S. Baptists Gear Up for Ambitious Mission Plan

Southern Baptist churches are being recruited to join a massive 12-year long, grassroots evangelism plan to share the Gospel with every person in North America by 2020.

Pilot editions of God's Plan for Sharing (GPS) will be launched in five states – California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas – in early 2009, reported Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

NAMB, the mission arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is spearheading the evangelism effort.

"Southern Baptist churches have 16.3 million members on the books," said Jerry Pipes, team leader of Prayer and Church Renewal for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to On Mission magazine. "Imagine what would happen if even 25 percent of them took stewardship of their block and began to sow the gospel into the lives of the people around them? What would happen if their churches provided creative ways to invest in people and invite them to come to Christ?"

"Almost every Sunday, in almost every church, someone would be walking a friend or neighbor down the aisle, not so the pastor could lead the person to Christ, but because the person had already come to Christ through the neighbor," Pipes highlighted.

If one in four Southern Baptists led just one person to Christ in the next 12 months, there would be 4 million baptisms, or an increase of more than 4,400 percent compared to 2006, noted NAMB's On Mission magazine.

"Can you imagine what would happen in your church if your people caught that vision and got passionate about sharing Christ with their neighbors?" said Hammond. "God's plan is that the world would be saturated with the gospel by the total mobilization of the church. In its simplest form, that is what the GPS national evangelism initiative is - God's plan for every believer sharing, every person hearing."

Just like a GPS (Global Positioning System) identifies someone's current location, the Southern Baptist's GPS plan asks participants to determine where they are located and identify the neighbors around them that they want to lead to Christ.

With the Southern Baptist Convention being the largest Protestant denomination in the country, GPS is based on the simple but potentially huge impact strategy of mobilizing every Southern Baptist Christian to share the Gospel with their neighbors.

Members in the United States and Canada will be challenged to take part in the four-part mission plan of praying for the lost people around them, engaging them in relationships, sowing the gospel into their lives, and harvesting the ones Christ draws to Himself until 2020.

"Most Southern Baptists are petrified to share the gospel," acknowledged David Burton, director of evangelism for the Florida Baptist Convention, to On Mission.

"Only a very small percentage of us ever even try to lead anybody to Christ, but almost everybody would be willing to hang a bag of information from their church on the doors of 15 homes," he said, noting a simple tactic of GPS.

"You just have to give people baby steps to start with. God will take it from there."

NAMB has already invested over $500,000 on GPS in 2008, and plans to use another $1 million for the campaign next year. The money is being used towards preparation, promotion, media, resources (in four different languages), and coordination, according to Hammond.

During the actual initiative stage, the media will be engaged to help local churches connect with their communities. Possible media use include television ads, print material, Internet, radio, billboards, door hangers and social networks such as Facebook.

"We can reach North America for Christ if every church member accepts responsibility for reaching one person in the next year," said Don Cass, director of evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

"God didn't give us an impossible assignment," he noted. "Reaching the world with the gospel isn't possible in our strength, but ours is a supernatural God who has a plan to seek and to save those who are lost."

The official launch of coordinated evangelism activities is slated for 2010.

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