ROCKETT – Hope is a phone call away for Ellis County residents.
Fourteen churches in the Ellis Baptist Association called and talked to nearly 10,000 people on the telephone, discovering whether each of them is connected to a congregation, taking prayer requests and inviting them to come to a special worship service and lunch at a church close to their respective homes.
“All the research says if you invite someone they will come,” said Ellis Baptist Association Director of Missions Larry Johnson. “So we’ve been out inviting people to church.”
The congregations partnered with Harvest Unlimited, an evangelical ministry that specializes in this sort of outreach, to connect with 4,168 “unchurched” families, roughly 42 percent of the people church members spoke with. Ten percent of those families indicated they would come to the special March 7 service and meal functions. More than 1,000 families indicated they are interested in visiting a church in the future.
The outreach is part of “Ellis Hope 2010,” the association’s participation in Texas Hope 2010, an initiative of Texas Baptists to share the gospel with every Texan by Easter 2010.
Johnson said area church leaders see Ellis Hope 2010 as an opportunity to work together in an effort to expand God’s kingdom.
“This is something we need to do,” Johnson said. “It would be good to pull our churches together. It would be good to pull our churches together for an evangelistic effort.”
Though the churches didn’t expect all the families who indicated they would come to the service to actually come, visitors did make their way to area congregations March 7. Rockett Baptist Church in Rockett, which typically has about 80 in its Sunday worship service, had at least 16 visitors, many of whom stayed after the service for lunch and fellowship.
Rockett Baptist Church members made sure to greet each of the visitors and attempt to make them feel as welcome as possible. Following the service, each visitor was given a mug, candy and some information about the church’s ministries. During the catered lunch after the service, church members fellowshipped with visitors and the guests were eligible for gift cards that were raffled off.
“I’m certainly trying to just get to meet people who are unchurched in our close proximity,” said Pastor Cory Mullins. “Just being how people are today – being closed off and more reliant on social networking sites … it’s kind of harder to meet people and get to know them.”
Mullins said church members will follow-up with the people who visited March 7 but also will visit with the other families who on the phone expressed interest in the church but did not come. The congregation has their contact information and knows a bit about them.
Even if people do not come to an Ellis Baptist Association church, Johnson believes church members have performed a valuable ministry. More than one-third of the people who spoke with the Baptists on the phone shared some sort of prayer request. The churches have prayed for those requests and continue to do so.
Near the end of the calling, Johnson pointed to the efforts of Fourth Ward Baptist Church in Ennis, which saw 79 percent of the people they spoke with share at least one prayer request.
“Prayer requests have been absolutely out of sight for them,” Johnson said.