Each month I have an opportunity to meet with elders and men of various congregations. I see leaders and servants who love the kingdom but do not know how to reverse continued membership decline. HTHSOE’s purpose is to provide a congregational growth plan. HTHSOE has developed a 52-week curriculum to give congregations after the seminar to help them make this cultural change.
We must never forget the purpose of the church is stated in Ephesians 3:9-10: “to make known to the world the manifold wisdom of God.” This must be the core of every congregation. At times, this purpose is lost within the aforementioned good works. If all we accomplish in fruit baskets is providing someone a gift, we are missing our purpose. If all we accomplish in providing someone a box of food is filling their stomach, we are missing our mission. Here are a few steps churches can take toward changing culture.
Begin by taking full advantage of House to House/Heart to Heart. If you are not enrolled, begin today. If you are enrolled, there is a good chance you are not using it to its full protentional. Evangelism is not easy or automatic. Simply mailing out HTH to your community will not yield the results we want. We suggest three things.
1) Reply personally to every HTH request (make sure you are receiving the monthly email report on contacts in your area). Hand deliver free offers like tracts, DVDs, or other materials they have requested.
2) Hand deliver at least one route each year and engage people directly. For example, say, “We subscribed to this publication for you and would like to know how you like it.” You will find those who enjoy reading it. Door knocking provides “cold contacts,” but with the proper cultivation, these can become the good soil we are seeking.
3) Enroll in the New Movers Program. Sadly, this is one of the most underutilized tools in our brotherhood. HTH has the ability to provide each congregation with a list of every person who moves into your local area. We provide each new resident a special edition of HTH and follow up with a personalized invitation to visit. If you add a personal visit with a welcome basket, and a few dozen greeting cards, you will greatly increase its effectiveness.
Look in the Pews! Almost every congregation has regular, non-Christian visitors sitting in their pews. Some have attended for decades without any effort to have a Bible study. Every eldership and preacher should list all these contacts and develop a plan to reach them. It should be the first topic of discussion every time they meet. No door needs to be knocked or cards sent because God has placed them right in our midst. Jesus said if we would just look, the fields are white unto harvest (John 4:35). Cultivate these contacts into personal relationships, invite them into your home, and conduct a Bible study. You might be amazed at what happens!
Send cards with a purpose. Just about every congregation has some sort of card sending program, but is it connected to evangelism? The HTHSOE Compassion Card strategy is potent. Sending cards to people who live half-way across the country may be a kind act, but is not the most effective way to get into a Bible study. Focus card sending on those who live in our communities. Sending cards to the brethren may encourage them, but they are already saved. Why not sent cards to local sinners? And instead of sending one, why not send thirty and overwhelm them with love and compassion (Jude 1:22). During our time with the Willette and now the Jacksonville congregations, entire families were baptized because they were moved to visit by compassion.
Turn your benevolent program into a contact maker. For many congregations, benevolence has become an albatross. We give out gift cards for gas, bags/boxes of food, pay light bills, and rent, but we have little to show for it. I am not suggesting kindness and good will are not needed, but if these are not connected to reaching souls, we have missed the point. The next time someone calls the church office for benevolent help say, “Yes, we would be glad to help you on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m.” When they arrive, DO A BIBLE STUDY FIRST, and then help them with their physical needs.
Brethren, may we not forget who we are: the church of Christ! We are not Habitat for Humanity, the Lion’s Club, or another civic organization. Every congregational work should focus on souls—training the saved and/or teaching the lost. If we baptized one or two people per work, these conversions would add up to 10, 15, 20 or more per year. It takes a lot of time to turn a ship, but no matter the size, it is all done the same way, one degree at a time.
Corinth church of Christ, Portland, Tennessee: Corinth is the twenty-third congregation HTHSOE has trained this year. The elders, preacher, and members were on fire when we left. They are ready to put the evangelism strategy into effect and become an army of soul winners. Their preacher, Steven Hull, sent this note: “The Personal Evangelism Seminar was a much-needed reminder of our purpose and work in the church of Christ. The classes provided practical tools and patterns that have proven to be successful. The materials are biblical and well-written. I hope every congregation of the Lord’s church will support this effort.”
Brown Trail church of Christ, Texas: Keden Shrum (Brown Trail School of Preaching student) reported, “Here’s some info on my mother-in-law. Lori Kelly, coming from a Baptist background, went through the Back to the Bible study series on May 24. Upon reaching the third lesson, she answered the question on whether or not she was saved. She told me at that time, “If we are going according to the Bible, then no, I am not.” After completing the lesson, Lori knew she needed to be baptized for the remission of her sins, and just before 11 p.m., we met Heath Stapleton, an instructor with BTSOP at the Brown Trail building. Lori gave her confession and was baptized. I contacted the minister at Lasea church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where she lives, and he and the elders met with her Wednesday evening and will continue working with her. If you need any further info, please let me know. I look forward to meeting you when you come to the school. I am preaching in Sparta, Missouri, this morning; I saw you were their last fall.”
Cowetta church of Christ, Oklahoma: Keno Shrum (preacher) reports, “Greetings from Coweta, Rob. We have had several Bible studies this week. One in particular was with a man I spoke to you about who is unsure if there is a God or if the Bible is trustworthy. I was prepared to do Lesson 1 of BTTB, which we did. However, the survey revealed this information, so, based on your advice, Tuesday evening of this week and next week, we will move to Believe the Bible lessons B and C. Afterwards, we will move back to Lesson 2 of BTTB. Please continue to pray for this study!”
East Ridge church of Christ, Chattanooga, Tennessee: Charles Cochran reports, “We just had a baptism. This is the young man and his wife with one of our couples, Randall and Sheri Webb. The Webb’s have been such an encouragement. One of our elders and I went to visit a contact through compassion cards and welcome bucket. We set up a Bible study with them. They have already visited our services. Another couple is going to try and set up a Bible study with a House-to-House contact. I am going on a study tonight with another contact. One of our men will be teaching the Does it Matter lesson.
BCS church of Christ, Texas: Wes Mangan (deacon) reports, “Jason added one of his coworkers to the compassion card list, because the coworker’s wife’s father (who are not members of the church) was sick and near death. Jason had them over to the house for dinner, several weeks after sending the cards. The family had told Jason how much the cards meant to them. During dinner, BJ asked the wife how her father was doing, and the wife broke down in tears and said to BJ, “Can I just give you a hug, I can’t tell you how much y’all’s prayers and cards meant to us.”
Jacksonville church of Christ, Alabama: We want to introduce Dray and Theresa Conner. They moved to Jacksonville recently. They have a religious background from the Mormons, Catholics, and Baptists. They heard our preacher Keith Ritchie on our local radio program, and they loved his Bible-based message. They decided to visit this morning. Brother Keith gave them a visitor’s bag and recorded their contact information. My family invited them to lunch on Sunday and then our house for Memorial Day. Ground has been tilled and now they are ready for the study! Since he works second shift, we were able to schedule our first Bible study for Thursday at 10:00 AM. HTHSOE principles at work—digital media, visitors’ bags, meal, house and now Bible study. Please pray for them.