GRAYSON, Ky. (KT) – Pastor Josh Schmidt and a little more than two dozen members of First Baptist Church in Grayson went out on foot two Sundays ago to start a yearlong initiative of knocking on 1,201 doors.
That’s the number of homes that sit within one mile of the church - and statistics say that an incredible 94 percent of those in those homes are unchurched.
Put another way, the harvest is ripe.
“The top eight of the most unchurched counties in the state, every single one of them was in northeastern or southeastern (Kentucky) - right in the middle of the Appalachian Bible Belt,” Schmidt said of data provided to him through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Schmidt, who has been pastor of the Carter County church for two years where his late father previously pastored, said the impetus for the door-to-door effort was birthed from last year’s REACH Evangelism Conference.
“Joel Southerland from NAMB said his church had decided that within one mile of his church that was going to be their Jerusalem,” Schmidt said. “He talked about how he’d made himself ‘mayor’ of that area. From one mile out at least, there wasn’t going to be anyone who didn’t hear the gospel.”
Schmidt said he was burdened because “we weren’t doing any outreach. We were doing discipleship stuff, which is very important too, but nothing with outreach. Our leadership was challenged by that.”
So they began putting the plan in motion. The first Sunday they decided to go up and down three streets that covered about 60 homes. Most of those they encountered were not attending church anywhere and some didn’t know of the church within a mile of them.
“We had three groups of four and another 13-14 out to prayer walk,” he said.
Several businesses and churches are also along Main Street in Grayson where the church is located. They sent out letters of encouragement to them.
Schmidt said the Three Circles evangelism program is “in the DNA of our church” and that’s the tool they took with them. They had some gospel conversations but mostly asked residents how they could pray for them and invited them to church.
“The good thing about Three Circles is it’s great about transitioning regular conversations to gospel conversations,” he said. “We had some gospel conversations. Nobody prayed to receive Jesus at the time. We haven’t seen any fruit yet, but I guarantee we will be.”
When Schmidt looks at the statistics in Carter County, he found of those 1,201 homes that it included 3,100 people within a mile of the church.
“We have all these horror stories about people slamming the door in your face (when visiting) and that’s just not the case,” he said. “I’ve knocked on Lord knows how many doors and never once had it slammed in my face. I’ve had people not be super friendly, but people build on those false narratives.
“It (witnessing) terrifies people but, at the end of the day, you just gotta go. We started bringing people alongside us, people who are terrified, to show them (it’s nothing to be scared over).”
Schmidt said the goal of reaching everyone within a mile of the church wasn’t his vision but God’s vision for First Baptist Grayson. “We were doing this and then the KBC announces getting the gospel to every single home was the theme for the November meeting. It was God’s providential blessing for us.”
Of the 60 homes that they visited on Sunday, only three people said they were members of any church. “The statistics show that means there are about 2,900 people within a mile of our church who don’t attend church on a Sunday basis,” he said.
Schmidt understands it will be a marathon and not a sprint to the finish line and keeping the church engaged in the project is vital. “Two major challenges: How do we make sure we’re hitting every home and how do you keep this in the forefront of everybody’s mind?”
He said “as soon as we start seeing victories, people will continue to get energized.”
Schmidt also said he’d be doing a lot more planning on his knees.