By Tim Massengale
Modern church growth research has proven that the most effective evangelism method is that which focuses upon reaching the family, friends and acquaintances of your church members. This is known as oikos evangelism (after the commonly found New Testament Greek word “oikos” which means “community” or “sphere of influence”). Statistical surveys have repeatedly shown that ninety percent of all persons saved are first witnessed to by someone they know. So before we try to evangelize the stranger, we should try to reach our family, friends and close acquaintances.
The “Bearing Fruit” program attempts to focus upon this principle of evangelism. The following description is designed to assist you in implementing this simple ministry within your local church and I am sure you will find, as others have, that the results are substantial and consistent.
From your church registry or directory, make a list all the “family units” in your church (a family unit is defined as those that live under one roof). Mature, unmarried singles (16 or older) should be listed separately even though they may live in with someone else. In other words, husband, wife and young children are usually considered a “team” and all others are listed separately.
On your prayer room wall (best), or in some other location that is often seen by your members (but not by your visitors), have someone paint or design out of construction paper or art board a picture of a large grape vine (obtain a photo or drawing from the internet of a grape vine to assist you). Make this quite large. The trunk of the vine splits into two large branches (stretching out to the left and right). The trunk and two main branches are labeled “Jesus.” From the two large main branches come many smaller branches – one branch for each family unit or mature single in the church. Names are then carefully printed on each branch (example: The Larry Smith Family, The Ron Jones Family, Terry Warner, Sally Nelson, etc.).
Attached to each family branch is a clump of six or eight grapes (each grape is about two inches in size). The vine is also covered with grape leaves to give the grape vine a full, attractive look.
The pastor should plan to preach a message upon John 15:1-7 with the focus on our need to bear fruit – and every branch that beareth not fruit, “He taketh away.” Also, Luke 13:6-9, the parable of the fig tree that bore no fruit, can be used, as well as many other passages.
At the conclusion of this sermon, ask all to come forward. Challenge them to soulwinning for the next 12 months. Pass out a simple commitment card that provides a place for their name and the names of eight individuals that they are going to try to win to God during the next twelve months. Explain to them that you are looking for people that will commit to be involved in the Bearing Fruit evangelism ministry.
Explain that for the next week or two, the church will be entering into a time of scheduled prayer and fasting. Those who participate will be asking God to impress them with the names of six or eight people that He knows are ready or hungry for salvation. (Note: this may not be the ones that I most want to be saved, but rather those whom God knows are ready for salvation. God knows the heart and knows those who are most ready for the message of truth).
At the conclusion of the time of prayer and fasting, these names are then printed on the “grapes” that hang on that family’s branch (many also try to get a photo to place in each grape, which really helps make the grapevine painting ‘come alive’). By faith, we are claiming this “fruit” for the Kingdom of God.
Explain that the church is going to plan a series of activities to reach these individuals with salvation. Each family is to commit to invite ALL six or eight persons they are trying to reach to each activity. Each activity has a goal: to befriend the individual, try to get a home Bible study with them and/or get them out to an evangelistic service.
The following are samples of the type of activities you might plan for each month of the year (note that at least three times each year, all who participate in the Branch ministry commit to ask all six or eight souls for a Home Bible Study. This is important! Research has shown that most that are taught a Bible study have been asked at least three times before they accept):
January – Song Fest
February – Friend Day Sunday Promotion
March – Revival
April – Easter Drama
April – All commit to ask all 6 for a Home Bible Study this month.
May – Film Series by Dr. Dobson or with prophecy theme
June – Pentecost Sunday “Old Fashioned Services”
July – 4th of July Picnic
August – Revival
August – Everyone commits to ask all six for a H.B.S this month.
September – Labor Day Picnic & Softball Game
October – Harvest Party & Hay ride
November – Revival
December – Christmas Cantata or Pageant
December – All commit to ask all six for a H.B.S. this month.
Other activity suggestions: Bar-b-que’s, Sunday School Contest, Prophecy Crusade, Special Singing Group, Potlucks, Healing Crusade, Marriage Enrichment Seminar, etc.
Some churches set up an “Activity Committee” to help plan each activity. Others have asked a different family or person to coordinate each activity. (Note: you do not have to have an activity EVERY month. Many prefer to plan only eight or ten activities. However, the church must be committed to involvement because there will be many visitors at each activity, so plan them well.)
All the names and addresses of the souls we are trying to reach this year should be placed onto a mailing list. Each should receive a letter and flyer for each activity.
Throughout the year the importance of praying and fasting for the six or eight souls is emphasized. Each Branch Ministry participant commits to call the names of the souls that God has impressed upon them in prayer each day.
It is important that the church be ready for the planned harvest of souls. You should prepare the church by doing three things: (1) Establish a good “New Convert Care” program in the church and be ready to teach a good new converts course. For more information, request the New Convert Care Ministry packet from the Apostolic Information Service. Cost is $8.00. (2) Also plan several home Bible study (HBS) training seminars so the church will be ready to teach their friends when they are asked. (Some will not feel able to teach a HBS, so others should be ready to teach the study for them – but they should be at the study as its being taught if they choose not to teach it). For a power point HBS training outline that is easily taught by anyone with HBS experience, request the HBS Ministry packet and CD from the Apostolic Information Service. Cost is $10.00. (3) Train the church in the basic art of witnessing by teaching them the Christian Soldiers Soul Winning Workshop by Juli Jasinski. To order send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (603) 465-9367. Power Point slides are available.
It’s easy for the excitement to fade as the year progresses. Therefore it is important that you promote your successes often.
The ‘Bearing Fruit’ ministry has been used successfully by many churches over the years. By the end of the year, many, if not most of the individuals that participate will possibly have at least one individual saved from the six to eight ‘grapes’ for which they have been reaching with new birth salvation. A 20-30% church growth rate for the year is not uncommon. This form of ‘Target Evangelism’ will work in any size church. Prayerfully consider trying it in yours.