Published August 8, 2013
SAVANNAH — Savannah pastors are joining others statewide in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s new My Hope America fall evangelism emphasis.
The nationwide and Canadian focus will coincide with the North Carolina evangelist’s 95th birthday on Nov. 7.
The concept was rolled out in El Salvador in Sept. 2002 and has since spread around the world with more than 10 million professions of faith. The BGEA felt it was time to bring the emphasis to North America.
Longtime SBC evangelism leader J.W. Hutchens of Sugar Hill, who is coordinating the Georgia event, is leading workshops on how pastors can train their laypersons in the Matthews and Friends method of reaching the lost in their immediate circle of influence.
The BGEA has become synonymous with large evangelistic rallies and mass evangelism events that have led millions to faith in Christ. This approach differs in that it is a more intimate sharing of the Gospel in one-on-one settings.
My Hope America combines the impact of video programs with the power of personal relationships, Hutchens said, in a recent training at Savannah Baptist Association. Under the guidance of pastors, believers across America will open their homes in November to share the Gospel with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using one of several new evangelistic programs featuring testimonies and message from the famed evangelist.
The format centers on four simple approaches to sharing one’s faith, Hutchens added:
Invite – Laypersons are encouraged to invite friends and neighbors who don’t know Christ into their home for a meal or dessert, or gather them at a church or favored gathering place.
Watch – Using a television broadcast, DVD, laptop, or mobile device, one of several evangelistic programs are viewed which feature life-changing testimonies and a message by Graham.
Share – Laypersons are then asked to share how Christ gave them hope and what He is doing in their life today.
Ask – Friends are then asked if they would like to make the same decision to receive Christ, and pray with them.
Hutchens said the approach, titled Matthew and Friends, is the heart of the national outreach. As demonstrated in Matt. 9:9-19, the apostle Matthew invited people into his home to meet Jesus. That simple model serves as the basis of the emphasis.
But the outreach is more than about bringing people to faith in Christ, Hutchens stressed. It’s also about bring new believers into the life of a local church and grounding them in biblical truths to strengthen their lives. It’s as much about discipleship as about conversion, he maintained.
“People come down the aisle in churches to accept Christ and the first thing the pastor says is ‘Have a seat,’” Hutchens said only half-joking.
“This approach doesn’t stop with the salvation experience but just begins with it. It is designed to get new believers into your church where they can grow and be discipled and then, in turn, learn how to share their faith with their own friends, family, and acquaintances.”
Hutchens said studies reveal that if new believers are not involved in a small group in a local church within their first six weeks there is a 50 percent chance they will not be in church the following six weeks.
“Pastors, you have people in your church who will be able to reach individuals whose paths you will never cross. This is an excellent way to extend your ministry through the lives you reach every Sunday in your sermons and teaching of Scripture.”
The materials are free but can only be accessed once a pastor has completed training for the program. Materials take three weeks to arrive after completion of the training, so Hutchens urged pastors to attend informational sessions immediately so they can register for the training.
To learn more about My Hope America, contact J.W. Hutchens at (770) 945-4037 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For extensive information via the Web, including blogs and videos, visit MyHopeAmerica.com.
Pastors are encourage to attend training sessions as soon as possible to enable them to qualify for the free materials which they can then use to train laity in their churches.
The emphasis will culminate in early November. Pastors need to be trained and have ordered their materials no later than the first week in October.
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