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Is WCM truly successful in helping churches grow?

LARRY WEST
by LARRY WEST



Nov 7, 2005 -

The following article was written by the preacher in Williamsburg, Virginia, showing the growth of the church, testifying to the success of the We Care Campaign being part of the mix.   The church there continues to grow.  And WCM is going back for another with them next year. 
 “How many new souls do you keep?” is a question we are asked frequently.  Read the article.  Invite us to become a part of your church growth.
Door Knocking Works: Reality or Myth?

By Bill Butterfield, Williamsburg, Virginia

There has always been a bit of tension between those who believe in the power of cold door-knocking and those who believe this method of outreach has been replaced in our modern technological age!  It is not my desire to remove the “tension” that exists between these two perceptions of evangelism because “tension” is not always a bad thing.  Often this “tension” causes us to examine the effectiveness of whatever we do and this is desirable.  My goal in this article is to tell each of you the story of the Williamsburg, Virginia church of Christ.
A bit of history is needed before you can appreciate the full value of the information to be imparted.  The church in Williamsburg is the only mainstream church of Christ in a radius of 15 miles. The church began in Williamsburg 78 years ago and has met continuously except through World War II. We are a congregation with three elders, six deacons, and 167 members.  Throughout the years the church has not been effective in outreach and has averaged about four baptisms per year, including members’ children.  There have been four “local ministers, one with a long tenure (22 years), two with short terms (4 years each), and I began working with the church in 1997.   
An important event occurred in May 1998 when we invited John Ellas to evaluate the life of this church.  His seven suggestions were very instrumental in the recent success being enjoyed.  In 1997 the church averaged 108 on Sunday morning including 20-25 out-of-town tourists.  The budget was $1300 weekly and was not being met on a regular basis.  With the suggestions from Ellas a turnaround began!  Emphasis was placed on the following:  1. Prayer for God to send us “new” people with a fresh spirit.  2. Prayer for local folk to visit our Sunday a.m. assemblies.  3. Attention to the quality of our educational ministry.  4. Attention to the quality of our Sunday a.m. assemblies.  These were the areas that received “special” attention for the next few years.  The result of the four emphases was that God began to send us quality people from all over the country – people of faith, vision, and enthusiasm.  Local people began to attend our assemblies at the rate of over 100 first-time local guests per year.  We have had over 700 locals visit our assemblies during the past six years.  These are only counted the first time they attend.
We began immediately to rearrange our Bible class ministry with emphasis being given to families below the age of 40 years. This has been the area of greatest growth.  Finally we began making a concentrated effort to make every assembly as effective as possible from the songs we sang to the sermons that were preached.
With the advent of a new and exciting spirit within the church family came the strong desire to grow.  I believe Christians who share an excitement regarding their identity will want to share their new found spirit with others.  Therefore, prayer and thought turned to plans for local church growth.
Beginning in January 1999 God led us into a deeper concern regarding our faith in His Promises.  Kregg Hood’s “Taking God at His Word” brought us to a commitment to recover the joy of stewardship and immediately our contributions increased more than $500 per week.  Within two more years the contributions had doubled the 1998 average.  This meant that we could expand our portion of God’s harvest field.  We completely supported a missionary in Osaka, Japan for the next two years and this was a large leap of faith on our part.  When our missionary in Japan became a self-supported teaching missionary, we were left with nearly $20,000 per year that had been dedicated to mission work.
In February 2003 I approached the shepherds concerning using this money on local evangelism in some manner.  I was not anticipating any specific kind of outreach effort but was concerned that this money be kept as “mission” money whether local, national, or international.  They agreed and we began looking for the right way to reach out into our diverse and affluent community of 15,000 people.
At this point I read an article concerning We Care Ministries in West Monroe, Louisiana, and contacted its director, Larry West.  I asked West a number of questions concerning the method, success rate, retention rate, cost, etc. and with the shepherds’ permission invited him to conduct a seminar for us in November 2003.  During this weekend of prayer and study, we all came to the conclusion that this is what we believed God wanted us to try.
