‘Culture of evangelism’ precedes massive harvest at Champion Forest

Attendees of Champion Forest's Christmas Spectacular hold their cell phone lights up to represent their decision to follow Jesus. CHAMPION FOREST PHOTO

HOUSTON–Champion Forest Baptist Church is having a remarkable Christmas season.

The week of Dec. 8-12 the church hosted between 25,000-30,000 people for eight performances of its Christmas Spectacular pageant. The presentation of the Christmas story was put on by performers and crew of about 600 church members and featured sheep, donkeys, a camel, and an elephant bearing a wise man from the East.

The week-long event also turned out to be an evangelistic harvest. Of the 30,000 or so people to attend the Spectacular, more than 1,100 made a first-time decision to trust and follow Jesus.

“The church has been doing the Christmas Spectacular for years, but this is my first one,” CFBC pastor Jarrett Stephens said. “It’s just amazing. When we put out on social media that there were more than 1,100 decisions, those are people who actually gave us their information and we were able to put a gift bag in their hands.”

After giving a gospel invitation, the pastor invited people to show their cell phone lights in the darkened auditorium to indicate they had accepted Christ during the evening. Those who responded were then invited to bring a decision card included with the program to a collection table manned by staff members who had prayer with them.

The attendance alone was notable, perhaps reflecting a desire on the part of church members and neighbors to resume Christmas traditions after a year off. The church preceded the Spectacular with 25 days of prayer, asking for lives to be touched during the pageant.

“I met so many people who wanted to introduce me to friends, to neighbors, to clients that they brought,” Stephens said, “The biggest thing [regarding attendance] was our people inviting people who didn’t know Christ. There is a can-do spirit in our people, and there is an evangelistic fervor in our people.”

One unusual aspect of the presentation was that two of the eight performances were in Spanish. The choir learned the music in Spanish as well as English for those two performances. The church recorded 430 professions of faith in the Spanish-language performances.

Even the dress rehearsal was a harvest.

“We invited all of our widows, as well as partner ministries such as a special needs ministry and a ministry to save girls out of trafficking,” Stephens said. “Five young women accepted Christ during this dress rehearsal presentation.”

Within days of the final performance, the church was following up with those who professed Christ. Each of them received a call from a ministry team member within 48 hours.

But Christmas isn’t here yet; the work continues.

“This morning [Dec. 14]; we met as a staff and went and canvassed neighborhoods, passing out 3,000 door hangers inviting people to our Christmas Eve service,” Stephens said, “That’s the heart of our church,” he added, “I told our staff today: If you go after people that you’ll never get, God will give you the people you never went after.”

"If you go after people that you’ll never get, God will give you the people you never went after."

Responses such as that at the Christmas Spectacular flow out of the church’s established culture of evangelism; Champion Forest is celebrating a record number of baptisms in 2021.

“Right in the middle of COVID, we’re having more baptisms than ever before,” Stephens said. But even before he assumed the pulpit one year ago, the church long had a missional focus.

“The church has always been evangelistic at heart,” Stephens said, praising his predecessors.

Even so, Champion Forest is currently experiencing an uptick in baptisms of adults, youth and children of historic proportions. Until 2021, the highest number baptized in a year was 577 in 2017. By early December 2021, Champion Forest had already baptized 628 and expected the number to swell to more than 700 before the new year, Stephens said.

“Coming out of COVID, I think we reached a lot of new people,” he explained.

A special baptism service scheduled for Dec. 26 is expected to draw many, as people are together in town for the holidays and those baptized will likely want to share the experience with loved ones.

The service illustrates a Champion Forest philosophy: “You replicate what you celebrate.”


Champion Forest Christmas Spectacular
A child marvels at Santa's flying sleigh as it enters the stage during Champion Forest's recent Christmas Spectacular. CHAMPION FOREST PHOTO

“We celebrate life change around here. Our people are very receptive. If someone comes forward at the end of a service to receive Christ, our church is applauding them. If somebody is being baptized, when they come up out of the water, it’s like you are at a concert. They are clapping, applauding, whistling,” Stephens said.

All baptism candidates are even given a “Never the Same” t-shirt for the service that they can keep and wear in the community.

“The Bible says all of heaven rejoices when one sinner comes to repentance. That’s what we tell them. We want to join heaven and celebrate these life changes,” he added.

The church encourages a culture of evangelism, Stephens noted, commending not only the church members who invite people who don’t know Christ to church, but also staff and volunteers who work with those who make decisions.

Church members know their unsaved friends will hear a clear presentation of the gospel at each service and will have the opportunity to respond. Teams of volunteer encouragers answer questions and pray with those wishing to make decisions for Christ, while church staff follows up to encourage baptism and participation in life groups.

Ultimately, however, the glory for the increase in baptisms goes to God, Stephens said: “No question. It is God’s hand of favor and blessing. We give him all the glory truly.”

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