By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
JACKSON — Easter is the perfect time to invite people to church to hear about Jesus and the resurrection story, said Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Jackson.
Gaines, who led a breakout session during a recent evangelism conference at Union University, was featured recently on a Radio B&R podcast (Listen to episode 26 here).
“Easter is a natural time to focus on inviting people to church,” Gaines said. The concept fits hand in glove with the church’s evangelistic strategy. “We believe that inviting people to come to church is still a great way to do evangelism,” Gaines noted.
He explained that “a church invite” is not necessarily direct personal evangelism “because you’re not necessarily explaining the gospel to your neighbor, or coworker or your family member that you’re inviting.
“But it is a great way to get them into a worship setting where they can hear the gospel. We try to emphasize that.”
Gaines said the church is printing invitation cards that “we’ll pass out to all of our church members during the week leading up to Easter. Then, we will also canvas some of the neighborhoods around our church building, which is a part of our focus on our neighborhoods.”
The Calvary pastor shared that he read an article by Ed Stetzer, who formerly headed LifeWay Research, that encouraged churches to not waste their “bump.”
There are times during the year when attendance has its ups and downs, Gaines explained, but Easter, Christmas and Mother’s Day “are three of those natural bumps in attendance and you will have people in your worship service that many not come to church any other time of the year.”
To take advantage of those “bumps,” it is natural to invite people to that service, Gaines said. But, Calvary has taken it a step beyond. On Easter Sunday, Gaines will begin a sermon series that continues the two weeks beyond Easter Sunday. “This Easter, when I preach on the resurrection, it’s going to actually be the first of three sermons in a series that we’re calling ‘New Life,’ ” he said.
The Easter sermon will focus on how Jesus “was raised back to life and new life” while the next two Sundays will focus on “what it looks like to have new life in Christ,” he continued.
Gaines stressed that the key is at the conclusion of the Easter service to thank everyone for coming to church that day, especially those who are not regular attenders. Introduce the sermon series and invite them “to give us two more weeks of your time so that you would come out and finish the rest of this series with us,” he added.
Gaines said he did something very similar during the Christmas season on a study that was to begin in January and “we had several people come back as a result of that.”
As pastor of a 130-year-old church, Gaines said it is important for the church to focus on its surrounding neighborhoods and that is reflected in the church’s evangelistic strategy. And, it paid off last year, he said.
“We have seen God do some amazing things over the past year that we’ve not seen him do before, or at least to that degree.”
He believes the primary reason for the success is obvious. “First of all, we just attribute it to the Lord and His grace to us and His power.
“But then, there are some things that stand out. One of them is we began to really have a passion for the neighborhood around our building — primarily a one-mile radius around the church,” he continued.
As a result, “we found that we have a really, really diverse group of people around our church building,” Gaines said Within a one-mile radius we have a lot of different religions from Catholics, to Jews, to Muslims and Buddhists to Eastern Orthodox and Hindu, he added.
“We have at least 10 different languages spoken that we know of within that one-mile radius of our church.”
Gaines said the church repented that they were not reaching their neighborhoods and adopted a motto, “We want to reflect the community as we reach the community.”
The Calvary pastor acknowledged the church is beginning to make headway “in reaching people in our neighborhoods, around the church and then also reflecting that diversity within our church.”
Listen to the entire podcast, episode 26, at RadioBandR.org.