LUBBOCK, Texas (BP)–Excitement mounted as Baptists, young and old, sought to invite fellow residents to Easter services in Lubbock, Texas, to hear the Gospel.
Their invitations were part of a Southern Baptist vision for sharing the Gospel with everyone in North America by the year 2020 — the scope of the North American Mission Board-facilitated “GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing.”
“It should be called ‘God’s People Sharing,'” quipped Brenda Bourgeois, director of children’s ministries at Redbud Baptist Church and team leader for promoting missions opportunities with the Lubbock Area Baptist Association. About two-thirds of association’s churches were committed to the outreach, Bourgeois noted.
In her own church, Bourgeois told of being hard pressed to keep up with the Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action teams she took out on April 1 — a Wednesday night — to canvass the neighborhood around their church. In one hour, the 26 first- through sixth-graders hung promotional materials on the doors of 400 homes.
With Easter as the culminating event, NAMB’s goal for the GPS pilot program was for households in six cities across the nation to receive a flier with the plan of salvation and an invitation to attend a Southern Baptist church in their zip code.
Thousands of homes were touched as a result of the Lubbock outreach. The program also was piloted in Georgia, California, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, resulting in a number of new visits to local congregations.
The local church efforts were paired with a citywide ad campaign produced by NAMB that included radio commercials, television spots and newspaper ads sending people to FindItHere.com where they could access a Gospel presentation.
Ed Sena, director of church services and plants for the Lubbock association, said 77 of its 106 churches signed on to participate in the project. Although some of the larger churches already had Easter-week commitments, Sena said the majority readily agreed to participate.
Pastor Randy Bartley of Slide Baptist Church, a congregation that averages 28 in Sunday School, reported eight church members distributed 1,400 invitations on April 4 in their zip code of 16,000 homes.
Four churches in the Slide Baptist zip code planned to coordinate efforts to complete the canvassing before Easter.
Prior to the canvassing, each participating church hosted a prayer walk — or, in the case of Slide Baptist Church, a prayer drive — to cover their neighborhoods before the distribution of the plan of salvation and Easter invitations. In order to cover a 20-mile area, Bartley said Slide Baptist members drove instead of walked.
The RAs and GAs of Redbud Baptist Church, in prayer-walking their neighborhood, took the task seriously. But on the day of distribution, Bourgeois recalled with a laugh, “They were so funny. They were fighting over whose house they were going to do next.”
Also among the 77 Red Bud members who helped out: 94-year-old Lois Langley who, with the aid of a walker, distributed GPS bags to the homes on her block.
“She’s just amazing,” Bourgeois said of the retired IMB missionary to China.
Shon Wagner, pastor of Redbud Baptist, said it was just “crazy” how readily his congregation bought into the idea of inviting all of Lubbock to church for Easter. During the course of the prayer-walk, Wagner said he was struck by the number of households surrounding his church and the sobering realization of how few are associated with a church of any kind.
Bartley, at Slide Baptist Church, had a similar eye-opening experience. He said he hoped, at the very least, that recipients would consider going to church Easter Sunday even if it’s not the church he leads.
Sena said the association has had a “Kingdom mentality,” with no church having been territorial. All were simply working enthusiastically to invite the city of Lubbock to celebrate Easter in a Southern Baptist church.
The bags, provided by NAMB, contained the plan of salvation, with each church then adding about their location, service times, ministries and, in at least one case, an invitation to Vacation Bible School this summer. Some packets had as many as 10 church fliers included with the evangelistic brochure.
Bourgeois was thrilled to receive a call about VBS at Redbud Baptist just an hour after returning to the church after canvassing.
“We have been getting almost instant feedback,” she said. “God has blessed the entire associational effort.”
Sena said participating churches are now being surveyed for feedback about the project. What worked and what did not work will be considered and forwarded to NAMB representatives who will use the information before launching the evangelistic initiative throughout North America next year.
“We are receiving e-mails daily from our pastors,” Sena said. “All in all, it’s been a home run. We’ve developed unity of spirit and unity of mind in our efforts.”
Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.