Brady on mission to halt church decline
    October 23 2008 by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder

    GIBSONVILLE — Vernon Brady spends almost every waking moment thinking and praying about convincing more church leaders to help stop the decline in church attendance across America.

    His primary concern is the decline in baptisms and membership in Southern Baptist Convention churches but “our plan will work in any church,” he said.

    About 200 churches have agreed to engage in My Friendship Connection, the evangelistic tool he is pushing to encourage members to invite as many people as possible to church for Friendship Day Nov. 2 or Nov. 9. Some will have the day in December.

    “We call it ‘Mobilizing Your Church for a Great Day of Outreach,’” he said.

    On days when a church leader chooses not to engage the outreach program Brady just keeps knocking.

    His passion for  My Friendship Connection began at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, just a few miles up the road from Gibsonville where he and his wife operate a bed and breakfast.

    Convention President Bobby Welch challenged Baptists to stop the downward spiral and to baptize one million people in a year.

    “I’ll do it,” Brady declared silently amidst thousands of people, even though he had no specific plan.

    “I remember that sermon like it was yesterday,” Brady said. “God pricked my heart that night. I e-mailed (Welch) the next morning and told him I wanted to do something to help our churches.

    “Seeing churches growing and people coming to know Christ as Savior is what I want to see,” he said. “We must stop the decline of our churches, and we can if we work together. Most Southern Baptists are unaware that 80 percent of our churches are in decline and that we had 64,237 fewer baptisms last year than in 1959.”

    He consulted with longtime mentor Elmer Towns, co-founder of Liberty University, to design an easy-to-follow strategy that will “work in all churches, even those with less than 100 in attendance with no support staff.”

    Together they wrote My Friendship Connection,  an updated rewrite of the original “Friend Day.”

    The work is a series of sermons, Sunday School lessons and devotions dovetailed to lead church members to a single focus of reaching for Christ someone they already know. This includes detailed instruction on preparation, implementation and follow-up.

    Also lending support are nationally prominent pastors like SBC President Johnny Hunt, former SBC President Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., Welch, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., and Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.

    “I am thrilled that Vernon Brady gave me an opportunity to participate in putting together this material,” Hunt said. “I think God will use it in a mighty way in putting evangelism back on the front burner in your church.”

    Brady is confident My Friendship Connection this will work. It was tested in November 2007 with 42 North Carolina and Virginia churches. “We tested all types and sizes,” he said. “Small churches and large churches. Young churches, old churches, small churches averaging 20, large churches with over 12,000, and everything in between.”

    Even with contemporary and traditional worship in the mix, the only thing that mattered was that members invited their unchurched friends. “Their friends came,” Brady said. “They preached Jesus and lives were changed.”

    The 21 churches that reported showed they normally averaged 14,687 worshipers. They reported 19,710 on “My Friendship Connection Day,” meaning they had 5,023 visitors, Brady said, or 25 percent of their attendance that day.

    One pastor said his church averages 175 in attendance and had 294 attending on “My Friendship Connection Day,” including 11 additions to the church. At Brady’s home church, Green Street Baptist in High Point, more than 20 people received Christ as Savior that day.

    Brady said his heart’s desire is to see a single Sunday when churches across North America come together with a single focus of reaching their communities for Christ. He pointed out great accomplishments by focused people, such as filling 11.3 million shoeboxes for children abroad or helping people during disasters.

    “Can you imagine the results of all of (the convention) coming together on one day with one purpose?” he said.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Burchette, a retired writer/editor at the Greensboro News & Record, can be contacted at bburchette@triad.rr.com.)

    10/23/2008 5:46:00 AM by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder | with 2 comments
    Filed under: My Friendship Connection, SBC, Vernon Brady




Comments
Vernon Brady
I regret that you have had bad experiences. Based on info from Thom Rainer, right now our churches are the most isolated from the unchurched we have ever been in history and yet the unchurched are the most receptive to the gospel that they have been in history. There are approximately 100 million unchurched in North America and 67% say they have never been to church because they have never invited. There are some churches that may not be able to receive help. That is sad. However, I believe the vast majority are just stuck and need a little help. On Sunday, November 2, approximately 200 churches will experience great numbers of unchurched coming to hear a gospel message because they followed a simple 4 week strategy of praying for, inviting and then compelling friends to come. At that moment God will do what only He can do and lives will be changed! But it is not just the day. We give proven, detailed instruction of how to follow up and connect these people to the church.

Today I received this report, which is just one of many,
Our excitement has continued to build over the month of Oct. Our staff, deacons and S.S. teachers have all stepped up and led our church in this campaign. Most of our congregation brought their cards this past Sunday. To date we have invited 96 families and / or individuals. Our average S.S. attendance is about 150. So we are expecting 300-400 this next Sunday.

We have parking attendents, greeters, etc. lined up for our guests. We are praying for a great day... We have prayed for "an outpouring of God's grace and a genuine transformation of lives." Help us pray this for our church and for those who attend.

Our follow-up team is ready also... I'll send in a report on Monday.

I've also told several other pastors in the area and hopefully they will use this next year.

Dennis Singletary
New Hinson Baptist church.... Slocomb, Alabama

Reports like that get me excited! Vernon
10/27/2008 9:13:01 PM

Mark Kappa
I totally agree with the program, the plan, and the purpose. I don't want to be the "Cold Water Committee" but the reason people aren't attending Baptist Churches anymore is because they have been before. It's easy to get your friends to come and it's great when we see God change lives, but let them stay for a while and begin to get involved and it won't be long before some well meaning Baptist hurts their feelings and sends them home with their tail tucked between their legs never to return again. We've been through 40 days of purpose, 40 days of prayer, 40 days of Renewal and yes there are some short term attendance increases but it always returns to 40 days of discouragement. I live in a small town in NC where I have ask many people where they attend church and they look at you as if you have two heads. The stories people will tell you about how they have been treated by "CHURCH PEOPLE" WILL BREAK YOUR HEART!! The sad thing is it's not just one church or one group of people it's almost all of them. There was one black woman came to my church looking for a church to bring her daughter to learn about Jesus and was one Sunday away from joining and was never seen again. She was told by a Baptist church in the town where she lives that "she was the wrong color to come there, and the same thing happened at my Baptist church. This was not in 1950 but in 2006. Our problems run so deep in our existing churches, most of them have allowed problems to be swept under the carpet for decades instead of dealing with them correctly. I have watched here in my community as Pastor after Pastor is run off for trying to "DO GOD'S WILL" and the new church members are discouraged from doing new and great things because "that's not the way we've always done it around here" We have got to fix our churches before we can begin inviting our friends!! I wish I knew what it was going to take to be able to evangelize my community but I don't know where there is a church I could invite them to and know they wouldn't be run off within a yesr or two.
10/23/2008 2:37:17 PM

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