CANTON — It is not easy to establish a door-to-door witnessing ministry in our modern, sophisticated, complicated world. Subdivisions have gated communities with limited access. “No Solicitation” signs are prevalent in most communities. Cocooning, the act of insulating or hiding oneself from the normal social environment, is a way of life in America.
Norman Hunt and Hopewell Baptist Church in Canton are not insensitive to individuals’ right to privacy, but at the same time they are not deterred by those things that would normally discourage folks from openly sharing the Gospel.
Norman Hunt, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist, grew up in Wilmington, NC, and as a young adult was working for Carolina Power & Light company. He readily admits that his younger brother, Johnny, pastor of First Baptist Woodstock, was instrumental in introducing him to Christ.
Norman said he had noticed a difference in his brother’s life. According to the Canton-Sixes Patch, Norman recounted, “The night Johnny came to see me, he simply said, ‘I know you’ve heard that I’ve been going to church and I quit the pool hall, but I want to tell you what Jesus did.’ And he began to weep. That impacted my life in a way I’d never felt before.”
The Hopewell pastor testified, “I never got over the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit after that night; and on February 2, 1975, I asked Jesus to forgive me and invited Him into my life. That night God stepped out of heaven and into my heart. I was forever changed. I fell in love with telling others about what He had done in my life.
”I was amazed that my phone never stopped ringing. People who had heard about my salvation were calling and asking me to come to their church and share with them what had happened. It was in that context that God spoke to me through His Word one night and confirmed that my life’s purpose was to share the Gospel with a lost world.
“That was 41 years ago and today I am so grateful that I heard His call and was obedient to follow. I could never imagine my life better in any way than what God has provided.”
A serious commission
“I take the Great Commission seriously,” Hunt explained. “I have always been passionate about soul-winning. For the first eight years in my ministry I pastored a small church in North Carolina and did the work of an evangelist.
“In 1989 I resigned my church in North Carolina and moved to the Atlanta area to work with Bailey Smith and Real Evangelism and agreed to fill the pulpit for the Hopewell church until they found a pastor, but I have always made evangelism a priority. When we come to the end of our lives and stand before the judgment seat of Christ we may discover that the things that we thought were so vitally important may not be nearly as important to God, but I think He will want to know if we told others of His great love and grace.
“Hopewell eventually extended a call for me to become the pastor. The church was only averaging 30-50 in attendance at that time, but we have seen good growth through the years. There have been seasons when our average attendance exceeded 500, but at present we are averaging more than 300 in attendance.”
Over the years Hopewell has purchased 30 acres of property across the street from the church’s original location. In 1995 a multipurpose worship center was completed that included a fellowship hall, nursery, and educational building. The budget has doubled.
Hunt commented, “We have grown spiritually at Hopewell due to an emphasis on prayer and the teaching of God’s Word. I am grateful to have several young men that have surrendered to the ministry and are now pastoring – two locally. We have many involved in missions and annually take part in overseas mission trips. We have adopted two unreached people groups and have been ministering to them and communicating the Gospel to them for 15 years.”
Vital to the health, mission of the church
But Hopewell’s emphasis is on evangelism. Hunt declares, “I tell our staff that we must reach people if we are going to grow. Over the years we have taught practically every evangelism training material written.
“I have always felt that having a full-time evangelism and outreach staff member was vital to the health and mission of the church. I took our staff to be certified in F.A.I.T.H. evangelism and we continue to use that witnessing tool to reach the lost today. We have never stopped having a weekly outreach ministry in our church.
“I also use evangelists for our revival dates and high attendance days at Hopewell. Each quarter I teach a ‘One Day Soul-Winning Workshop’ to train our people to know how to use Gospel tracts and their testimony in witnessing. Last year I invited Dennis Nunn to lead a week of revival using his ‘Every Believer a Witness’ materials.”
Every Tuesday is dedicated to outreach at Hopewell. Hunt emphasized, “We do not have any meetings on Tuesday except outreach. We do not want anyone to have any excuse for not being at outreach.”
Because of Hunt’s emphasis on evangelism Hopewell has consistently, with few exceptions, annually been among the top 100 churches in Georgia in the number of baptisms.