Just inviting friends to come to church is still an effective way to introduce them to the gospel, affirms Jack Long, pastor of Farmington Baptist Church in Lewisburg, Tennessee.
And, if you add old-fashioned visits to the equation, it makes it doubly effective, said Long, a retired associational missions strategist (director of missions) for Beulah Baptist Association, based in Union City, who with his wife Charlotte, moved to Columbia last year to be near family.
They joined First Baptist Church, Columbia and became active there, but in December, Farmington asked Long to fill the pulpit as they continued a search for a pastor.
Change of plans
Long agreed and though he told the church he did not want to be considered for the pastorate, God had other ideas. The Lord changed his heart about taking the position and in March of this year, Farmington called him as pastor and God went to work, Long said.
From April through August (the end of the church year), the church had 23 baptisms and 23 additions by letter, Long said. Attendance in both Sunday School and worship doubled, he added, with worship climbing from about 80 to a high of 163.
And since the new year began in September, the growth has continued with six more additions and 13 baptisms as of Oct. 23, Long said.
Long credited retired pastor Mike Dawson of Columbia, who served as transitional interim pastor at the church for several months, for laying the groundwork for growth. “He did a tremendous job as interim pastor and stabilized the church and got them to feeling good about themselves,” he said.
The retired associational mission strategist noted the congregation got excited about what God was doing in the church and began to invite people to attend. Once there, the congregation was really friendly and made them feel welcomed, he recalled.
Long and his wife also followed up with home visits, something that made an impression on a lot of their visitors, he observed.
Some of the people expressed surprise that we called and set up visits, Long said. “They told us that they had been to other churches and none of them followed up with a visit.
‘Hitting the neighborhoods’
“I’m old fashioned enough and I have been in ministry for 50 years. I started out visiting and I’m going to finish by visiting,” Long pledged.
Long believes in visitation and research backs him up, noting he has seen statistics that say anywhere from 70 to 83 percent of people went to church because a friend or relative invited them.
Though the church does not have an established visitation program, that will soon change, Long said. They are planning to produce a pamphlet on the church and begin “hitting the neighborhoods” on a weekly basis to make contact with all the homes near the church.
“When your members get excited and begin inviting people to church, God is going to honor that,” he affirmed.
During his brief tenure at Farmington, Long has begun issuing an altar call following the Wednesday night service. “After we are done praying, we spread out and touch every pew in the church. We ask God to fill those pews on Sunday and for the Holy Spirit to speak to every person who comes through the doors. God is honoring that prayer time.”
In reality, the church should not be amazed at the results that have happened over the past seven months. “We already asked God to be there. We should not be surprised. We should just say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ ”