For Elaine, the journey began in her home, by her radio, where she heard
888-JESUS 2000. It was 2 a.m. She dialed the number and was routed to a man in
Bakersville, California, a night owl like herself. Hed been trained as a
telephone encourager for the Evangelism Response Center (ERC), a ministry of
the North American Mission Board. He could have been in any time zone, but he
happened to be in Elaines. They discussed the program shed heard on FamilyNet
that prompted her call, including the spiritual questions it raised in her mind
and heart. After an in-depth discussion, Elaine decided to trust in Jesus. The
telephone encourager, who also was in his own home, led her in prayer.
Next came the journey of information to connect Elaine to a church. With
her permission, the telephone encourager forwarded information to ERC staff,
who routed it to the Mid-Valley Southern Baptist Association, who emailed it to
Lee Yarbrough, pastor of First Southern Baptist of Hanford. Lee contacted
Elaine, wholike three other recent referrals from the ERCbecame a
Elaines journey was a satisfying connection point for many. On the day
of her baptism, Tim Gentry, associate director of evangelism for the California
Southern Baptist Convention, was visiting Hanford for a state missions
emphasis. Fresh from his own training as an ERC telephone encourager, Tim
appreciated seeing the process in action. The ERC is a perfect example of NAMB
assisting churches to do what they cant accomplish on their own, said Tim.
Carol and Ron Climer also were present for Elaines baptism. Carol, who at that
time was association office secretary, happened to be the one who took Elaines
referral from the ERC. And Ron, a NAMB missionary, happened to be preaching
that day. Its amazing how God orchestrated the events that led to Elaines
baptism that Sunday morning, added Tim.
Christians in North America are taking a page from a playbook we already
know: penetrating the world of sports with the gospel. Its on these playing
fields that weve made a significant difference with Fellowship of Christian
Athletes, chaplains for professional teams, ministries at sporting events
ranging from the Super Bowl to NASCAR to the Olympics.
But theres so much more we could do, say leaders of the North American
Mission Board. Christians could harness the power of communication and direct
it to a key mission field: the influential gatekeepers to the hearts and minds
of North Americans. These influencers are like the people Paul met on Mars Hill
(Acts 17:16-34). Today they are:
Lawyers, judges, the judiciary (Law)
Doctors, medical professionals (Medicine)
Print and broadcast journalists, the press (the Media)
Hollywood, Broadway, the entertainment industry (the Arts)
Washington, Ottawa, local politicians (Politics)
Executives, decision-makers (Business and Industry)
Teachers, professors, educators (Education)
With the conviction that reaching such influencers is answering Gods call,
telling His story and changing our world, NAMB has adopted a strategy called
Penetrating the Culture with Christian Communication. It utilizes all media
channels to speak to those who dont attend church and outreach efforts that
will help build bridges between Southern Baptists and those who dont know
Christ. Do we really believe that whats happened in sports can happen in these
other mission fields? challenges Randy Singer, NAMB executive vice president.
Do we see a day when an Oscar winner would shout praises to Jesus the same way
Kurt Warner did after he won the Super Bowl? When the cast of a Broadway play
would hold a pre-performance Bible study? When Supreme Court justices and the
lawyers who just argued the case would kneel in the courtroom and pray
together, like professional football players kneel on the field after a
If not, then do we really believe that God is the God of the
Already NAMB has appointed missionaries to the diplomatic community in
Washington D.C., to the United Nations in New York City and, most recently, to
Hollywood. And these are only the tip of the iceberg.
This challenging but exciting mission field requires developing highly
placed relationships, understanding unique sensitivities and engaging in
dialogues with busy, remote and often hostile people who need Christ as much as
anyone else. Its an intense, one-on-one mission environment, rather than a
delivery to the masses. But reaching these people can lead to the hearts of
Reaching the massesNAMB reaches into the
homes of millions of families with FamilyNet, its television network
and radio ministry. The most influential force of our secular culture is
television, says David Clark, vice president for broadcasting, noting that a TV
is on seven hours a day in the average American home.
Through FamilyNet, NAMB offers 24/7 viewing options, including
entertainment, education, teaching ministry and worshipfamily-friendly
programming of a quality that cannot be seen on any other channel.
The right connections
While some churches, associations and state conventions ponder how to maximize
the Internet for the gospel (most are convinced its a valuable tool but arent
sure what to do with it), Oklahomans hit upon a promising use. Taking a cue
from Campus Crusade of Canada, Jimmy Kinnaird and Shane Spannagel, Baptist
General Convention of Oklahoma, developed a website, www.mostimportantthing.org, that allows anyone with a testimony, a
story of their conversion, to post it. This is personal evangelism with a
twist, says Kinnaird.
To attract people to the website, mostimportantthing.org cards are
available to be handed out to people who may then go to the website to find out
the most important thing that has happened to someone. Surfers can then explore
the most important thing that can happen to you, which leads them to a gospel
After just a few months, the site is drawing 400 visitors a month from 21
Local responses can be routed to churches in Oklahoma, but because the web
is not location specific, responses from outside of Oklahoma go to NAMBs
Evangelism Response Center, 888-JESUS 2000, for follow-up.
FamilyNet is poised to grow into a national network, a position of
enormous potential for evangelism.
Each program includes a phone number for spiritual counsel. Callers are
directed to NAMBs Evangelism Response Center (ERC), which routes calls into the
homes of trained telephone encouragers from across North America. A network of
Southern Baptist Covenant Churches then follows up on each decision.
NAMB also presents the gospel through eight evangelistic web sites. Last
year 1.3 million people visited one of these sites, spending on average six to
nine minutes there. In the web world, if you keep someone on your website
longer than 30 seconds, youve done something fantastic, says Siam Rogers, NAMBs
Spanning more than just this continent, responses arrive from all over the
world and are forwarded not only to North American churches but also to the
International Mission Board.
Last year 2,500 people were referred to a local church through NAMBs
evangelistic web sites. The Heres Hope website prompted an outbreak of
decisions for Christ from Cairo last year as one Egyptian made his decision
over the Internet, then sent the page to others.
Rogers says the Internet can be a vital evangelistic tool when family
pressures may make even investigating Christ difficult. If a person then makes
a decision for Christ, it would be solid and genuine.
Meanwhile, Rogers is working on a mail alert that will flash on a desktop to
alert Internet encouragers, who have volunteered to share Christ over the
Internet, that they need to check their email. Also in the works are online
Bible studies, delivered in a distance-learning format, and a military
NAMB now offers local churches a means of directing respondents outside of
their community to the ERC for follow-up. Thats the dynamic spiderwebbing of
the Internet with the gospel, says Rogers.
Ultimately, the gospel message is personal, and whether by phone, email or
face to face, North America must get the message: Jesus loves you.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC