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Walk Thru the Bible pilot project buoys smaller churches & ethnics

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–North American Mission Board officials hope a plan to bring a highly regarded Bible study seminar to Southern Baptist churches will spark increased evangelism and church planting. NAMB made its pitch in early August during meetings in Atlanta with state convention leaders to bring Walk Thru the Bible Ministries’ “Walk Thru the Old Testament” seminar to churches at a lower cost than the ministry’s typical fee of several thousand dollars.

Dave Clippard, associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and leader of the BGCO’s church outreach team, said NAMB officials approached him last winter about using Oklahoma as a proving ground for the program.

Walk Thru the Bible has since trained 15 Oklahoma-based instructors who have conducted the seminar in about 20 churches of 300 members or less and among three ethnic groups, Clippard said. The seminar has been well-received in Oklahoma because of its affordability and unusual presentation style, he said.

During the pilot program phase, the cost to these small- to medium-attendance churches was $350 for program and promotional materials, with a minimum participation of 30 people, and a commitment to distribute 1,000 brochures promoting the seminar. NAMB helped subsidize the pilot program in Oklahoma, said Richard Harris, NAMB vice president for church planting.

“We could not be more pleased” with the results, Harris said.

The cost to churches in state conventions that participate will vary depending on the plan adopted by that state, Harris said, although it will be less than the $2,000-$3,000 Walk Thru the Bible typically charges. The savings comes through greatly discounted training costs for state conventions from Walk Thru the Bible, as well as subsidized publicity materials and a standardized honorarium for trainers.

Where implemented, Walk Thru the Old Testament will target churches of all sizes, locations and ethnic groups, Harris noted.

NAMB’s purpose in partnering with Walk Thru the Bible — the ministry headed by “The Prayer of Jabez” author and Southern Baptist Bruce Wilkinson — is to foster church planting and evangelism by equipping laypeople with an easily understood “big picture” view of the Bible, Harris said. Using the five senses, hand signs, catch phrases, repetition and humor, participants should learn 77 key Old Testament people, places and events in chronological order from Genesis to Malachi and be able to recite them in three to four minutes.

Jack Clay, a Walk Thru the Old Testament instructor and member of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., said the event works because the “activity of the congregation, not just sitting there listening or taking notes, but participating, makes it work. Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open it up … it’s the same principle. It’s a visual aid-type thing that just sticks with you.”

Clay said modern churches often have failed to adequately teach an Old Testament overview building up to Christ’s coming. “In Acts 6:7 it says the Word of God spread and the number of disciples multiplied greatly,” he noted. “If we really want to see God move in our lives and our churches, we go to his Word.” Clay said there have been several conversions resulting from the three seminars he has taught, and a good response from people committing to daily Bible study.

Harris said the required promotion makes the seminar an effective evangelistic tool, as well as an equipping device for church members and a tool for launching new congregations. Last year, 59 percent of Southern Baptist church starts were ethnic congregations, Harris noted.

“One reason we think it has great potential for the smaller, and particularly the ethnic churches, is their love and respect for the Word of God and the really attractive teaching style used.”

In addition to English, Oklahoma instructors are available for Spanish- and Chinese-language churches. “The Hispanic churches were very enthusiastic … because so little is available to them,” said Frank Johnson, BGCO church planter and soon-to-be pastor of an Oklahoma City Hispanic congregation. “You think of the enthusiasm for this that we’ve seen among the traditional churches, and you could almost double that for the Hispanic churches.”

Ted Lam, BGCO language missions specialist, said the access ethnic churches will have to the seminar promotes understanding among ethnic congregations about the role of the convention in helping churches meet their mission.

“It was enticing to people out in the community,” said Shane Spannagel, BGCO smaller-in-attendance church evangelism specialist, about the distribution of brochures about the seminar in a neighborhood near his church, Cross Timbers, in Oklahoma City.

Encountering folks working in their yards or washing cars, “we’d tell them about learning 77 key people, places and events of the Old Testament and they’d say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Show me.’ I’d walk through some of the 77 hand signs and state the person, place or event. Their response was, ‘Wow.’ People were very curious about the process we were going to use to teach this stuff.”

Spannagel said the event is useful for renewing an interest in Bible study and learning, and often it can help a stagnant church regain vibrancy. “You just can’t go wrong when you get people going back to Scripture,” he said. “One thing we realize,” Harris said, “is that if there are already great resources in place, [Southern Baptists] don’t have to re-create everything. Walk Thru the Bible materials are second to none. “This seminar is of such high quality, it’s well packaged and extremely well-taught information about the Bible that people just latch on to it.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WALK THRU THE BIBLE BROCHURE.

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  • Jerry Pierce