HEBRON, Ky. (BP) – Letha Owens would like to make it back to the 34 neighborhood homes she visited a few months ago to share the Gospel. But at 85 and using a walker to steady herself, she rarely gets out.
“I used a walker actually when I went. I can hardly walk at all,” said Owens, a member of Hebron Baptist Church. “So for me to get out and visit, I can’t go too far. I mean God just gave me the strength to actually do this at the time.”
Owens was emboldened by the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Gospel to Every Home outreach aimed at placing Gospel resources at each of Kentucky’s 1.73 million homes in 2021. Owens was among the first members of Hebron Baptist Church to participate in reaching the 5,000 homes in the church’s 40148 zip code. Outreaches across the state are continuing this year.
“I didn’t even know my next-door neighbor,” Owens said. “First thing I asked him, I asked him if he was a Christian. He even went over the plan of salvation and everything, so I knew he was a Christian. But that was the first thing I wanted to know, and it gave me the courage to ask that.”
Accompanied by a friend last July, Owens left Gospel packets at every home in her neighborhood, talked with neighbors, made new friends and gathered prayer requests.
“I’d like to actually be able to go back and visit with them,” Owens said. “I did pray for them and I’ve found out that’s one of the best things I can do anyway. … I’m hoping that I made an impression on them to want to get to know their neighbors and maybe find out something about them, because if you don’t know your next-door neighbor, that’s pretty bad.”
Rob Patterson, KBC evangelism team leader, recounted his conversation with Owens after meeting her at Hebron Baptist last year.
“Brother Rob, the Lord just really convicted me,” Patterson recalled Owens saying. “There have been several families who have moved into our community that I have not yet met. … The Holy Spirit said to me, ‘Letha, how can you ask your church family to go invite your own neighbors to come to church and to give their lives to Jesus when you’ve never tried.’
“The Gospel to Every Home was never about a program but about people – people like precious Letha loving their neighbors enough to cross the street, become involved in their lives, and to tell them about Jesus.”
The KBC provides free training and resources to equip churches to participate in the outreach. Laypersons, pastors and associational mission strategists share stories of the Gospel to Every Home bearing fruit in large and small churches across the commonwealth, in cities and in rural communities.
“The number of homes adopted actually exceeded our goal as the ministry fields of several of our churches cross state lines, especially into Tennessee and Indiana,” Patterson said. “Tracking how many homes have actually been visited and received Gospel resources is somewhat more challenging as many churches are doing the work but perhaps not reporting back to the state level. However, the fact that more than 1.8 million-plus homes have been formally adopted by a local church is a huge Kingdom win.”
Nathan Whisnant, associational mission strategist with the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association of 55 churches in northwest Kentucky, has heard many encouraging stories from the 25 association churches that have participated.
“Every church in our association that has participated has seen God do something,” he said. “Every church has been changed, that has participated. And there’s not many things you can say that about.”
Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Owensboro, with about 450 worshipers, enjoyed its highest attendance in history on Easter 2021 after conducting its outreach, with 10 families joining the ranks of its membership a week later. Jonathan Bonar Sr. is the pastor.
A young man returned home to find a Gospel packet on his door from South Hampton Baptist Church, an aging rural congregation of about 30 worshipers in Owensboro pastored by Clay Lambert. He attended three times before asking how he could be saved. He accepted Jesus and was baptized.
“That happened without any conversation at the door, just putting the packet on the door handle,” Whisnant said. “They’re just a little church in the country. Been there for years and years and years. They were not able to talk to a lot of people, but they did put their packets on doors.”
Whisnant describes door-to-door evangelism as effective and easy to accomplish, once you learn the basics. Churches are encouraged to visit homes in teams of three, with both genders included. Participants are encouraged to wear masks and observe social distancing when approaching homes, and to follow the example of homeowners and residents if invited inside. Of hundreds of people visited at their homes, Whisnant said, only three or so have refused to talk.
“People are eager to talk,” he said. “We have found that over and over.”
Hebron Baptist Church enjoyed two good timeframes in the summer and fall of 2021 to visit homes when the pandemic was ebbing, Pastor Shawn Dobbins said. Former members have returned, others have prayed to receive Christ, and others they didn’t contact have visited by word-of-mouth.
“It just seems like God is blessing our work, in other words,” Dobbins said. “Gospel to Every Home has helped us to begin the recovery process after COVID. We plan to carry that forward with ongoing outreaches to the community. We haven’t finished and we want to keep working.”
He anticipates three focused door-to-door outreaches annually “as an essential ministry” of the church. He appreciates having members like Owens who are eager to participate.
“We were just so blessed that she had the heart to reach our neighbors,” Dobbins said.