VICTORIA – Each week, new faces graced the sanctuary at Northside Baptist Church, each with a different look, background and curiosity level.
But they had a common reason for being there: each was looking into a church that had canvassed its community handing out evangelistic multimedia compact discs in an attempt to share the gospel.
“We have seen visitors every Sunday except this Sunday, and that’s just I couldn’t document it because of the CDs,” Pastor Tim Williams said in an interview before Easter. “We haven’t seen any decisions, but I’ve been telling people that’s not what this is about. This is a sowing ministry.”
Northside Baptist Church is one of six Victoria congregations who distributed 16,000 evangelistic CDs throughout the city as part of its involvement in Texas Hope 2010, an initiative of Texas Baptists that encourages believers to pray for others, care for people in need and share the gospel with every Texan by Easter 2010.
Through the effort, Texas Baptists distributed more than 862,000 evangelistic CDs and countless copies of Scripture. A man ministering in a South Texas detention center gave away more than 40 New Testaments a month. Bosque Baptist Association committed to distributing 2,500 New Testaments. Broken Chains Freedom Church in Wichita Falls held several large events where biker New Testaments were distributed.
In 2009, Texas Baptists gave a record amount of more than $900,000 to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger and are seeking to raise a total of $2 million for the offering in 2009 and 2010. Congregations are sharing the hope of Christ through starting or expanding food ministries that provide practical assistances to tens of thousands, particularly during the country’s recent economic crisis.
Uncountable multitudes of Texas Baptists are praying with others, taking the cares and concerns to God and asking him to provide. Numerous Texas Baptists have shared stories of asking for God to help someone and seeing that help arrive shortly afterward.
Texas Baptists have shared the hope of Christ – through evangelistic events, CD distribution, feeding ministries, sports ministries and a host of other techniques – with throngs of people and many of them have come to know Christ as Savior through those efforts, said Randel Everett, Texas Baptists executive director. But much work remains.
“Now it is time to evaluate Texas Hope 2010 to learn what has happened over these past two years,” he said. “Are there communities or people groups that have been neglected? How effective are the strategies and tools we are using to share the hope of Christ? How do we maintain the emphasis on prayer, care and share not only in Texas but throughout the nations?”
The initiative has encouraged church members to reach out to others in their respective communities, Williams said. Through Texas Hope 2010, Christians are sharing their faith with their friends and co-workers.
“It’s been a very easy and positive thing,” he said. “It’s been a good first touch for some of our folks to get out into the community or to neighbors to begin a relationship or deepen things. There’s a new family in my neighborhood when I did it. They were one of the ones who visited one Sunday.”
Tina Valdez, missions coordinator for First Baptist Church in Castroville, said the CDs were tools that God used to share the gospel. God orchestrated each church member’s visit in the community, selecting a Christian who could best minister to a particular person.
The congregation has offered an evangelistic CD to every home in Castroville and after Easter is looking to distribute CDs to the 900 homes that surround the city.
“It’s been tremendous,’ Valdez said. “I can’t even describe how awesome it’s been. People have been so open. They need someone who will pray for them. They need someone who will be there for them. They need to know someone cares for them.”
In one case, a church member met a person who needed her car repaired. The church member prayed with the woman that God would send someone to fix the vehicle. As the church person left, the woman’s next-door neighbor walked over and asked if she needed help with her car.
Even people living in homes where church members have left the CD hanging in a bag on a door have later called the church to ask about when the church has worship services.
“It’s like God working in front of you,” Valdez said. “It’s like you had a front row seat. It was just awesome.” “God is blowing the doors open in Castroville. It has been awesome. It has just been awesome.”
Procter Baptist Church in Port Arthur partnered with Harvest Time Bible Church to reach out to the neighborhood through CD distribution. Roughly 10 people made professions of faith and many others expressed interested in visiting one of the churches.
Rick Erwin, pastor of Procter Baptist Church, said Texas Hope 2010 has encouraged people to live out their faith on a regular basis.
“I believe that Hope 2010 has brought some unexpected benefits for our church family. First, there is a new excitement about getting into the community. We had people visiting that have never been door-to-door in our community before,” he said.
“One of our men who was very bashful about talking to anyone concerning their relationship with Christ was put in a situation where he had no choice but to share the basics of salvation with a woman that was asking him how she could be saved. When he got back to the church he asked, ‘Pastor, will we get to go again next week?’ Of course the answer to that was an emphatic “Yes!” This effort has rekindled a new passion for sharing the gospel that I believe will refocus our vision for winning folks where we are and see our new neighbors as a blessing rather than stumbling block.”
Though the Texas Hope 2010 campaign was slated to end on Easter, Texas Baptists continue sharing the hope of Christ with their communities. .
Churches continue to look for ways to meet the needs of the hungry, are giving to the world hunger offering and are getting involved in the Texas Hunger Initiative, a Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission-Baylor University School of Social Work partnership that grew out of Texas Hope 2010 and seeks to end Texas food insecurity by 2015.
Churches are signing on to become summer feeding sites, a particularly strong need for the vast number of Texas children on free lunch programs at school but do not have anything during the summers.
Some congregations plan on starting to distribute evangelistic CDs this Spring. Amarillo Area Baptist Association churches are targeting early May as when they will blanket the area with Scripture.
“It’s an opportunity for churches to get outside themselves and be visible in their community. Obviously the one opportunity to share the gospel is the main reason to do it,” said Amarillo Area Baptist Association Director of Missions Bryan Houser.
“We would like to see lives impacted and changed by it by people being exposed to the gospel. We would like some visibility for our churches as being out in the community and caring about people. We’re talking about the CD distribution, but we also hope it helps with caring opportunities.”
Everett praised Texas Baptists for how they already have allowed God to use them and how they plan to allow God to work through their actions. As long as there is a need, Texas Baptists will remain committed to sharing the hope of Christ with a world in need of hearing the gospel.
“Texas Hope 2010 is a great start to an Acts 1:8 strategy,” he said. “We must maintain this commitment to sharing the gospel in every endeavor we undertake until everyone has the opportunity to respond to the hope of Christ.”