Thanks to SBTC resources, rural church turns inexperienced evangelists into an effective outreach
December 8th, 2017 / By: Tobin Perry / comments
When James Cox recently took eight of his congregants out to canvas his rural Athens, Texas, community and hand out copies of O.S. Hawkins new book, The Christmas Code, he wasn’t leading an experienced group of personal evangelists. Besides Cox and his wife, none of his Virginia Hill Baptist Church team had prior personal evangelism experience.
But God showed up anyway.
By the time the team had finished distributing its 100 copies of Hawkins’ book along with invitations to church, they had already sown the seeds of one of the church’s most successful outreach events in years. An entire family showed up at church the next weekend through the outreach. Two more families came thanks to the outreach the following week. One of the young men who came made a first-time commitment to Christ.
“The church was able to see that God blesses the church when it does His work,” Cox said. “In doing that, we saw fruit the very first week.”
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention provided copies of The Christmas Code to Virginia Hill and other churches involved in the SBTC’s revitalization ministry at half of its cost. The books were the most recent example of a growing collection of resources the convention has made available to revitalization churches to help them better engage their communities.
“It’s an outreach tool,” said Kenneth Priest, director of convention strategies at the SBTC. “Evangelism is the hardest thing to get a church to do. We love to talk about evangelism as Southern Baptists. We love to say it’s a core value, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the reason churches are in decline is because people are not getting saved. The reason people are not getting saved is because people are not witnessing. So creating a platform that is a bridge builder to start a gospel conversation by giving people a little booklet like this is a great way for a church to engage its community when previously it didn’t.”
Priest says the SBTC is always on the lookout for tools like this that can help churches re-engage their communities.
When Cox accepted a call to Virginia Hill in January of 2017, he says the church obviously needed revitalization. He immediately began a process of revitalization by establishing a foundation of preaching and teaching and explaining to the church what revitalization is and how it works. He also began utilizing some of the resources available to the church through the SBTC. He took the church through a 13-week teaching series on revitalization provided by the convention.
“At the end of that teaching series is a call to the church to be active and to go out,” Cox said. “It just so happened that we were finishing up just as Dr. Hawkins was putting out The Christmas Code.”
When Cox discovered that the SBTC would help churches like his get the books at a discounted rate, he quickly bought the books and scheduled an intentional evangelistic outing using the books as a tool. Cox estimates that 90 percent of his church ranges in age between 70 and 89. Realizing that many of those members could not participate in canvassing the community, he involved those who couldn’t go out in praying for the outreach effort. Most of the church was involved in one way or another.
Cox said that he believes the experience shows that the SBTC system of helping churches with revitalization works if churches will stick to it.
“We appreciate the convention coming alongside of Virginia Hill and being willing to pick up half the cost so we could do this,” Cox said. “We may not have been able to reach 100 homes otherwise.”
For more information about the SBTC revitalization ministry, visit sbtexas.com/church-revitalization.