In January 2009, St. Stephen’s launched its “Sharing Our Faith” seminar, which was intended as a low-key effort to provide our members with the tools they would need to spread the gospel to friends, family, and associates. At the end of that seminar, we promised everyone that we would develop a more pro-active community outreach program for all who felt led in that direction. Our Evangelism Committee then got to work formulating that program with the primary goal of sharing our love of Jesus Christ and, whenever possible, make a clear presentation of the gospel. Of course, we also intended to talk about St. Stephen’s and its programs, and invite everyone to worship with us.
We eventually settled on an approach used by Greg Pulling, young pastor of the Hopewell Baptist Church in New Kent, Virginia. Greg used his program to revive a small rural church with a few dozen attendees and grow it to more than 300 members. Like Greg, we assembled a small evangelistic group of eight people and, one night each week from May through September, would go out in teams of two or three and systematically knock on doors throughout the community. Before setting out, however, we would always pray for the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us. At each home contacted, we would offer a gift bag containing several small items (pen, popcorn, candy bar) plus a New Testament, our newsletter, and a brochure about St. Stephen’s. The gift bags were great “ice breakers” that helped to get conversations started.
In our two seasons, we have called on 323 homes and have been blessed with 152 visits (our area has many weekender homes – thus the low ratio of visits). The program has resulted in few people visiting our church, perhaps for local demographic reasons: our rural area is served by several churches and most of the people we met were already active church members. Nevertheless, the program has been well received by the community, and we enjoyed countless “divine appointments” to meet prayer needs and, on a few occasions, share the gospel.
The Community Outreach Program has been a joyful effort for all who have participated in it and one, we hope, that the Lord will use in a mighty way to advance His kingdom.
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