The Three Forks Baptist Association hosted a “Impacting Lostness” meeting Jan. 16 and 30 at the Western Watauga Community Center aimed at rallying local Christians to spread the gospel to unsaved people in the area.
Three Forks Baptist Association Director of Missions Garland Honeycutt stands before members of several local churches at the inaugural “Impacting Lostness” meeting Jan. 16.
Led by Garland Honeycutt, director of missions for Three Forks, and North Carolina pastor Marcus Redding, the meeting launched what they hope will become an evangelical movement in western Watauga County that can later be modeled in other parts of the High Country.
Beginning in 2014, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina began collecting information through a series of religious surveys and other methods, which included help from some secular research companies, related to whether or not people across the state considered themselves to be Christians and/or followers of Jesus.
Research showed the most significant numbers of lost, or unsaved, people were found among the state’s most heavily populated regions.
The state convention’s website explains: “Although lost people live throughout the entire state, the most concentrated areas of lostness in North Carolina are in eight population centers: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory, Wilmington, the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point) and the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill).”
Upon further research, the convention identified 100 “pockets of lostness,” or smaller communities with high concentrations of unsaved people, that surround the eight major population centers in the state. That number was later expanded to include an additional 150 pockets of lostness, which can be clearly seen on a map on the convention’s website.
“It was a surprise to me, as it may be a surprise to you, that three of those additional pockets of lostness were found within the Three Forks Association,” Honeycutt said to the group. “One of them was Boone … another one was the Foscoe/Banner Elk area. What really caught me off guard is that Vilas was noted as the other pocket of lostness in our area.”
The state convention has since developed a strategy for intentionally engaging these pockets of lostness across the state by encouraging local churches to reach out into their own communities to spread the gospel through discipleship and church planting. It uses a digital resource called MissionInsite to help identify certain demographics within specific areas across the state, which associations and churches can also use to develop a more specialized approach to getting the gospel in front of neighbors in their own backyards.
Watauga Democrat photo by Jessica Isaacs
North Carolina pastor Marcus Redding shares demographic information from Vilas communities with attendees of a Jan. 16 “Impacting Lostness” meeting.
“If you were to put a pin just .2 miles up the road at 226 Henson Hollow Road and draw a seven-mile radius circle around that center point, you would have a very large pocket, a great number of people … who do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior,” said Honeycutt. “We’re here tonight to make you aware of that.”
Redding noted that 22,000 lost or unsaved people live within that seven-mile radius in Vilas, and that reaching them all will require a lot of prayer and a concerted spiritual effort among the churches and Christ followers that surround it. MissionInsite shows many different nationalities and languages are represented in that same circle, too, also proving that local folks must be willing to learn about and begin to understand different cultures in order to reach many of their neighbors.
“Even if we said we’d use the churches we’ve got, that’d be fine if each church could fit 1,000 people and if all those people could fit in the same building and speak the same language,” he said. “There’s 22,000 people that need to know about Jesus. How to go about that is the question that’s on the table.”
Redding, who formerly pastored Hull’s Grove Baptist Church in Vale and later served the North American Mission Board in Baltimore before returning to N.C. last year, challenged folks in the room to bring the conversation to their own home churches and begin seriously praying for the lost people in Watauga County, as well as for God to equip local Christians with the resources and boldness they spread the gospel within their own neighborhoods.
“We have the data to prove that the people are here. The question is: are we going to let God use us to reach them?” he said.
“The beauty of this is that God created the body of Christ for a reason. You may not be the person to reach everyone on your road … but he has called every Christian to be a disciple-maker, not just preachers. You don’t have to do that by yourself.”
Although the presentation touched on some important numbers, Redding urged attendees to remember that this is a spiritual endeavor first and foremost.
“When we’re talking about demographics, it worries me that this will turn into a technical conversation instead of a spiritual conversation,” he said. “We must see this as the souls of men and women … there are people around us that may not look like us or act like us or live like us, but God made them and the gospel is to go to them.”
As leaders of the initiative in the High Country, Honeycutt and Redding hope the meetings will be the first of many aimed at addressing lostness in western Watauga County. Additionally, they hope the strategy that will unfold in the Vilas community can be a model for similar progress in the areas of Boone and Foscoe/Banner Elk.
“This pocket of lostness did not happen overnight. We’re not going to solve the world’s problems overnight, but we can open your eyes to some things,” Redding said. “Our dream is that we’ll start working on this together on a regular basis. This is the first layer of introduction, and my prayer is that you’ll come back and we’ll dig a little bit deeper and a little bit deeper, and we’ll learn how to find the people who need the gospel.”
To get connected with the local initiative, contact Three Forks Baptist Association at (828) 264-4482 or visit 3forksassoc.org.
For more information regarding the Baptist State Convention’s discipleship and church planting strategy, visit ncbaptist.org/strategy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jessica Isaacs writes for the Watauga Democrat in Boone, where this article originally appeared. Visit wataugademocrat.com. Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder Production Editor, contributed to this report.)