Baptisms in Southern Baptist
churches increased two percent in 2009 after four years of decline. Among North
Carolina Baptist churches, baptisms leaped 20 percent to 26,584 and surpassed
26,000 for the first time in seven years.
Don McCutcheon, Baptist
State Convention executive leader for evangelization since July 2006, credits
the increase to God’s moving people toward the harvest.
As the staff member who
keeps closest tabs on evidence of North Carolina Baptists evangelizing and
discipling, McCutcheon says the increase is due to “the blessing of our God
upon His people evidenced by a heightened awareness and concern by pastors,
churches and associational missionaries for those in our state who do not have
a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“Pastors are praying toward
the Kingdom,” said McCutcheon, 60. “They are praying for the lost. They have a
heart for the Great Commission, and are leading their churches to be the same.
“People are becoming aware
of the great harvest God is bringing to us. There are people all over the world
coming to North Carolina to study in our institutions and also who choose to live
here. And we have a great opportunity to witness and share and help them come
to know Christ.”
McCutcheon, who held a
similar position with Florida Baptists, also credits the “driving vision” of
BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., with elevating
evangelism in the consciousness of North Carolina churches.
Baptisms matter in an
evaluation of evangelical effectiveness, he said, because they indicate
“Baptism is the first opportunity after conversion for a new
believer to be obedient to the Lordship of Christ,” McCutcheon said. “They also
are an indicator that churches are truly about the Great Commission.”
McCutcheon called baptisms
“the only quantifiable parameter in the Great Commission.”
McCutcheon does not separate
evangelism and disciple making, but says they are two sides of the same coin
and “one cannot exist without the other.”
“Making disciples is the
most joyful hard work in the Christian life,” he said, expressing regret at the
difficulty of getting modern Christians to share their faith. “You can actually
get Christians to tithe before you can get them to go witness.”
As fervently as he’s worked
and prayed to help North Carolina churches turn their baptisms upward,
McCutcheon admits he did not expect the change in direction to “come this
In 2009 those churches that
reported their statistics on the ACP noted 26,584 baptisms. That number
includes the 1,932 baptized by Elevation Church in Mathews, and the 1,519
churches that reported no baptisms at all.
Eighteen churches reported
100 or more baptisms, and 44 churches reported 50-99. Two hundred sixty-two
reported one baptism. McCutcheon said 1,242 churches reported 1-5 baptisms and
2,761 reported 0-5 baptisms. On average, North Carolina Baptist churches
baptized six persons each.
Beyond simply tracking what
North Carolina Baptist churches are doing evangelistically, McCutcheon is
actively trying to infect them with an evangelism virus. Through his own
research and experience, and that of others, he has developed the Intentionally
Evangelistic Church Strategy (IECS) and has been leading churches in that
system for several years.
McCutcheon defines IECS as
“an attempt to assist pastors and churches in their own context and personalities
to obey the Great Commission and faithfully evangelize their communities in a
way that is effective for them.”
During three 8-hour days of
instruction, participants basically learn to find the evangelistic
possibilities in every aspect of their church’s life. It incorporates five
components from Acts 2:41-47 that are the anchors for teaching: evangelistic
leadership, evangelistic prayer, event evangelism, assimilation and personal
“If evangelism is not in the
pastor’s heart, it won’t go,” McCutcheon said.
His assimilation emphasis
often surprises people, he said. But attention to assimilating can close the
revolving door and lead to stronger discipleship.
Event evangelism includes
weekly worship. “You don’t have to change what you’re doing, just change the
priority of evangelization,” McCutcheon said. “If you’re worshiping God and a
person doesn’t know God, you’re having a wonderful experience but leaving them
out. We use words they don’t understand. We use forms they’re completely
unaccustomed to. Make your worship understandable and inviting.”
Like any good preacher,
McCutcheon has an outline featuring “P” words for teaching evangelism. He said
you need passion, and if you don’t have it, pray for it, asking God to help you
love the world as He does.
Prepare by learning
scripture and praying. Participate in witnessing and while practice doesn’t
make perfect, it “makes permanent,” he said. Persevere and praise God for
whatever He does.
Because some people are
discouraged from witnessing if their experience doesn’t result in someone
praying to receive Christ, McCutcheon loves the phrase he learned from retired
Florida pastor Bobby Welch, to “Teach your people to fall in love with fishing,
not just in catching fish.”
For churches that don’t like
“cold calling” on prospects, McCutcheon advises that “ministry in an area opens
doors like you wouldn’t believe.” One of the blessings of disaster relief
ministry is how it opens doors for evangelism among those who have been served.
Just six months after
McCutcheon came to North Carolina, his wife Kathy was diagnosed with a
life-threatening illness. No sooner was that conquered than cancer was
discovered. While these have been some of his most difficult personal years,
they have been among the most fruitful in terms of ministry, he said.
He and Kathy treat each day
as a gift and “live in the present” he said. He has cancelled virtually all
outside engagements, and Marty Dupree will lead the IECS training the rest of
The first IECS training in
Spanish was conducted this year, with two scheduled in Vietnamese. As equippers
are trained, IECS will be offered in local associations by request, and
eventually for an individual church.
IECS training will be
offered at the following times and places:
Sign up for any at
www.ncbaptist.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5557.
August 31-Sept. 2
Ebenezer Baptist Church
New River Association
New River Baptist Church
Three Forks Association
Mount Vernon Baptist Church
South Yadkin Association
First Baptist Church