By Shannon Baker,BCM/D National Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—It’s an audacious goal. Simply put: in North America, every believer sharing and every person hearing by 2020.
Last summer, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) unveiled its ambitious National Evangelism Initiative “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS), a ten-year plan to fulfill the Great Commission in North America by 2020.
Beginning in 2006, a number of believers in the Southern Baptist Convention studied what it would take to see the Great Commission fulfilled in this lifetime.
NAMB developed a series of listening groups from various constituents, including several from Maryland and Delaware, explained Ellen Udovich, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) team strategist for Acts 1:8 missions involvement.
She explained that pastors, church staff and lay leaders from various ethnic and urban, suburban and rural environments joined WMU leaders, seminary professors and leaders from state conventions and local associations, who gathered together to help NAMB answer the question, “What would help churches the most?”
What amazed Udovich the most was that each of the constituents were asking for the same thing—a way to teach people to pray, to be equipped, to share about Christ and to follow-up on new believers.
“People were all using different words for each of these topics, but there was so much similarity in what they were saying,” she said.
What emerged was an idea of a compass with four figurative directions: praying, engaging (now changed to equipping), sowing and harvesting.
As discussions continued, someone expressed that some may not understand what a compass is, but they would know what a GPS (Global Positioning System) is. Subsequently, the idea for GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) was birthed.
“It was perfect. You have to tell the GPS where you want to go. The GPS just helps you figure out how to get there,” shared Udovich. “[The national plan] is meant to be a guide, not telling people what they have to do, but basic instructions and suggestions on how to do what churches already wanted to do.”
With its overarching goal to reach all of North America with the gospel, GPS efforts are divided into five recommended campaigns, including “Across North America” (2010); “Reaching Across America” (2012); “Serving Across North America” (2014); “Sharing Across North America” (2016); “Starting Something Across North America” (2018); and “Celebrating Across North America” (2020).
John Brittain, director of missions at the Arundel Association in Maryland, who assisted in developing the GPS strategy on the national level, is aligning his associational goals for the upcoming years to match these recommended biannual campaigns.
Brittain explained that the goal for the first effort, “Across North America,” is to reach every home in the United States, Canada, and their territories with a gospel distribution, as well as an invitation to attend a local congregation for an evangelistic Easter service, which this year falls on April 4, 2010.
This campaign is comprised of four steps:
• A three-week targeted media saturation (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers) prior to Easter;
• Participating churches prayerwalking their communities;
• Participating churches saturating their communities with a clear door-hanger bag containing the gospel (a “Find It Here” tract), a church brochure, and an invitation to Easter services;
• Participating churches will conduct a five-week follow-up process.
“The material, resources and media campaign will assist churches in accomplishing this goal,” Brittain said, pointing to www.gps2020.net, which provides suggestions and ideas for churches for prayerwalking, handing out material and preparing individual churches for new guests.
Richard Logsdon, director of missions at the Potomac Association, feels that the “Find It Here” TV and radio spots in the campaign are very well done.
“The videos can be sent out through social networking. I think they can be a great evangelistic tool to use over and over again after the campaign for any church or personal evangelistic effort,” he said.
To assist churches, NAMB purchased matching “Find It Here” printed materials in large bulk, realizing cost-savings for local churches. Churches interested in purchasing banners, door-hangers and tracts that match the advertisements can do so through their local association.
The materials and advertisements in the “Find It Here” campaign direct people to www.findithere.com where they can find hope in Christ as well as answers to their questions and a list of Southern Baptist churches within five miles of their zip code. Participants will be given a toll-free telephone number where they talk to a live person about any questions they may have.
Trained telephone encouragers handle these calls by listening, counseling, praying and matching callers with covenant churches who have agreed to provide follow-up. To initiate the process, either to register as a Covenant Church or to be trained as a Telephone Encourager, contact NAMB at www.erconline.net
Logsdon is excited about the simplicity of the large-scale effort. So far, 10 churches in his association are planning to participate in the effort.
“What drew me to the emphasis was it was a easy way churches could get their members out into their communities to see and meet their neighbors. It is an eye-opening experience for many of our church members and leaders to actually drive or walk the streets of their community,” he said, noting that placing the door hangers on each house is a good first step for church members to reach out to their neighbors.
“I like that it gets us praying specifically for the lost and unchurched by street, house number and in many cases by person’s name,” he said.
To assist in the prayerwalking effort, each of the associations in Maryland and Delaware have licensing for a mapping software, which can assist churches in keeping track of what streets they have prayerwalked.
Udovich noted that churches in smaller communities can opt to prayerwalk in larger urban areas, such as Wilmington, Del., where there are fewer Southern Baptist churches.
“We can’t share with the whole world, but we can share the gospel with our community and with our block. And if all the churches are focused on their communities, then we can reach the big goal,” she said.
To learn more, contact your local director of missions or visit online at www.gps2020.net.