Culture in one Church changes after Introducing EE posted by Evangelism Explosion on Oct 18, 2018
On a typical Sunday morning at Union 3 Baptist Church near Gadsden, Alabama, Pastor Joey Hanner finishes up his sermon and opens the altar for prayer. Members of his congregation join people they have invited to church at the altar and pray with them. They are not ordained ministers. They are housewives and auto mechanics – ordinary people who have been trained to share the Gospel.
“They lead people to Christ at the altar,” said Pastor Hanner. “My job is to share the Gospel and give an invitation.” His congregation does the rest.
But the congregants at Union 3 Baptist Church did not always take initiative. “They were like most churches today,” said Hanner. “They didn’t realize their responsibility to share the Gospel.”
Since Pastor Hanner joined the church in 2011, Union 3 Baptist has grown from 120 attendees to more than 500 on any given Sunday. Membership is currently over 1,100. During the past seven years, they have baptized more than 1,000 new believers and prayed with thousands more to receive the gift of eternal life.
“There’s nothing within 15 miles of us,” said Hanner. “Nothing that goes on with us makes any sense… but EE helped us be mindful of the urgency.”
Pastor Hanner and his wife were trained in EE at their previous church. “EE created a model of what creating disciples is supposed to be,” said Hanner. “Until someone is able to share their faith, they will never reach the point where they are a true disciple.”
After training his congregation in EE, 38 people joined Hanner on the church’s first mission trip to Peru. They knocked on doors to share the Gospel. More than 1,000 people accepted Jesus Christ. Since, dozens of members from the church gather each Sunday at 3 p.m. to go out and share the Gospel with people they have connected with through their fall festival, Christmas service, or conversations at the local park.
“At first, we invited people to Sunday school and church, but now our culture has changed. We go into the home,” said Hanner. “Our purpose is not church. Our purpose is to find out whether they are saved. We may never see those people again.”
At first, the church was overwhelmed with the number of salvations. They baptized more than 100 new believers each month, and yet many more who accepted Christ decided to attend other churches.
Even more came to Christ during EE training classes that the church hosted twice each year. “So many people got saved when they had to write out their testimony,” said Hanner. “They realized their need for Jesus Christ.” Today, follow-up is more intentional. They lead new believers in a 12-week discipleship course to help them understand their faith.
Internationally, the church continues to work in Peru, planting churches in the unreached area of the Napo River. Recently, Pastor Hanner had the opportunity to ordain a new pastor from the same region where Jim Elliot served as a missionary.
“We are training and discipling them to reach their own people,” said Hanner. “That’s how missions is supposed to work.”
In the end, Pastor Hanner said that it was the model that EE provided that helped him the most. “EE has established a culture of what it means to be a leader in our church,” said Hanner. “If we as leaders aren’t doing it, the people will not.”