By Mickey Noah
ST. LOUIS (BP) – Southern Baptists in Missouri are serious about the evangelistic initiative God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS): They have the people in the streets and door-hangers in hand to prove it. There’s also a 76-year-old man in Cuba whose salvation is tied to GPS.
Between now and Easter Sunday, April 4, local churches, Baptist associations, state conventions and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will team together via GPS to share the Gospel across America. Various phases of the GPS thrust will continue until 2020.
As part of this first year – themed “Across North America” – state conventions have ordered or produced 17 million pieces of literature to be attached to every door in neighborhoods throughout the United States and Canada. NAMB has coordinated the buying of more than 25,000 TV spots and 7,000 radio spots, in addition to newspaper ads, billboards, yard signs, banners and signs on buses and trains in some markets.
The Missouri Baptist Convention alone has purchased 800,000 door-hangers, bags, Gospel tracts and Easter invitations local Baptists will distribute over the three weeks before Easter.
“Missouri has a population of 5.8 million people who live in 2.3 million residences,” said Gary Taylor, evangelism director for the Missouri convention. “800,000 Gospel presentations and door-hangers will mean that one out of three residences in Missouri will have the Gospel placed on their door this spring. Is that a God-thing or what?”
In the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association alone, 134 churches will prayerwalk and distribute materials to some 250,000 homes, said Jim Breeden, the association’s executive director.
But GPS is not just for Missouri’s big cities. In Cuba (pop. 3,200), Bob Knight, pastor of First Baptist Church, said the congregation of about 140 is “enthused” about distributing 1,000 bags, door-hangers and Easter invitations – meaning that one-third of town will be reached before Easter.
But the recent salvation and baptism of 76-year-old James Govro, a member of First Baptist Cuba, may be the best sign yet that God is working through GPS. Knight married Govro and his new wife Edie at FBC last year.
“James came forward recently and said he had been pondering what we were doing with the prayerwalking and so forth,” Knight recounted. “He said he had been unable to sleep. I was able to lead him to the Lord and baptized him yesterday.”
In south-central Missouri, Brock Davis, pastor of Roby Baptist Church and evangelism team leader for the Texas County Baptist Association, said, “We’re going all out. Just over 75 percent of our churches are participating in GPS. It looks like we will actually put a door-hanger on every door in our county.”
Thirty-seven members of Roby Baptist prayerwalked the area on March 13. “We prayed for over 720 homes in a little over two and a half hours, and plan to repeat the process this coming Saturday (March 20). It’s amazing to think that we, along with hundreds of others, were doing the same thing across Missouri,” Davis said.
“I can’t wait to see what God is going to do because Missouri Baptists are being obedient,” the pastor said, adding that Roby Baptist’s Sunday School and worship attendance already are climbing because of GPS.
Along Interstate 44, the St. Louis suburb of Eureka is perhaps best known as the home of Six Flags St. Louis. A city of about 9,000, Eureka also has been blanketed by Baptists excited about GPS.
Doug Elders, who became pastor of Eureka’s Central Baptist Church 18 months ago, had been searching for a spark like GPS to take the congregation to a higher level.
The church, which averaged 200-300 on a given Sunday, “got a little inward-focused for a while but we’re now coming out of that. I had been looking for the means to launch a new strategy and vision for our church,” Elders said. “I felt GPS was the way to start here in our own ‘Jerusalem.’”
Using a theme of “Getting Ready for Company,” Elders and 50 Central Baptist members conducted a prayerwalk March 13, and he is encouraging more prayerwalks before and Easter.
“I’ve told our prayerwalkers that based on the national statistics, three out of every four houses they pass by and pray for will have lost people inside,” Elders said.
Central Baptist members again walk the streets of Eureka during the week of March 20-27, placing a door-hanger and invitation at each of the town’s 3,100.
“After we did the first prayerwalk, I heard great comments from members who said they got out in neighborhoods they hadn’t visited in a long time. They would say, ‘I didn’t know so many children lived over there’ or ‘I didn’t know that so many houses had been built in that area.’
“It opened the eyes of our people to these neighborhoods, showing us that we have new mission fields right here under our noses,” Elders said. “I had been praying that the church would begin to feel a collective burden for its community and I think it has begun.”
Elders doesn’t know how much credit to give to the GPS initiative but so far, the fact is that Central Baptist has added nine new members over the last five Sundays – five by baptism and four by membership transfer.
Elders said he’s excited about Easter Sunday, when Central Baptist will demonstrate it is “ready for company.” The church has invited Eureka residents, via special invitations hung on front doors during the walks, to a huge 8 a.m. Easter breakfast of bacon, eggs and all the trimmings at the church.
No tour though Missouri would be complete without a look at Branson, which attracts 7 million people a year to its many top-drawer theaters with big-name stars, amusement parks, lakes, golf courses and other attractions.
“Branson is a great area to live in, and the opportunities are wonderful,” said Jim Wells, director of missions for the local Tri-County Baptist Association. “In the shows and theaters, there’s unashamed patriotism and love for God and country. But Branson’s no different from other areas. The lostness is huge here. There are a lot of physical and spiritual needs.”
Wells said about 30 of the Tri-County association’s churches have embraced GPS. Pastors recently sat down and designated four quadrants in the Branson/Hollister/Kimberling City/Forsyth areas. While Branson’s population is only 6,500, the four-town area consists of some 25,000.
Through March 27, Wells said, “… we plan to leave material at 10,000 to 12,000 homes in the greater Branson area.” He added that the association also has bought advertising spots on a local country radio station to help promote GPS.
“Our folks believe that GPS is such a great thing that if we get the material out to the people with the media campaign, people will respond positively to the Gospel,” Wells said.
“It’s an intentional way to get people involved in prayerwalking, which should bring about a deep concern for the lost of our area. Just the fact that people are willing to prayerwalk and go door to door has caused a heightened awareness for outreach and uncovered so many needs in these communities.”
Wells believes that GPS originated from the heartbeat of God.
“If churches will do what GPS asks them to do, as we sow the seed, we will reap the harvest. That’s what GPS is all about – sowing the seeds.”