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Evangelism leaders plan, pray for GPS


NEW ORLEANS (BP) — National and state Southern Baptist evangelism leaders from across North America met in New Orleans Dec. 2-4 for their annual evangelism winter meeting, which this year was focused on the new “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS) denomination-wide evangelism emphasis.

The gathering was a continuation of what has been two years of planning, designing, and strategizing for the evangelism emphasis that will run from 2010 to 2020. The campaign – a product of a partnership between NAMB and state and local evangelism leaders within the SBC – has a goal of having “every believer sharing” and “every person hearing” in North America by 2020.

More than 100 attended the meeting, which included state directors of evangelism, state prayer coordinators, leaders of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), and NAMB staff.

Attendees spent much of their time in workgroups related to GPS, discussing goals and needed actions leading up to the campaign’s 2010 launch.

But the primary focus of the evangelism conference was prayer – the first of four “mileposts” that make up GPS. The other mileposts are “engaging,” “sowing,” and “harvesting.”

The centrality of prayer – the first GPS milepost – is key to evangelism, because prayer gives birth to evangelism, said Bible teacher Henry Blackaby.

Making an analogy between agriculture and the four GPS “mileposts,” New Orleans Seminary president Chuck Kelley drew on history to highlight how successful evangelism campaigns had been for Southern Baptists up through the mid-1970s.

Kelley, who studied the history of Southern Baptist evangelism as part of his doctoral work, described how, from 1955 to the mid-1970s, yearly baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention crested near 450,000 in 1974 and quickly fell off.

“I watched that passion [for evangelism] become institutionalized,” Kelley said of the mid-1970s. “More churches, more Southern Baptists, more money, more resources, more missionaries, more strategies. More of everything but fruit. What happened to the harvest?”