‘Culture of invitation’ leads many to salvation in San Antonio
October 3rd, 2016 / By: JC Davies / comments
SAN ANTONIO After years of invitations to join a friend at church, Mary Grace Gonzales finally accepted the offer Aug. 28 to go hear a guest speaker preach at Castle Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio, where her friend, Joy McAnear, is a member.
Gonzales grew up in the Catholic tradition, knowing about the Christian faith since her childhood but never regularly attending a church. After enduring recent trials, Gonzales said she felt like her life was “all scattered,” but that Sunday at Castle Hills changed everything.
As guest speaker Tony Nolan presented the opportunity to make a commitment to Jesus, Gonzales said she was moved.
“I felt like I really had to make a commitment to God and stand up for him, and not just go wherever anything else leads me,” she said. “I had stood up before, but I had never really committed. This time, I am actually going to be baptized. That’s a big thing for me.”
Gonzales is one of more than 100 people who made commitments of faith to Jesus during a recent weekend at Castle Hills. With summer winding down and a new school year beginning, church staff decided it was a good time to invite families and individuals from the community to re-engage in church.
“It naturally kind of dips in the summer, and you’ll see an increase in attendance during this time of year, so we really wanted to capitalize on that,” said castle Hills campus pastor Jonah Easley.
Castle Hills hosted a youth dodgeball tournament that Saturday night, where nearly 50 teenagers professed faith in Christ, followed by a breakfast the next morning and services at both campuses where guest speaker Tony Nolan presented the gospel, leading to many more professions of faith.
“I think it’s very biblical to have opportunities for people to invite their friends to some kind of evangelistic outreach,” said pastor Matt Surber. “We had lots of participation from our people, both in serving and in inviting.”
While Nolan spoke at the Leon Springs campus, Easley stood in the back of the room, watching and listening as Nolan invited the audience to follow Jesus.
“When the hands shot up across the room, I was almost overwhelmed, not only by the number, but some of the people who raised their hand—blown away in a great way. … It was an emotionally overwhelming moment to see God do what God does, and for us to be a part of that,” Easley said.
The weekend of evangelism outreach opportunities was part of an ongoing effort at Castle Hills to better engage the surrounding community, Easley said. The church has been around for more than five decades, but over the past two years has restructured into a multi-site church, which now includes two campuses, with plans for a third.
“Our vision from the beginning has been to create a multi-site model to maximize our presence in the community, as we meet people where they’re at, not only spiritually, but geographically,” Easley said.
By placing campuses throughout the city and providing many opportunities for evangelism, Easley said the hope is to create a “culture of invitation,” where church members don’t merely rely on church staff to do ministry but are actively inviting friends, neighbors and coworkers to join them in hearing the gospel.
Seeing so many church members take this to heart during the recent outreach event was “very rewarding,” Easley said.
“We are called to equip people for ministry, and when we actually see them doing that ministry and grasping that this is a body-wide journey we’re on, it fills my heart with joy to see the body of Christ understanding what the body of Christ is supposed to do and who they’re supposed to be.”
Moving forward, both Easley and Surber said following up with individuals who made decisions of faith at the evangelism outreach event is a top priority.
“We saw a lot of people saved, so that’s great that they’re in the kingdom, but we want to see the full gospel, the full great commission fulfilled in their lives,” Surber said.
Ultimately, he wants to see “lives transformed with the gospel,” and disciples being multiplied, Surber added.
“Hopefully, people who are saved and people who will be discipled will grow in God’s Word and can replicate that in other people, too. That’s when you really see the fruit is when somebody comes to an event like this and someone disciples them and leads them to Christ and then they end up doing the same thing, leading other people to Christ.”