.”

SPLASH isn’t intended to replace more structured evangelism approaches like FAITH and Evangelism Explosion, Hemphill said. FAITH and Evangelism Explosion are more intensive approaches to training Christians to share their faith, involving significant amounts of study, Scripture and illustration memorization and supervised “on-the-job” training.

“In the Book of Acts, we see two different approaches to evangelism,” Hemphill said. “One is strategic, where they went from house to house, and the other is spontaneous, as they took advantage of every occasion. I suggest that the church needs both.

“I tell people they can use strategic approaches, month after month, year after year, and there’s still going to be a certain percentage of your people who will not get involved,” Hemphill added. “This is trying to get that other 95 percent engaged in a means of reaching their neighbor, their colleague at work, their boss.”

Contrasted with strategic approaches like FAITH, SPLASH encourages Christians to be a lot more spontaneous, Hemphill said.

“For example, let’s say I’m on a treadmill today, working out, and the guy beside me says, ‘Man, this stock market has really got me worried,'” Hemphill said. “Instead of ignoring that, you might want to say something like, ‘Well, you know, honestly I’ve looked at that myself and wondered whether I’m going to be able to retire anytime soon, but you know the other day when I was in my quiet time, the Lord brought to my mind the Bible verse that says, ‘Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and supplication ….’ and it really made a difference.'”

While many Christians talk readily about Jesus in their “holy huddles,” they don’t often mention Him in conversations with unsaved friends, Hemphill said.

“The whole concept is to start talking to our neighbors about Jesus as if He were your best friend,” Hemphill said. “That’s just natural. It’s not something artificial I have to dredge up. It’s just that my response to virtually anything is Jesus. The key is to keep telling your daily story, what God is doing in your life today, to unsaved friends in the power of the Holy Spirit, and link it to the Word of God.”

“I am pumped about SPLASH,” said Mark Zimmerman, pastor of Ozark Highlands Church in Ozark, Mo. “I saw this and said, Wow, I can take this ball and run with it! It’s really going to be very effective.”

Zimmerman’s congregation scheduled the SPLASH training to follow a lay-led study on the life of Jesus, the pastor said.

“We’ve told the folks that 2009 is the year of evangelism and discipleship — not just for one year but for establishing how we do it,” Zimmerman said. “Ultimately this is going to inspire people to seek to follow Jesus closer and then they’ll be discovering God in their own current reality and those Scripture verses that help them get through, that they hear in church or in Bible study.

“I really believe we ultimately will see people making a difference for the sake of the Kingdom, not for the sake of the church’s growth.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. For more information about SPLASH, visit splashinfo.com.

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  • Mark Kelly