Baptisms rise when strategies implemented
    July 12 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    North Carolina Baptist churches committed to more effective evangelistic efforts in their communities are finding help through the Intentionally Evangelistic Churches Strategy (IECS) created by Don McCutcheon, executive leader for evangelization at the Baptist State Convention.

    Pastors and church staff who have participated in IECS conferences recommend the experience to others. Universally, they say two of the strategy’s strengths are that it forces participants to evaluate their church’s current efforts and it offers a wealth of ideas from which to draw, without presenting cookie cutter solutions.

    Aaron Wallace, administrator and interim pastor at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, was an early adapter and participated in one of the first strategy conferences.

    “It was fantastic,” he said. Leaders exposed participants to many ideas from other churches, and “made you spend time at the end applying what you heard and coming up with a strategy for your church. “They asked, ‘What is your intention for what you learned?’”

    Wallace, chairman of the Baptist State Convention’s board of directors evangelization committee, said the most helpful element of the strategy for his church was assimilation. Staff realized they had “gobs of people” who were under watch care but who had not been moved along the path to full membership.

    Hephzibah restructured its process and found more effective ways to utilize Sunday School leaders and deacons in assimilation. “That was huge,” he said. “We’re much more streamlined now.”

    IECS also covers evangelistic outreach events and Hephzibah is both doing more of them, and making sure each is “truly evangelistic,” Wallace said. The church serves a holiday meal to the community and is preparing back-to-school backpacks laden with classroom essentials.

    Several came to Christ through a “free yard sale” the church sponsored, which drew 800 to the campus. Clients were given $100 in “funny money” to shop a gymnasium filled with clothes and practical goods donated by church and community members. Seventy church members circulated among the clients during the day, gathering contact information and sharing Christ.

    Earlier, the church likely would not have been so diligent about securing information for follow up, Wallace said.

    When McCutcheon asked participants what their baptism record was the previous two years, Wallace said Hephzibah staff was “shocked” to realize they had baptized just eight and 12.

    From the moment they finished the strategy sessions, they began to implement changes that have resulted in increases to 24 baptisms the following year, then 31 and 39 so far in 2010.

    “I recommend IECS without question,” Wallace said. “I think every church should go through it, if for no other reason than to evaluate the effectiveness of what they’re presently doing.”  

    First Baptist Church, Hendersonville experienced an even more dramatic increase following their staff participation in IECS. Pastor Ryan Pack said IECS is a good strategy because he left every session with practical ideas to implement at his church that emphasize baptisms and prioritize evangelism.

    Baptisms at First Baptist increased from 16 in 2008 to 78 in 2009, Pack said. They included outdoor baptisms at a lake and in a horse trough in front of the church’s new student center where community people driving around the church saw the activity.  (See videos at www.fbchncorg/videos.)

    Hendersonville elevated the importance of baptism in church life, said Pack, pastor since June 2008. “We made baptism public. People in the community … saw it happening. Students not connected with our church were able to see baptism for the first time and see it in a different setting.”

    Their weekly outreach strategy has become “Splash Night” and members see it as a great opportunity to share the gospel and to connect with other people in the community.

    They’ve become “really intentional in follow up after events,” Pack said. Like Hephzibah, they’ve also become very intentional in their assimilation process with prospects and new members.

    Hendersonville’s “Discover First” orientation starts with dinner and includes a complete gospel presentation, reinforcing the conviction “that those who consider joining have accepted Christ,” Pack said.

    Their orientation includes a workbook and teaching on evangelism, to equip new members to share the gospel.

    Attending IECS requires a three-day commitment, a length of time that may keep some from considering it. But Pack said, “There is no commitment too big for us to do a better job with the Great Commission.”

    “The way they teach it, the time flies,” he said. “You’d never know you’re  sitting in a workshop. It’s so practical and they give you time with your staff and the people you bring from your church to come up with ideas you can apply in your ministry setting.

    “Every single session you walked out of you carried ideas you can apply immediately.” 

    City of Hope
    Hendersonville is a large church, but Pack said IECS is taught in a way that “any church from 10 to 10,000” would benefit.

    Michael Moore, pastor of both City of Hope in Shelby, and Webb First Baptist in Ellenboro, said strategies he learned at IECS have helped increase baptisms at both churches.

    “We absolutely enjoyed” the training event, Moore said. He and the three church members who accompanied him learned to make baptism a big event in their church, and to have those who are being baptized invite friends and family to the event. Attendance doubles on days where there is a baptism, he said.

    City of Hope is a three-year-old church with 60-80 attending and it baptized 39 people last year. Webb First Baptist baptized a similar number.

    “We make baptism something people will always remember,” Moore said, including decorating with streamers and special lighting.

    Church members visit both prospects and new members on Monday and Wednesday.

    Moore is a church planter and said the IECS strategy “really did help us.”

    He thinks “everybody ought to go to that workshop” and said the three men he took with him from his church “absolutely loved it.”

    Related stories
    North Carolina baptisms surge 20% in 2009
    Research reveals value of event evangelism
    7/12/2010 9:32:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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