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It is amazing what people can do when they work together. Despite not having a pastor for three years, the congregation of First Baptist Church in Spearfish Pass in South Dakota has managed to grow and they are now getting ready to celebrate the Church’s 60th anniversary. When the last pastor left there were only four members in the congregation. In the last three years it has grown to 40 parishioners. One member has described the Church as being “blessed.” One of the reasons why it has been so difficult to find a pastor is because of its size and location. The community is relatively isolated and attracts more elderly parishioners. “It’s hard to get people to come to a small town,” said Shelisa Davis, a member of the congregation. Despite the problems, the people have gathered together to not only worship but also have managed to complete a much-needed renovation of the original sanctuary.  The work included repairing the foundation and installing a new furnace. Not only was all the work completed but they didn’t have to go into debt to pay for it. With these upgrades the church’s next project is to plan its 60th anniversary, which will be celebrated in June. What do you think?  Is this a plan/leadership structure that could help tranform the smaller, rural church?  Why did this work with this church?  And why do we not see more ‘totally lay led’ churches?

You guys remember Elmer Towns?  Elmer is still going strong down in Lynchburg from what I hear. Read this little paragraph from Dr. Towns: In 1971, I was Sunday School Superintendent at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Virginia when Sunday School attendance averaged approximately 4,000 a week. Pastor Jerry Falwell set an attendance goal of 10,000, an unheard of record attendance. The goal was to saturate the city and surrounding counties. First, all 103 pages of the telephone book were distributed to 103 volunteers with the instruction to phone everyone and invite them to Sunday School. Twelve billboards surrounding the city invited visitors to the service. Sixty radio announcements were played on every station and 10 announcements on the I television station invited people to Sunday School. A flyer was placed under the windshield wiper of every automobile in town and 5,000 posters were tacked on trees, light poles, etc. Three mailings (a letter, flyer, and post card) were sent to every home in a 5 county area. Finally, 200 workers went door to door on the Saturday before the big day to invite visitors to Sunday School. As a result of saturating our “Jerusalem,” 10,154 attended Harvest Day, 1972.  But by 1987, Dr. Falwell was qualifying his opinion on every phase of Saturation Evangelism. He said it didn’t work as it used to work because of the high price of media. Falwell was exhorting “Back to Basics,” which included visiting, contacting friends, working through Sunday School teachers, etc. via Dr. Elmer Towns: Goals and how to reach them // I grew up in the hey day of Sunday Schools.  We did all the contests to get people to come.  We swallowed gold-fish; we gave away airplane rides.  I remember one Sunday we spread honey all over the pastor and threw feathers at him… all in the good name of getting more people to Sunday School. And you know what… it worked.  Not sure the motivation was right… but we got enough people there to honey and feather the guy. When I read what Dr. Towns states above, I think of a couple things: 1.  I’m not sure that this would work today.  I’m definitely sure that Sunday School is not the entry point. 2.  I’m struck by the amount of effort that they did in 1971 to get people to come to church.   Frankly, I’m not sure that anybody goes that those type of extreme measures these days.  Now we’ll pop a direct mail piece off to a mail-order house and make sure our music is really good.  Then we’ll sit back and wait for people to show up. 3.  I’m not convinced door to door is the way to go… but what if your church sent out 200 workers and simply invited people to church.  I bet the return would be better than two 10,000 people mailings. I’m just wondering… have we lost our zeal? In most churches, we wrestle just to figure out what the first step is for outsiders.  Is it a Sunday Service?  A home group?  A community outreach? All I know… if we’re not sure what we’re targeting at, we’ll never hit it. Say what you want to about 1971 Saturation Evangelism at Thomas Road, but they were doing something… and evidently it saw some pretty good results.  They aimed at the target and hit it every once in a while. As Seth Godin would say… they ‘shipped’. I hope that your church ‘ships’ in 2012.  I hope my church ‘ships’ in 2012. It’s time most of us quit spinning our wheels.      

The Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, is growing faster than the U.S. population. AG reported that its U.S. adherents increased four percent in 2010, which is several times higher than the U.S. population growth rate, which is about one percent a year. Adherents of the Assemblies of God USA have surpassed three million followers, 3,030,944 to be exact, in 2010. This is the largest annual percentage increase since 1983, according to AG records. In terms of official membership, AG reported a 2.5 percent increase, to 1.75 million members. Attendance at major worship service, water baptism, spirit baptism, and conversions were also up, according to statistics. The largest decline was seen in the Sunday evening service, where attendance drastically fell 4.1 percent, to 399,728. “This is a unique moment in the history of our movement,” said Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood in a video promoting the denomination’s annual General Council meeting next month in Phoenix. via Christian News. This is GOOD news, is it not? Todd


The word “joy” shows up a lot in the Bible…

· Shout with joy!

· Clap your hands for joy!

· The joy of the Lord is your strength!

· In God’s presence is fullness of joy.

· For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

Last time Philip and Stephanie and my grandson Jesse were here for a weekend, I was in the backyard with almost two-years-old Jesse and we were walking up and down the little hill (actually I was walking and Jesse was running).  Jesse was holding my hand really tight (that’s a good feeling!) and with that grip on my hand he was running with abandon.

As we went down the little hill for the second time, I realized that Jesse was saying, “Wheee!”  I didn’t realize anyone actually said “Wheee!”  I thought it was just from cartoons I used to see.  Jesse was, in that moment, filled with pure joy and the most naturally honest thing he could do was shout, “Wheee!”

I asked myself, “How long has it been since simple joy made me shout, “Wheee!”?”

In this season of preparation for the next chapter of my story, God has dug pretty deep through the onion-layers of the stuff of my life.  As we get closer to the core of simple faith and relationship, I am beginning to get glimpses of joy.  When I look straight ahead I feel little bursts of joy inside – dreams rekindling, possibilities popping up.  If I get distracted and look to either side the other stuff rushes in.

I’m going for the joy!  I won’t give up and I won’t give in!  Somewhere not too far around the next bend, or the next, I’m going to be so full of the joy of being who God made me to be and holding his hand so tight, that I’ll shout, “Wheee!”


Father, for the joy you let me taste and the hope you place before me, I will continue.  I will not give up.  I will not give in.  I will, at some soon occasion, shout “Wheee!”

Jim Stephens


Yesterday on THE SHOW, Greg Ligon had the opportunity to interview Chris Hodges, Pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL.  Chris talked about the story of how his church has grown exponentially, and how leadership and generosity were key factors, not only in their growth, but in the way that they are able to share the gospel with thousands of people in the Birmingham area.  This is a must-watch! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Todd