By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
1-5-1 was the brainchild of Bobby Welch, former associate executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention who retired last summer. 1-5-1 Harvest Plants are off-campus efforts (outside the four walls of the church) geared toward people who don’t know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.
Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort, with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, with the goal for each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.
With the retirement of Welch, 1-5-1 is now coordinated by Lewis McMullen and William Burton, church planting specialists for the TBC.
McMullen observed that 1-5-1 is “still the proven method of getting the church beyond their walls and into the harvest fields.” In addition, the strategy also is the best way to multiply churches across the state, he added.
“1-5-1 is a simple process of evangelism and discipleship in reaching people for Christ and then helping them to congregate,” he added.
Burton noted that continued use of 1-5-1 by churches across Tennessee will assist the convention in accomplishing at least two of the convention-adopted Five Objectives:
(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.
(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.
(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024.
(4) Realizing an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.
(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
“In the last two years we’ve seen more churches planted and survive using the 1-5-1 strategy than we did in the previous 10 years without it,” Burton observed.
Churches that use the 1-5-1 strategy also have a tendency to multiply quicker because it enables the church “to get into the community where the lost people are. 1-5-1 fulfills the Great Commission command to go,” he added.
In addition, 1-5-1 has helped to increase baptisms across the state, the two specialists agreed.
“We had the greatest increase in baptisms in Tennessee when 1-5-1 was at its peak (in 2014),” McMullen observed. It is the best way to reach the 3.65 million lost people in Tennessee, he added.
Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the TBC, noted that baptisms increased in Tennessee by 1,593 people in 2014. Of those, he said, 1,184 can be attributed directly to 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, he said.
“When you get down to the basic strategy of 1-5-1, we took a tool our IMB missionaries have been using for years in an international setting and brought it to Tennessee. We are seeing the same kind of results our missionaries saw overseas,” Pearson said.
For Burton, the 1-5-1 strategy is “just good missiology.”
Similar strategies are occurring in developing nations around the world, Burton observed. “If it works there, it should work here.”
Churches interested in knowing more about the 1-5-1 strategy are encouraged to contact McMullen at 615-815-5095 or Burton at 423-231-6113.