By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WOODWORTH – Louisiana Baptists are being asked to commit to a massive two-year evangelism initiative that could be the largest joint effort ever by the denomination to share the Gospel.
WIN THE STATE
During the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board’s spring meeting at Tall Timbers Conference Center, state leaders announced a Harvest Initiative whose end goal is involve at least 700 churches to pray for and share Christ with every household in Louisiana.
“The spiritual impact could be enormous,” said Wayne Jenkins, evangelism and church growth director for Louisiana Baptists. “It could be the thing God could use for a genuine awakening in the life of our state.
“If 700 churches would get involved, it would create a greater concern for the lost, create a greater impact in our local churches for wining people for Christ and better discipleship, and create a greater excitement in the life of the church. What would it be like if we could say at the end of 2018 we have prayed for and shared with every dwelling place in Louisiana the Gospel? The thought of what could happen is exciting.”
PILOT & PREPARE
After spending 2016 planning and enlisting leaders and churches, and using 2017 to conduct statewide evangelism training and piloting different initiatives, Louisiana Baptists will join together across the state in 2018 to reach the lost via door-to-door outreach and mass evangelism events.
“From the inception, pastors and church staff, associational DOMs and staff and convention staff worked together to develop the idea,” said Keith Manuel, evangelism associate for Louisiana Baptists. “This is a true partnership in that all areas of Louisiana Baptists’ work influenced the strategy, starting with the first meeting and continuing to this day.”
Churches will pray for every home and share the Gospel with every person, and the effort will include multiple approaches, including one-on-one evangelism, multi-church crusades, single-church revivals and other harvest events which take advantage of compassion ministries to share about the love of Christ.
“That may seem impossible but there are ways they have come up that we can definitely do that as Louisiana Baptists,” Jenkins said.
This Harvest Initiative is an outgrowth of the 2020 initiative, affirmed by messengers during the 2014 Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, which seeks to reach every generation and every people group in Louisiana with the Gospel by the year 2020. Among the 10 action steps in the 2020 initiative is to equip churches with a proven evangelistic growth process, which the Harvest Initiative seeks to accomplish.
Planning for the Harvest Initiative begin late 2015, after Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins announced 2017 and 2018 would be years of harvest. A group of 12 Louisiana Baptist pastors, evangelists, directors of missions and state evangelism and church growth staff met together for the early planning and that number soon expanded to 90.
Nine teams are meeting to discuss ideas that will be included in an evangelism manual that will include ideas on how to share the Gospel and coordinate a harvest event. Teams include the areas of prayer, harvest events, post-event follow-up and sermon ideas.
This fall, an effort will take place to begin enlisting the 700 churches.
Jenkins hopes all Louisiana Baptists will begin praying now for what role they might play during the Harvest Initiative.
“If we are going to impact the state, we will need 700 churches,” Jenkins said. “If the goal is to pray for every single dwelling place and share with every single person the Gospel, we need as many as we can.
Pray for the development that we might truly know the mind of Christ. And pray for the enlistment of churches.”
DISASTER RELIEF UPDATE
Soon after record rainfall flooded areas of the state in mid-March, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams responded – completing 2,230 jobs, serving 69,730 meals, donating $27,544 and even leading 50 people to a decision to follow Christ.
LBC Disaster Relief Director Gibbie McMillan shared in his report, how work is winding down in the state with teams staying in North Monroe until May 13, completing some mud-out jobs in the Bastrop-Morehouse area as well as in Haughton.
Further south, a disaster relief team from Illinois plans to return to Leesville on May 20 to work at a site where one of their own members, Don Fulkerson, died from a heart attack on March 29. His widow, Margie, is returning to work as well.
McMillan said Fulkerson’s widow and the rest of the team are returning because of the generosity and kindness shown by Louisiana Baptists. The LBC offered to pay for the embalming and flying of Fulkerson’s body back to Illinois; however, Illinois had insurance to cover these expenses, so the LBC will use the same amount of money to assist in the rebuild of the home.
“I am proud to be a part of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention,” McMillan said. “I hope you are a part of making a difference in building the kingdom for the Lord.”
CHURCH PLANTS THRIVE
For his part, John Hebert told board members that since 2010, 136 new churches – including 27 in New Orleans alone – have been planted in the state. If that pace continues, the goal set forth in the 2020 report of planting 300 churches by 2020 should be met, said Hebert, missions and ministry director for Louisiana Baptists.
