Members of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Big Rapids, Mich., have lived into the calling of the Great Commission in the last four years, starting with their own zip code. They wanted a way to reach out to others with the gospel and make disciples as Jesus asked his followers to do. Using resources from Reaching America Ministries, an organization that encourages and equips Christians to fulfill the Great Commission, Fellowship CRC mailed out a portion of the gospel and formed prayer groups, went on prayer walks, then began discipling the responding new believers. After four years, the church now has two prayer teams and two additional Bible study groups meeting in local apartment complexes sprung from this ministry.
“We absolutely have seen God at work and answered prayers. . . . Those who attend (prayer meetings) are very committed,” stated Becky Patrick, past prayer team chair of Fellowship CRC. Long-time members alongside new attendees at Fellowship CRC are devoted to praying for the church’s ministry as well as for local spiritual renewal.
Reaching America is based in Grandville, Mich., and was founded by CRC pastor and author Terry Slachter. The ministry has helped churches evangelize communities in California, Washington, Georgia, and Michigan. Recent participating CRCs include Lamont CRC in Coopersville, Mich., where Slachter is pastor, and Messiah CRC in Hudsonville, Mich.
Part of the Reaching America approach is that anyone in the congregation can help. At Fellowship CRC, many volunteers hand-addressed envelopes at home. A group of 40 adults and high school students gathered to stuff them one Sunday evening. A circle of 10 trained volunteers took on discipleship follow-up—sending a second mailing and making personal connections. When clusters of neighbors were identified through the responses, two experienced Bible teachers, Rosanne Eising and Sue Los, began leading in-home Bible study groups.
After embarking on a Reaching America campaign, churches may notice a greater number of visitors at Sunday services, but Slachter said that is not always so. “The goal is to invite people to Christ, not just to church. It is God’s work; we are to be faithful,” said Slachter. Normally churches see about a 1 percent response rate on the mailings. Sometimes response cards come back two or three years after the gospel has been mailed into an area, and that, Slachter said, is the Holy Spirit at work