Five years ago, I sat down with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) staff leadership and proposed that we must work to revitalize Oklahoma Baptist churches. The proposal included an approach that we believed had the best opportunity to return BGCO churches to the central mission God had placed before us—reaching people with the Gospel.
A church that has lost its mission has lost its way. Good worship and exceptional fellowship within the church are fundamental elements in a strong church. But if evangelism and missions, followed by discipleship that matures new believers, is not present, the church has failed at its most significant task assigned by our Lord.
When BGCO leadership took a long look at how to help revitalize Oklahoma churches, the conclusion was clear. There was not a need to find a new program or create some new plan—what was needed was a long-term, concerted effort to revitalize the heart of the church.
Like a physical body, the heart of the church is most important. People can tone their muscles and work to increase their endurance, but if the heart is failing, the body will not become more fit. The heart provides life to the rest of the body.
BGCO leadership concluded that every church has a Sunday School and/or small group ministry. Worship attendance makes fans of Christ, but Sunday School develops followers. People can attend worship and only be loosely attached. Someone who attends Sunday School finds connection and spiritual development through the study of God’s Word. If BGCO churches could be helped to revitalize the Sunday School and return evangelism as a central focus, there would be a high possibility that the church could be revitalized.
After five years, this strategy is becoming a reality. During this quarter, churches that utilize the Bible Studies for Life LifeWay Sunday School lessons will have the privilege of studying lessons written by Oklahoma’s own Blake Gideon of Edmond, First. The study has, at its core, an evangelism focus that challenges Sunday School leaders, teachers, and every member to take four very simple, but significant, steps toward reaching people with the Gospel.
This personal evangelism campaign is called the Connect>1 3151 Challenge. Individuals are asked to pray for three people who they believe have no personal relationship with Christ. Each member of the Sunday School is asked to learn the One Hope Gospel presentation. Over the next few weeks, individuals are asked to invite five people to visit their Sunday School class. Last and most important, they are asked to share One Hope with one person. In fact, the tract is designed so a person can simply sit down and read through it with someone else.
Nothing will revitalize your life, Sunday School class and church like seeing people come to faith in Christ. When people respond to the Gospel, God’s people are filled with joy. Churches that were turned inward are filled with new spiritual vitality and purpose when people walk the aisle and publicly profess Christ as Savior.
This step to revitalization begins with you and me. Will you pray for three people, learn one Gospel presentation, invite five people to Sunday School, and above all, share the Gospel with just one person? As a church leader, will you lead others to do the same?