Of the churches planted, 60 percent are non-Anglo, which falls in line with another goal of the 2020 report of having a church for all nationalities.
Hebert thanked the board and Louisiana Baptists for investing resources in starting new churches across the state.
“Praise the Lord because these dollars are spent starting churches where there is no witness for the kingdom,” Hebert said. “These churches are started in places where people are hearing about Jesus, coming to Christ. We are approaching the 10,000 professions of faith mark in our church plants since implementing the 10-3-1 associational strategy in 2010. God is richly blessing and he is blessing because our convention has had the foresight and connected to the vision of God to reach people in Louisiana.”
HERE FOR YOU
During his report, Louisiana Baptists communications director John Kyle updated board members on Louisiana Baptists multi-media outreach strategy, “Here for You” (formerly called Highways & Hedges).
The strategy, launched in response to KAIROS 6, the sixth goal of 10 goals outlined in the 2020 Initiative, made its debut in the second half of 2014 in southwest Louisiana. Estimates show that during the six-month pilot, about 90 percent of the 45,000 – 50,000 young mothers in the area were engaged at least 25 times through the commercials which aired on broadcast and satellite television outlets, Kyle said. The second pilot began its run in northeast Louisiana in November 2014 and was lengthened to nine months based on lessons learned in the first pilot. By the time the pilot concluded in mid-2015, it’s estimated that 98 percent of 60,000 – 65,000 young mothers living in that area saw the spots 57 or more times.
After examining information from the first two pilots, pilot three was launched as a three-year effort in southeast Louisiana in August 2015 in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, the commercials have aired more than 9,100 times and about 3,000 people have visited the splash page, LouisianaBaptists.info. There also have been 193 searches for area churches and 14 views of the Gospel presentation.
Kyle also noted that several social media platforms popular with young mothers have demonstrated impressive numbers for “Here For You.”
“Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter have generated in excess of 2.2 million delivered impressions and 378,000 video clicks,” he said.
New spots focusing on men from ages 50-65 years old are being filmed later this month and in June.
“We are doing it because Jesus has commanded us to go into the highways and the hedges, the intersections of life where people live, where they work, where they play and compel them to come in. We want to plant the seeds of God’s truth in the hearts of those living in Louisiana and then we want to water those seeds and ask the Lord to grant a harvest.
“Here for You” will take us to places we normally couldn’t go,” Kyle emphasized, “impact people we normally couldn’t get to, and do so more times than we could ever do on our own.”
MORE THAN A PLEDGE
Hankins updated the board on “The Pledge,” a pastor-driven initiative designed to reinvigorate Louisiana Baptists’ cooperative missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.
The Pledge is a plan challenging churches giving less than 3 percent to the CP to move to 5 percent; churches giving between 3 and 8 percent are encouraged to increase giving by 2 percent; and churches giving between 8 and 9.9 percent are encouraged to reach for 10 percent.
Churches already giving 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program will be thanked and encouraged to consider a 1 percent increase or simply reaffirm a commitment to their current level of giving.
Churches are asked to reach their goals by the year 2020.
During the first phase, 120 pastors committed to “The Pledge,” primarily through pastors sharing with other pastors individually.
The second phase will utilize a group approach, where one pastor will invite several he others he knows to ask them to consider accepting the challenge of saying “yes” to “The Pledge,” with the goal of 300 churches joining “The Pledge.”
“It’s very simple,” Hankins said. “We are thankful that our pastors are willing to lead their own churches and then ask other pastors to lead their churches to do more through the Cooperative Program than we’ve ever done before.”
While most believers are familiar with the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, Executive Board President David Cranford believes many are less familiar with another instruction of Jesus – the need for discipleship.
Cranford called this neglect of discipleship “the Great Omission” in his message to the board.
“This [neglected] command is today being called the Great Omission,” said Cranford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula. “We’re drifted away from making disciples.”
This lack of discipleship has produced ineffectual, casual, impotent Christians, Cranford said. He added that the absence of discipleship can even lead to a lack of evangelism.
“Discipleship is the church and the church is discipleship,” Cranford said. “When one suffers, the other suffers.”
“When someone is discipled, transformation should follow. A disciple of Jesus is transformed by the renewing of the mind and is being remodeled in Jesus’ image, Cranford said.
“Christian discipleship is not about being a better us,” he urged. “It’s about being Him.”
The directors of LBC entities shared encouraging news.
