With their eyes closed and their hearts open, more than 1,900 people across the Houston area embraced a relationship with Christ through City Reach evangelism efforts in the weeks leading up the Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists.
Sitting in prison cells, stopping on street corners, watching extreme sports athletes and celebrating in international festivals, area residents discovered the hope of Christ as Texas Baptists led more than 20 evangelism events and initiatives before they gathered for the Annual Meeting. The effort is part of Texas Hope 2010, an initiative of Texas Baptists to share the gospel with every Texan by Easter 2010.
“City Reach is a great opportunity to invest in the community where the convention hosts its annual meeting each year,” said Jon Randles, director of the Evangelism Team of Texas Baptists. “By partnering with local churches at a grassroots level, we are able to see individuals come to Christ and local churches strengthened in their love for evangelism and discipleship. This year’s series of events is a great example of how cooperation works to reach people for Christ.”
More than 1,400 offenders made professions as a result of the largest Bill Glass Champions for Life Prison Ministry effort ever that came as a result of a partnership between the organization and Texas Baptists. In all, more than 2,400 decisions for Christ were made as a result of the evangelistic partnership.
“They brought former prisoners, athletes and others to share the hope of Christ with folks who are often marginalized from the rest of society,” said Randel Everett. “We were thrilled that they would partner with us in Texas Hope 2010, especially in Houston for City Reach. We expected hundreds of decisions for Christ to be made in these meetings, and that’s exactly what happened.”
In a mid-October prison evangelism effort in Huntsville led by Gilbert Herrera, 250 offenders participated in a worship service, listening to Herrera’s testimony of turning from a life of crime and into the arms of Christ. After hearing his story, 24 men did likewise.
“I came here because I didn’t want to forget those I left behind,” Herrera said. “I don’t want to get so wrapped up in my freedom that I forget those here.”
“There is no reason why God can’t change these men into a good men, good fathers and good sons.”
Using a combination of bicycle and skateboarding stunts as a vehicle to connect with students, the Real Encounter extreme sports team shared the gospel with more than 2,000 young people Nov. 4. As the team invited people into a relationship with Christ, teenagers swarmed around them, coming to counselors who helped them understand what it means to give one’s life to Christ. In all, 215 individuals came to Christ that night.
The team worked in partnership with local churches, helping them connect with new believers so people can be discipled, an exciting aspect of City Reach, according to Leighton Flower, director of youth evangelism for Texas Baptists.
“This church is reaping the benefit of the harvest of this City Reach event and of Hope 2010 as we strive to reach every person in Texas with the gospel of Christ,” Flowers said. “The biggest part of the work will take place in the next weeks and months as the churches contact, baptize and disciple all of these who have made decisions. And that is the exciting part.”
Twenty-five people came to faith through a international festival hosted by 19 Asian Baptist churches representing the Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian and Vietnamese population in the area.
“We are excited that we can come together and work for one cause and that is to share the gospel, to make known the claims of Christ here in Houston,” said Ernest Dagohoy, pastor of First Filipino Baptist Church in Houston. “It’s just amazing that when we work together that we can do more things together. And the seeds that we plant will come out of this to reach the city of Houston.”
Each of the roughly 500 people who attended the event was asked to complete a registration card requesting contact information and ethnicity. The cards were then sorted and the prospective groups were given to the appropriate international church for follow-up efforts.
“We came together because the Bible included all the diversity of different races,” said Ricky Leung, pastor of Chinese Baptist Church in Houston and an organizer for the event. “I think it is a blessing to come together and serve and show the power of the gospel. It is one body and one people of God. It’s a blessing to be one body.”
To help lay the foundation for the evangelism outreaches, a city-wide prayer rally was held at Discovery Green Park in downtown Nov. 4, which brought together more than 300 people from more than 120 congregations.
Rickie Bradshaw, a church consultant for the Union Baptist Association and an organizer of the event, said that the rally was about coming together to ask forgiveness for disunity among Christians and to seek the Lord’s blessing on the city.
“We want Houston not only to be known as the space city or the city of energy or the city with the finest medical center in the world, but we want it to be known as a place where the Lord is,” Bradshaw said. “That is what we really and ultimately want. We want healing and deliverance to take place in our city.”
To do this, Bradshaw said the church must come together as one, seek the Lord in prayer and then turn from its wicked ways so that the presence of God will be attracted to the city.
“It’s not that the Methodist or Baptists or Catholics haven’t been doing it,” said Bradshaw. “It’s the fact that we haven’t been doing it together. So today, we are saying to the Father above that all of His children are here together representing the Body of Christ of Houston. That is why we are here.”
Compiled from reports by Kaitlin Chapman.