By Brian Koonce
ROBY–Roby Baptist Church had been running around 140 on Sunday mornings, but on Easter morning, the church was filled with 203, spilling over into an overflow room.
At First Baptist, Louisburg, attendance jumped 60 percent, the auditorium full of local prospects. In Jefferson City, Concord Baptist set its all-time attendance record across three services. It could be the standard spike congregations see as many flock to churches for their once-a-year fix, but Gary Taylor, director of evangelism for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said not to count out God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS).
Missouri Baptist churches distributed approximately 750,000 simple door hangers, with information about a local church and material directing them to a central website and 1-800 number. Fifty of the 61 associations in the state participated in the pre-Easter door-to-door canvassing. Several associations bought airtime on local TV stations and billboards for GPS ads from the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Taylor said GPS is an example of Baptist cooperation at its finest. The initial funds to purchase the bags came from Cooperative Program and NAMB, and the MBC provided $29,000 each to aid in purchasing the ad space. The early development of GPS came directly from NAMB, which is directly funded by the Cooperative Program.
“Without CP, there is no GPS,” he said.
The phone number on the GPS materials – 1-888-Jesus2000 – connects the caller to NAMB’s Evangelism Response Center (ERC), and connects them with a local “covenant church” for follow-up.
Taylor said he is thrilled with Missouri’s response to GPS.
“I really thought that if we had 25 or 30 associations on board, it would be huge,” Taylor said. “… After the evangelism conference in Branson, our phones were ringing off the hook. I’ve really been impressed with the way the lay people in our churches have really gotten involved.”
Now that Easter has come and gone, what is next for GPS?
“We only covered a third of the state,” Taylor said. “In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul tells that church to finish the job. That’s sticking in my mind. Missouri Baptists have started, now let’s finish.”
GPS is a 10-year program, so while Taylor and others are looking forward to another big push for Easter 2011, he said there’s no reason to wait to make contact with those remaining two thirds of Missouri. West Central Association bought 90,000 door hangars with plans to canvass their area this summer and fall. The materials are not dated, and can be used at any time. Taylor and 40 leaders from associations and churches are meeting in May to coordinate the next step in GPS for the coming year.