By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE – As more and more Louisiana Baptists commit to “pray for every home and share Christ with every person” as part of the 2017-2018 Harvest evangelism initiative, a representative with the Billy Graham Evangelism Association told directors of missions and pastors from around the state that as much as prayer plays a role in mass evangelism, planning is critical, too.
ORGANIZATION IS KEY
“Plan it like an iceberg,” J.W. Hutchens said at the Baptist Mission Center in Pineville, Tuesday, May 16, saying, like an iceberg, so much about a crusade is not readily apparent.
“The evangelist is only 10 percent of it,” he emphasized. “Preparation is 50 percent of a crusade. Forty percent is follow-up.”
PLANNED PRAYER, TOO
But he also underscored the importance of intentional and regular prayer.
“If you do not plan on having a great prayer structure for your crusade, don’t have a crusade,” “Prayer God blesses. When you have a crusade, bathe it in prayer.”
COOPERATE FOR SUCCESS
Hutchens said crusades can range from just a few hundred in attendance to as many as 40,000, and both large- and medium-sized events require a concerted effort of many churches focused on drawing the lost to hear about Christ.
He said bringing multiple churches together to partner in a crusade will create buzz in the community and display a spirit of oneness to those outside the church walls, many who may be hurt and wounded.
Building on that, Hutchens encouraged the directors of missions and pastors in attendance to hold an information meeting to initiate the crusade.
Engage as many leaders as possible in the months ahead, he urged.
He also told the gathered leaders to plan on training a steering committee, as well as enrolling counselors in a four-week course about sharing the Gospel, so they will be familiar with the process when the time comes during the crusade.
UNITY, REVIVAL & AWAKENING
After the crusade, blessings likely will follow, Hutchens offered, within congregations and around them.
The community will be saturated in prayer, unity will be evident among area churches and hundreds of people will be trained in evangelism and anxious to put it to use, he said.
“Once people are trained in how to share their faith, they have a change in lifestyle,” Hutchens explained, adding that unity leads to revival among believers. “And the community notices that.”
The majority of Harvest events will take place in 2018, but a few already have been completed this year, including:
— Student Night, Jan. 24, during the Louisiana Baptists Evangelism Conference, Temple Baptist Church, Ruston (dozens came forward for prayer: 34 persons made spiritual decisions – 10 repented for salvation, 13 repented to restore their fellowship with Christ, nine made other commitments, two declared a call to vocational ministry);
— a Hope, Love and Freedom spiritual renewal event for believers, April 3-5, at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond (200 attended the first night, building to more than 700 the final night); and,
— the Real Hope crusade, April 30-May 3, at Jonesboro-Hodge High School and Winnfield Middle School (700 attended each night of the four-day revival; 25 repented in making first-time public professions of faith in Jesus, 35 repented and recommitted their lives to Christ, two surrendered to career ministry).
Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for the Northshore Baptist Association of churches that hosted the crusade at Southeastern Louisiana University, said they plan to pull off a different Harvest event in 2018, but said the planning committee from his association had not decided an exact type yet.
“There’s something about the synergy among churches that come together,” Wascom said. “Whether prayer walking, holding a joint revival, or, coordinating a mobile home park outreach, unity builds a certain dynamic, and, it creates a movement of God.”
HOPE IS ON THE WAY
Robert Daniel, director of missions for Big Creek, Central Louisiana and North Rapides associations, said the combined Area Planning Committee is pursuing several event ideas, but has yet to finalize on the details.
He indicated the churches likely will have some block parties and other outreach efforts leading up to the main Harvest event, which will likely take place in 2018.
“The Harvest is important because we want our community to know that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and his plan of salvation is available to everyone,” Daniel said. “We believe Harvest is something we can use to impact central Louisiana and God’s kingdom.”
Meanwhile, the churches of the Red River Baptist Association just finished hosting a crusade on May 21-27.
MORE IS NEEDED
Buddy Willis, director of missions for LaSalle Baptist Association, said the Harvest is needed because revival among churches and the community is needed.
“Drugs and alcohol are among the problems everywhere I go,” Willis said. “These people are looking for hope. If they put Jesus in their heart, He can truly satisfy them.”