Alan recently spoke with Dave Comeau, Associate Pastor at South Shore Baptist Church (SSBC), and he was thrilled with the results of the church’s first Christianity Explored course (course leaders pictured above).
A solid core of 14 guests attended, with 20 different guests coming to at least 2 sessions. Dave was encouraged by the response, particularly given where the church is located – South Shore Baptist is in Hingham, MA, an affluent suburb located 20 miles south of Boston.
As the pastor overseeing outreach and evangelism, Dave carefully laid the foundation over a two-year period of time before launching the course after Easter of this year. He trained the congregation in evangelism and raised up leaders for the Christianity Explored ministry.
Several things struck me about South Shore’s approach that may be helpful to other churches starting Christianity Explored:
- Dave set high expectations for table leaders. Initially 35 people expressed interest in serving as a table leader. Dave then met with each potential table leader to help them fully understand the cost and responsibility of serving in this capacity. Of the original 35 potentials, 20 thought the Lord was calling them to trust in Him in this new way. Several others decided it wasn’t the right time for them to serve as table leaders, and decided to help out in different ways such as prayer and hospitality. However, only 8 of these leaders were needed to run the course. The others are currently looking for other ways to run a CE course and look forward to serving at SSBC next January. Two women are starting a summer CE group in their home with friends and neighbors. Others have run the course one-on-one.
- They learned that hospitality is an essential ingredient and not a diminished role. A woman from the outreach ministry led a hospitality team that served with enthusiasm and joy. Hospitality included set up and cleanup, preparing home cooked meals, greeting guests and serving good food. The non-Christian guests expressed their appreciation for the kindness and quality of the hospitality they received. The SSBC team learned quickly how little things make a big difference. Remembering names and details about previous conversations were simple but powerful acts of love.
- They sought to build personal connections at the tables. Guests were divided into four tables with two leaders at each table in a large room in the church. They watched the video together as a group but all the discussion took place at the individual tables, including the meal. They remained together as a group for the next seven weeks. SSBC did not do the day-away on its church campus. They left it up to the individual tables to decide if and where to do the day-away. Inviting the guests to one of the leader’s homes for the day away was encouraged. This helped continue building the relationships. As a result, all the guests who were part of the course have continued to be in contact with the church, their leaders, or a pastor in some way. While none have professed faith yet, they have all come much closer than they were before starting the course. Several people mentioned how they understand Christianity and the gospel much clearer, especially as it relates to “being a good person.”
- They provided a resource table. On nights when the course was running, they had a resource table available for both guests and table leaders. For table leaders, the resource table had various articles and books available for tough questions that may come up. Pastors Dave and Stephen and other well-read members of the church were available to help with tough questions before, during and after the course. Pastors Dave and Stephen took turns “MC-ing” the evening. They would introduce the topic of the night with an attempt to break the ice and help bring some walls down. They would use humor, share an illustration or give a brief apologetic. They’d also recommend a book or article at the resource table that would be useful should anyone have questions.
- They did a dry run before starting the course. This helped the hospitality team and the table leaders get more comfort with the feel and flow of the night. The table leaders played the role of unbelieving guests while Pastors Dave and Stephen played the role of the table leaders. This helped give the table leaders some experience in running the course. Dave mentioned that he would like to do more of this next time to help prepare the leaders for questions that might come up.
- They released the table leaders to do the work. Dave mentioned how faithful and committed the table leaders were. They showed the love of Christ to these guests and it had an impact. The table leaders have become encouragers to others in the congregation to get in involved in the work of evangelism. Several others in the church have asked how they can use CE in their contexts. In order for CE to have the greatest impact on your church, it is essential that pastors equip, encourage and release the congregation to do the work. “I was happy to fade into the background,” Dave said. “The table leaders did all the heavy lifting and have my utmost appreciation for the courage and faithfulness.” The SSBC CE team is excited about how the Lord will continue to use CE to create a culture of evangelism and love for our neighbors in the church.
Through the course, Dave found that:
“Christianity Explored connects with different kinds of people. There was a diversity of people who attended. They came from different religious backgrounds or no religious background whatsoever. The table leaders found that the discussion drew guests in and encouraged them to be honest, open, and seeking. Guests indicated that they didn’t feel pressured, but rather the course invited them to consider Christ. It was a huge win that they would feel this way…”
“We did not want this to feel like a trite religious sales pitch but rather a thoughtful and personal exploration of the person and work of Jesus. Based on the course, the folks at Christianity Explored clearly feel the same way.”
The 600-member South Shore Baptist Church plans to continue running Christianity Explored after Christmas and Easter. They have found it to be winsome, clear, and logical. Cody Busby, who is relatively new as Senior Pastor, served as a chief cheerleader for the course and Associate Pastor Stephen McDonald encouraged and supported the table leaders and befriended guests.
However, all three of the pastors fully realize that the real heroes of this good start are the members of the church who answered the Lord’s call and served for His glory and the good of their neighbors.