New steps brought new results for churches, as well as new beginnings for many people, around the state this Easter.
Guided by steps through The Big Invite, ministers throughout Georgia are reporting large crowds and responses to the Gospel. Many of those experiences were shared on a Facebook group dedicated to The Big Invite, an initiative by Evangelism Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Through it, churches utilized resources and step-by-step instructions to reach out to their communities in efforts of having their biggest Easter attendance ever.
“Praising God for a packed house with many, many guests at Riverbend Baptist in Gainesville!” wrote Mike Dorough, pastor. “One young man professed faith in Jesus! Thousands of invites extended across [northeast Georgia]! God honored the hard work & prayers of His people! Now, we’ve got LOTS of awesome follow-up to do!”
Saturday night salvations
Pastor Daryl Womack of Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church, also in Gainesville, saw the transformation first-hand. Not only did business as usual end for the seven individuals praying over the weekend to receive Christ, but so did the way his church saw reaching out to others.
“We were very disciplined and systematic about what we were going to do in preparing for Easter,” he said. “We formed teams that went into our community and knocked on the doors of 2,000 homes.”
Those homes, he pointed out, sat in sections representing different parts of the city along ethnic and socioeconomic lines.
“We saw those folks in our two Sunday services as well as Saturday night service,” he added. Back in February, Womack noted how Montgomery Memorial benefited from the Big Invite layout and resources.
For example, the ‘Easter Eve’ service on Saturday night was a first for Montgomery Memorial and brought about five of the salvations from the weekend. Beforehand, church members presented door hangers to local first responders working Easter Sunday, showing the Saturday service as another option.
“We sent letters to the police chief, fire chief, and sheriff to let their people know this was available to them,” said Womack, who estimated the Saturday service split nearly 50/50 on visitors and church members.
“I’m proud of our church and all other churches that were involved in the Big Invite. Awesome job, everyone!” posted David Cook, pastor of Union Baptist in Winder. “We had a great Easter at our church with more people at our Sunrise, early service, and regular service. We were definitely up numerically, but didn’t have any public decisions for Christ. It wasn’t because Jesus’ heart and my heart wasn’t pulling for people. It’s not by our power or might, but by God’s Spirit. We can plant and water, but God is the only One who can give the increase.”
“Pastors, if you preached what God gave you to preach and you loved the people, it was successful in God’s eyes!”
Rockmart pastor Justin Carter, of Bellview Baptist Church, noted an increase in those checking out Jesus.
“We had the largest Easter crowd in three years due to The Big Invite,” he told The Index. “We had more unchurched families from the community at Easter than I’ve ever seen at our church. We’ll be following up this week.”
Cook and Womack joined numerous others in crediting the leadership and work of Georgia Baptist Convention president and Alpharetta pastor Thomas Hammond, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Evangelism department, and specifically state missionary Scott Smith in helping make The Big Invite a success.
For Smith, the results acknowledge what he’s always known.
“This works,” he stated.”We said from the outset we were offering a proven model for having more guests than ever for Easter. We synthesized a plan that would be workable for most any church in any location. For those who implemented, they saw the fruits of their labor Sunday morning.”
And now, he stressed, comes a critical aspect of the effort.
“[Follow-up] is extremely crucial. We sent out a ten-minute training session (below) that if implemented will not only keep guests from falling through the cracks but lead to even more salvations.”
When it comes to following up, he pointed out two key mistakes churches make.
“One is not making it multi-touch. Guests need to receive at least two separate contacts on different mediums, whether that’s a phone call, email, or personal visit,” he explained. “The other key mistake in follow-up? When churches just don’t do it.”
Smith said he began receiving texts, emails, and other alerts from pastors yesterday, with little break in the updates.
“We had an overflow capacity today [and] had to add chairs,” said John McMillian, Jr., senior pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Eatonton. “We do not have a definite number because people were crowding into rows! We do know it was 500-plus. That’s about a 60 percent increase.”
“Record crowds at both our sunrise service (125) and morning worship attendance (250),” wrote Sonoraville Baptist Pastor Steve Skates. “The morning service attendance was 110 more than our average.”
“We at Concord Baptist in Mableton came within 18 of doubling our average Sunday morning attendance,” exclaimed Lanier Gable, minister of music.
“We had our all-time high at FBCVR yesterday with 1,912 people in attendance,” reported First Baptist Villa Rica Pastor Kevin Williams. “Prior to that it was 1,480. We also had 24 decisions yesterday!”
In two services, said Altamaha, Jesup Pastor Jack Lee, his church experienced more than 700 attendees.
“No way we could have done that in one service,” he told Smith. “Many came because they were invited. Praise the Lord!”
Ray Cochran, family minister at First Baptist Chatsworth, said their attendance from Palm Sunday to Easter nearly doubled, from 161 to 308. “That’s an amazing number,” he noted.
Hammond himself shared that Alpharetta First Baptist witnessed more than 1,600 in attendance yesterday with four baptisms. “Largest Sunday in the history of the church,” he said. “We also had our first service at our church plant in north Alpharetta, GracePoint Church at Union Hill, which had 120 in attendance.”
Smith attests to The Big Invite’s reach going much further than yesterday.
“We’re seeing a new excitement in many of our churches,” he said. “They experienced what it’s like to invest time and energy and see a visible return. They realize outreach still works, prayer has power, and ‘come-and-see’ evangelism like Andrew’s leaves an imprint. People in our culture are grateful to be invited to church and will often respond.
“It’s almost as if we literally doubled or tripled our vision-capacity. Ephesians 3:20 just showed up in response to the faith-driven action steps of Georgia Baptists.
“We’ll be reaping the rewards for a long time.”