"One of the greatest things about GPS is that it came out of collaboration with our state partners," said Ken Ellis, the GPS team leader at NAMB. "Working with our state partners, associations and churches is how GPS originated. We have no intention of changing that now."
According to the evangelism group at the North American Mission Board, 41 state and national conventions are involved in this year's God's Plan for Sharing: Reaching Across North America efforts.
This year's GPS focuses on evangelistic events, but states are encouraged to focus on events and strategies that work in their particular contexts. For example, the California Southern Baptist Convention encouraged churches to come up with their own outreach events and apply to the state convention for seed money to get them started. Some CSBC associations also have pitched in matching funds for the events.
Randy McWhorter, the healthy church group leader for the CSBC, said California churches have done events aimed at reaching a variety of people in the state including families, children and youth.
"We've also had a significant number of our new church plants -- or churches that are being planted -- utilize the seed money," McWhorter said.
Although many of the participating California churches hosted their evangelistic events during the Easter season, churches have the option of conducting an event at any time during the year. McWhorter estimates that close to 300 churches have taken advantage of the seed money so far this year and hopes to have more than 500 churches participate by the end of the year.
During the last two-year emphasis, Across America, in 2010, California Southern Baptists saw an 18 percent increase in baptisms, McWhorter said. While not all of that growth can be attributed to GPS, McWhorter noted that GPS was part of an increase in the visibility of evangelism in the state that year.
The Alabama State Board of Missions is providing churches and associations throughout Alabama with specialists who have expertise in particular evangelistic events and with tracts to use as part of their GPS strategy.
Recently, 120 people committed their lives to Christ during six days of Horse Whisperer events throughout Alabama. More than 6,300 attended the events, according to Sammy Gilbreath, the state's director of evangelism. Information on those who filled out decision and prospect cards during the events was given to church planters for follow up. Other outreach events in Alabama include wild game dinners and car shows.
Alabama has "bought in" to GPS and it will be the state's evangelism strategy through 2020, Gilbreath said, adding that Southern Baptists in the state knocked on about 1 million doors in 2010 through GPS.
"It's our strategy that this 10-year ministry will cover every person in the state of Alabama with the Gospel," Gilbreath said. "We covered about 30 percent in 2010 just with the visitation bags and the billboards. With the attractional events this year, we're well on our way to making sure that every person in the state of Alabama hears the Gospel by 2020."
In the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, where cold weather late into the spring often keeps churches from holding large evangelistic events around Easter, David Sundeen, the state's evangelism catalyst, is expecting many churches to hold their GPS events this summer. Many churches, he said, are planning outdoor block party events. Others will host Vacation Bible School and wild game dinners.
"A lot of the churches are pretty new up here," Sundeen said. "The way they were started was through outreach-type events. A lot of them haven't gotten so old that they've forgotten how they were started."
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For GPS-related church resources, visit www.gps2020.net.
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