Louisiana College President Rick Brewer voiced appreciation for the students who accepted Christ this academic school year. Brewer also said he was thankful the Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges removed LC off probationary status in December 2015, as well as the new academic programs and staff who have come on board.
One challenge LC faces is reaching its goal of at least 300 new students enrolling this fall. The school’s budget relies on reaching that number, but Brewer is optimistic that goal can be attained.
“By faith, I’m confident we can get there,” he said. “The numbers are looking better. The strategies and innovations that we have put in place over the last year are going to bare some fruit moving forward.”
Louisiana Baptist Foundation Executive Director Wayne Taylor encouraged board members to sign up at baptistmessage.com or through a form in the print edition of the Baptist Message for a chance to win $1,000 to give to a Louisiana Baptist ministry of their choice through the Give-A-Gift program.
“By telling you about this Give-A-Gift program, you are giving them the idea of how we can help them make gifts to you,” Taylor said. “The foundation exists simply to make gifts.”
Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries President and CEO Perry Hancock said the first new cottage built in more than 40 years was dedicated on April 22. The HomePlace cottage designed to provide transitional living for women and their children as they prepare for independent living.
Hancock also said soon the final of its existing cottages will be renovated. Built in the 1970s, the cottages have received new flooring, an updated kitchen and the removal of paneling inside the home for five to seven children and two house parents. The renovations began in 2013.
Hancock said he continues to be amazed at God’s blessings at the Children’s Home, particularly those who recently have accepted Christ.
“These first three months we’ve had so many of our children accept Christ and Savior and some of the mother’s in our HomePlace ministry through the churches they go to each week,” he said. “The Lord is still changing lives through the Children’s Home.”
LBC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention used his message to offer insights about the priorities he has set for determining who will get his vote in the upcoming election for the president of the Southern Baptist Convention; and, he encouraged Louisiana Baptists to do their homework as well and go to the SBC annual meeting and vote.
Hankins said he would not vote for anyone who “had little use for state conventions and local associations,” nor for anyone who devalued those partnerships and “openly called for the defunding” of such work.
Hankins pointed out the grass roots nature of state conventions and local associations, saying, “You’ve been here all day, seeing and voting and hearing about what we do together as Louisiana Baptists” and for a candidate to be dismissive of and devalue this work to reach the lost in the state “is wrong,” he said.
“We’ve been systematically trying to destroy our infrastructure as southern Baptists, all the while our measurable statistics are going in the tank and we’ve never made the connection yet. The reason we aren’t having any reach is because we have gotten rid of the people who are doing the reach,” Hankins explained.
He also said he could not support someone who supported societal giving over cooperative giving.
“Great Commission Giving [societal, or selective, giving] was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention as a way to ‘not make people feel overly bad’ about the fact they didn’t support the Cooperative Program,” Hankins said.
But, he said, the new category passed only after an extended debate during which messengers forced the proponents to reaffirm the Cooperative Program “as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach.”
Hankins commented on other issues as well, ending his message by saying these were his opinions, and he urged Louisiana Baptists to take part in the upcoming Southern Baptist annual meeting.
“I would encourage you to elect your messengers, go to St Louis and vote for someone who believes in the Cooperative Program and in our partnerships together, and the evangelism of the whole world, believing everyone can be saved, and, who wants to hold to the traditions, practices and morals of Southern Baptists that God has used to bless us and bless the whole world.”
The 2016 SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled to be held Tuesday-Wednesday, June 14-15 in St. Louis, Missouri. The presidential vote will take place the afternoon of the first day.
LBC President Gevan Spinney closed the meeting by encouraging the board members to never forget the call God has placed on their lives.
Basing his message off 1 Timothy 4:12, Spinney said that call should excite them every morning when they wake. Just like Paul told Timothy, pastors should remember not to neglect God’s calling on their lives to preach and be an example to the church in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity.
When tempted to say or act in an ungodly manner, Spinney said they have a commitment to edify Christ in all they do.
“There are times in our walk with Christ that we desire to live by the flesh, but we don’t because of a prior commitment to Christ,” said Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton. “We don’t live by the flesh but we conduct ourselves in a way that gives glory to Christ.”
Spinney said that while the work of a pastor can be discouraging at times, he encouraged them to press on because God has set them apart for His work.
“You don’t have to be the best; you’ve got to be you,” Spinney said. “God wants to use you because He’s given you a gift. He’s called you. He’s set you apart.”
The next LBC Executive Board meeting is scheduled to be held Sept. 27 at Tall Timbers.