For the next six months concentrated effort was given to prepare ourselves for the possibilities of large growth.  At each assembly there were prayers designated specifically to the upcoming campaign.  Songs were chosen that emphasized the glorious mission of God’s people.  Sermons were designed to encourage and excite the church family about the possibility of future growth.  The We Care Campaign became the topic of conversations whenever a group of folk were together as we dreamed about what might happen.  During this same time, individuals began to meet on Sunday afternoon for a time of prayer and instruction.  We prepared by studying the We Care approach over and over again until we felt comfortable with We Care's Gospel Presentation.
At the same time some were preparing themselves to go out with the We Care teams.  Others were providing needed supplies for feeding the We Care teams, housing had to be found, office supplies had to be purchased, advertising was designed that would bring the greatest results, and specific internal ministries were formed to help keep us focused.
I began to contact the We Care “Cadre” about coming and working with us during our campaign.  Letters, e-mails, telephone calls, and information were provided to the nearly 500 We Care workers.  We urged them to come to Williamsburg and work with us!  Positive response was received from 40 of the “Cadre” and we were thrilled because this was the minimum that Larry West thought we needed.
The Cadre began to arrive early on a daily basis.  Some came early to enjoy the historical sites that are so prevalent in our area, but one by one they arrived for the purpose of saving souls!  Each day we sent out between 20-25 three-person teams to knock on doors and study the Bible with our neighbors.  We knocked on 2001 doors and found 716 at home.  Of the 716 we found at home, Bible studies were conducted with 278 of those precious people.  From the 278 Gospel Presentations 32 folks were baptized into Christ with the youngest being 17 and the oldest in her 60’s.  Since the campaign an additional 12 have put on Christ in baptism which made a total of 47 for 2004 (we had already had three baptisms earlier in the year).  To say that the church family is ecstatic about the way God has blessed us is putting it very mildly!
Seven months from the Campaign 40 of the 47 people were still remaining faithful to the Lord.  We knew that not all of those reached would survive, but we committed ourselves to keeping those folk until they could be grounded in God and His Word.  We are making every conscience effort to fulfill this commitment and God is blessing us in our efforts.  The We Care “AfterCare” effort is vital to the retention of these new Christians.  We have not followed it in detail, but have used it as the skeleton around which we have worked.  Keeping up the contact with these folk is the key to retaining them!  If you don’t give them the attention that a newly born infant needs, they will not survive.  The congregations that have not retained a large percentage of those reached failed at this point!  We have vowed that this will not happen to us and our newly found brothers and sisters.
The success of the effort was in the We Care Approach taken, namely, meeting the needs of people.  From the moment a door was opened, we were explaining that we were some local Christians that believed it was time to take our Christianity to the streets where people’s needs could be met.  They were asked if we could provide them with some food which we had with us at all times, prayer, counseling, etc.  If they did not admit to any specific needs, they were asked if they had any family or friends who might need some of the above and we often got referrals where the field was very white unto harvest.  Before leaving each door, the people were asked, “What if the Lord should come back right now, do you believe, without a doubt, that you would go to heaven?”  Even though the form of this question varied, it was “the question” that brought the visit to a specific focus.  Depending upon the answer to the question, the next steps were taken.  If the visit ended with a baptism or two, those new brothers or sisters were immediately taken back into a study of the Word regarding the church and their new relationship to other Christians.  If there was not a positive response, the respondent was left with a sweet taste in his mouth regarding the local church.


In summary, I do not believe that cold door-knocking will work anywhere unless there is a total commitment to making it work.  I know God blessed our efforts because we are doing it to His glory and to His glory alone.  When we can learn to take ourselves out of the picture and let Him receive all the glory, then we are definitely on our way to success. Remember, it is not about US; it is all about HIM!