North Carolina Baptist
churches committed to more effective evangelistic efforts in their communities
are finding help through the Intentionally Evangelistic Churches Strategy
(IECS) created by Don McCutcheon, executive leader for evangelization at the
Baptist State Convention.
Pastors and church staff who
have participated in IECS conferences recommend the experience to others.
Universally, they say two of the strategy’s strengths are that it forces
participants to evaluate their church’s current efforts and it offers a wealth
of ideas from which to draw, without presenting cookie cutter solutions.
Aaron Wallace, administrator
and interim pastor at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, was an early adapter
and participated in one of the first strategy conferences.
“It was fantastic,” he said.
Leaders exposed participants to many ideas from other churches, and “made you
spend time at the end applying what you heard and coming up with a strategy for
“They asked, ‘What is your
intention for what you learned?’”
Wallace, chairman of the
Baptist State Convention’s board of directors evangelization committee, said
the most helpful element of the strategy for his church was assimilation. Staff
realized they had “gobs of people” who were under watch care but who had not
been moved along the path to full membership.
Hephzibah restructured its
process and found more effective ways to utilize Sunday School leaders and
deacons in assimilation. “That was huge,” he said. “We’re much more streamlined
IECS also covers
evangelistic outreach events and Hephzibah is both doing more of them, and
making sure each is “truly evangelistic,” Wallace said. The church serves a
holiday meal to the community and is preparing back-to-school backpacks laden
with classroom essentials.
Several came to Christ
through a “free yard sale” the church sponsored, which drew 800 to the campus.
Clients were given $100 in “funny money” to shop a gymnasium filled with
clothes and practical goods donated by church and community members. Seventy
church members circulated among the clients during the day, gathering contact
information and sharing Christ.
Earlier, the church likely
would not have been so diligent about securing information for follow up,
When McCutcheon asked
participants what their baptism record was the previous two years, Wallace said
Hephzibah staff was “shocked” to realize they had baptized just eight and 12.
From the moment they
finished the strategy sessions, they began to implement changes that have
resulted in increases to 24 baptisms the following year, then 31 and 39 so far
“I recommend IECS without
question,” Wallace said. “I think every church should go through it, if for no
other reason than to evaluate the effectiveness of what they’re presently
First Baptist Church,
Hendersonville experienced an even more dramatic increase following their staff
participation in IECS. Pastor Ryan Pack said IECS is a good strategy because he
left every session with practical ideas to implement at his church that
emphasize baptisms and prioritize evangelism.
Baptisms at First Baptist
increased from 16 in 2008 to 78 in 2009, Pack said. They included outdoor
baptisms at a lake and in a horse trough in front of the church’s new student
center where community people driving around the church saw the activity.
(See videos at www.fbchncorg/videos.)
Hendersonville elevated the
importance of baptism in church life, said Pack, pastor since June 2008. “We
made baptism public. People in the community … saw it happening. Students not
connected with our church were able to see baptism for the first time and see
it in a different setting.”
Their weekly outreach
strategy has become “Splash Night” and members see it as a great opportunity to
share the gospel and to connect with other people in the community.
They’ve become “really
intentional in follow up after events,” Pack said. Like Hephzibah, they’ve also
become very intentional in their assimilation process with prospects and new
First” orientation starts with dinner and includes a complete gospel
presentation, reinforcing the conviction “that those who consider joining have
accepted Christ,” Pack said.
Their orientation includes a
workbook and teaching on evangelism, to equip new members to share the gospel.
Attending IECS requires a
three-day commitment, a length of time that may keep some from considering it.
But Pack said, “There is no commitment too big for us to do a better job with
the Great Commission.”
“The way they teach it, the
time flies,” he said. “You’d never know you’re sitting in a
workshop. It’s so practical and they give you time with your staff and the
people you bring from your church to come up with ideas you can apply in your
“Every single session you
walked out of you carried ideas you can apply immediately.”
City of Hope
Hendersonville is a large
church, but Pack said IECS is taught in a way that “any church from 10 to
10,000” would benefit.
Michael Moore, pastor of
both City of Hope in Shelby, and Webb First Baptist in Ellenboro, said
strategies he learned at IECS have helped increase baptisms at both churches.
“We absolutely enjoyed” the
training event, Moore said. He and the three church members who accompanied him
learned to make baptism a big event in their church, and to have those who are
being baptized invite friends and family to the event. Attendance doubles on
days where there is a baptism, he said.
City of Hope is a
three-year-old church with 60-80 attending and it baptized 39 people last year.
Webb First Baptist baptized a similar number.
“We make baptism something
people will always remember,” Moore said, including decorating with streamers
and special lighting.
Church members visit both
prospects and new members on Monday and Wednesday.
Moore is a church planter
and said the IECS strategy “really did help us.”
He thinks “everybody ought
to go to that workshop” and said the three men he took with him from his church
“absolutely loved it.”