The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has mailed a letter to pastors of SBTC churches with a double challenge.

SBTC Director of Evangelism, Don Cass, mailed the letters Feb. 7 and has received more than 90 commitments from churches wishing to “do all that is humanly possible to lead the church to double its baptisms in 2005.” The letter also asks pastors to lead their churches to increase Sunday School or Bible study units for evangelization.

The SBTC has dubbed 2005 “Year of the Double Harvest,” a challenge relayed from LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper in 2004 to all Southern Baptists. Draper’s challenge resulted from baptism numbers that have remained flat for decades as the population has increased.

“I believe that Paul’s admonition that we be all things to all men that we might save some should apply to Year of the Double Harvest,” Cass said. “Every effective means we have needs to be used.”

“There are no promises,” Cass noted in his letter. “God alone gives the harvest. However, He uses us as human instruments to plant the seed of the gospel and water that which is planted.”

Cass suggests 10 action plans to help SBTC churches double baptisms to at least 47,036 in 2005. Most notable is the challenge to develop new Sunday school/Bible study units that are evangelistic.

SBTC conferences, seminars and workshops will include “How to Start New Bible Study Units” classes and incorporate other helpful tools. A card is included in the letter to pastors for ordering a CD and newsletter on starting new units.

The other action plans encourage churches to implement:

4 two 30-day witnessing efforts;

4 church planting;

4 VBS and backyard Bible clubs;

4 simultaneous revivals;

4 baptism emphasis Sundays;

4 regional evangelistic events;

4 quarterly witness training;

4 discipleship strategy (“Making Disciples: A Visionary Plan for Smaller Membership Churches”);

4 30-day evangelistic prayer emphases.

Jim Wolfe, SBTC Church Ministry Support director, commented: “In the past, Sunday school was always outreach-oriented. It was the evangelical arm of the church. It provided not only an experience of Bible Study, but of fellowship and discipleship. This mindset needs to be relearned. Whether we call it Sunday School, Bible study, connection groups, fellowship groups or whatever, our small group ministries must capture a mindset of duplication.”

Wolfe said the SBTC Church Ministry Support team and the SBC’s LifeWay offer resources and training to assist churches in developing evangelistic Sunday Schools.

Through VBS, Wolfe noted, “the opportunity to share with moms, dads, sisters, and brothers, friends, neighbors, and extended family readily presents itself. In addition to this, a tremendous list of prospects becomes available because VBS will reach children and families throughout the local church community.”

The church planting initiative of “Year of the Double Harvest” calls for 50 funded church-start covenants with plans to assist planters and partners with the church planting process using a culturally contextualized approach.

“All churches have a natural affinity with certain people groups in their community,” said Robby Partain, SBTC missions director. “They ought to do everything they can to reach them for Christ, enfold them into the church bo

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