These intentional efforts on Sunday mornings dovetail with NAMB’s second principle of highly evangelistic churches: members who gather on mission.
“These churches are figuring out ways to preach the gospel, move barriers and construct engaging environments,” Southerland says. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, if lost people are going to be in our building on Sunday, if people far from God are going to be in our building on Sunday, let’s make sure they know how to connect with God when they’re here.’”
Highly evangelistic churches have a pastor who leads on mission, a congregation that gathers on mission and, third, members who live on mission. These churches equip their members to take the gospel beyond the walls of the church and into every facet of the community.
Southerland says, “We’ve found that these highly evangelistic churches are resourcing their members by saying, ‘Don’t come work at the church. Go into your field, and what’s a resource we can give you to help you share the gospel in your field?’”
Part of members living on mission is what Southerland calls compassion evangelism or servant-based evangelism. Many churches have established independent nonprofits to bring about community transformation.
At Peavine, Southerland introduced a concept called “Peavine City,” which they designated as the area within a 20-mile radius of the church that members would try to specifically reach through evangelism and outreach efforts. The church recently acquired an old church building in a high-crime, lower-income area near Chattanooga and plans to open its second campus there.
“We’re going to launch a compassion ministry from that campus,” Southerland says. “We’re already connecting with schools and city officials, saying, ‘Hey, what do you need us to do? … This area needs transformation, and the gospel can do that. So what can we do to help you, as city leaders, bring about community transformation?’”
Southerland says he is excited about what he sees as an “evangelism revival” happening in the SBC. Twelve years ago, the average SBC church baptized five people in one year. Today, that number is three, with 80 percent of churches baptizing in single digits. But Southerland believes this trend is going to change.
“We’re starting to see your normative church say, ‘We’ve dropped the ball in evangelism,’” Southerland says. “And we’re beginning to hear the winds of evangelism revival in the SBC. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to focus our time and attention there now. And that’s nothing but good for the convention in the days ahead.”
PEAVINE BAPTIST CHURCH
Rock Spring, Georgia
Senior Pastor: Joel Southerland
A 2017 OUTREACH 100 CHURCH
Weekend Attendance: 1,252
Growth in 2016: +271 (28%)