By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
In just over a month’s time, the church experienced praise-worthy results from the “Connect>1” campaign — an initiative designed by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to engage church members in personal evangelism through small groups and Sunday School.
While taking part in the six-week, church-wide campaign, the members of the Crossville Baptist congregation prayed for 2,825 lost people, invited 194 individuals to church, and shared the gospel 151 times. A large number of participants also learned multiple methods of how to give a gospel presentation.
Lewis Taylor, the Sunday School director at Central Baptist, said the success of the program was the result of the church body working in harmony and members of all ages being on the same page.
“It’s gratifying when you see unity; when you see people coming together for a common purpose,” said Taylor. “The foundational work of our church and our Sunday School is to lead people to faith in Jesus, and through Connect>1, we were able to do that.”
Central Baptist is one of roughly 150 churches in Tennessee that has implemented the Connect>1 program, which runs for six weeks at each participating church and culminates with a Celebration Sunday service.
Churches who use the Connect>1 program can find guidelines, resources, and teaching techniques on the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s website.
TBMB Sunday School specialist Mark Miller said the campaign can be successful at any church that is committed to the plan.
“The Connect>1 emphasis can easily be adapted to any size church,” said Miller. “It has been used in churches all across Tennessee and in other states effectively.”
Miller said the campaign could be a key element in helping the TBMB reach its No. 1 goal among its “Five Objectives.”
“I am convinced that in order to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship that we must challenge our members and our groups to get back engaged in outreach and evangelism,” said Miller.
Miller is currently serving as an interim pastor at a church with an average attendance of 65 in worship and 47 in Sunday School. He said 25 members accepted the challenge, and the results were almost immediate: The church members prayed for 69 lost people, invited 10 people to their Sunday School class, and shared the gospel with eight individuals.
“The Connect>1 emphasis is supported with messages and a study of the basics of the gospel,” said Miller.
Taylor, the Sunday School director at Central Baptist, said implementing the campaign requires commitment and planning. But he also said the program is very manageable for the churches who are willing.
“The resources that are available online at the TBMB website — if a church will just follow those, without taking shortcuts and without trying to reinvent the wheel — it can be successful,” he said. “The key is, in my opinion, to follow the program the way it is intended.”
Miller emphasized the importance of such programs by saying, “Sunday School is the outreach arm of the church,” Miller said. “Connect>1 is an excellent opportunity to challenge groups and members to understand the impact Sunday School can have.”
When the leaders at Central Baptist Church were considering the Connect>1 program, they said they wanted to take an all-or-nothing approach.
“We told all the Sunday School leaders to get with their teams several weeks in advance and start planning their Sunday School (curriculum) around this,” said Taylor. “We told them to be sure to do the lessons from ‘The Unvarnished Truth’ that go along so well with the Connect>1 emphasis. And we got everybody on board with it.
“The Sunday School team, and the other areas of ministry — student ministry, youth ministry, the pulpit ministry — were all on the same message. Everything was geared toward evangelism. And it really resonated with our people.”
Miller said he was encouraged to see churches all across Tennessee getting on board with the Connect>1 emphasis.
“I am excited when I hear about lost people hearing the gospel,” Miller said. “Some of these will accept Jesus. And if we do discipleship right, some of these will eventually become pastors, teachers, tithers, deacons, and faithful church members. But I am also thrilled to know that our people are stepping out in faith to pray, invite and share the gospel.”
Taylor said he believes the Connect>1 campaign will have a lasting impact at his church.
“This isn’t just a six-week thing and then you forget about it,” he said. “Hopefully, this is something that has now instilled in us an outward focus and a missionary mindset. We’ve seen seeds planted, and now we hope to see the fruit as we go forward.”