It’s all about intentionality! Join co-hosts Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell as they speak with special guest Jarrett Stephens, teaching pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, about engaging communities with the gospel. You’ll hear how the team at Prestonwood leads their congregation to be intentional about living on mission in their neighborhoods and discover practical ways you can begin a natural evangelistic outreach in your community today.
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To learn more about personal evangelism, check out Who’s Your One.
Announcer: You are listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from the North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the gospel. Now, here are your hosts.
Kevin Ezell: Pastors, you’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. I’m Kevin Ezell and with me is Brother Johnny and a very special guest Jarrett Stephens from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Jarrett thanks for being with us on the podcast today.
Jarrett Stephen: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Johnny Hunt: Well, we’re excited about what God’s doing at Prestonwood and the truth is you’ve been known as one of the leading evangelistic churches in the SBC for long time and really continuously. And so, to kind of get it started what are some of the things that you’re currently doing at Prestonwood to engage the community with the gospel?
Jarrett Stephen: Sure. Well, thanks so much for that compliment and I think it goes to our leadership. Obviously, our pastor has an evangelistic heart so everything he does in leading these last what’ll be 30 years in June has had evangelism at the forefront. And I’ve been listening to this podcast that y’all have been putting up and I’m so grateful for it because it’s putting this thrust so share our faith and getting the gospel out as a priority at the forefront and on the front burner of everybody’s mind and attention. I’ve heard Pastor Graham say it a number of times. The hardest two things to get Christian’s to do often times is pray and share their faith.
Jarrett Stephen: And so, you have to constantly just keep it at the forefront and Doctor Graham has certainly done that for our church. But just to answer your question some ways that we’re currently doing it at the timing of this podcast we’re recording now, Easter’s on the way. And one of the things that we’re really hammering right now is what we call our neighborhood Easter parties. And we’re really excited about this. This is probably our fourth year to do it and what we did was really pilot this program a few years back based off of our fall festival. For those that are in the Baptist church world you’re probably familiar with the fall festival where you invite everybody during the Halloween season to the church and you have a big carnival type deal. And we decided a couple of years ago that we weren’t going to do that but we were going to take our fall festivals to local neighborhoods. And our people really bought in and they would get in it together, maybe host it at a community center, and we provided games for ’em. We provided trainings for ’em on how they can have a little party in their neighborhood.
Jarrett Stephen: And so, we took that idea and we said, “What if we did this for Easter?” And so, we provide the training, we give them a box with games, and arts and crafts for the kids, a Easter story book that they can read to the children. And so, we just want people to own their neighborhood. So, they go and invite people to come to their neighborhood Easter party. We put signs in the yard. We provide all of this for our members and we’ve just seen it take off. And what’s really exciting is we’ll have in our atrium just a big map. Of course Prestonwood Plano is a pretty regional church. And so, we’ll have big map in the atrium and we go and if you’re hosting a neighborhood party you put a little dot right there where it is and it’s pretty cool to see this map fill up of neighborhood Easter parties all over the place. You see where other members live. Bible fellowships get in on this together, small groups, Sunday schools get in on this together and host a party. So, that’s one of the things that we’re really driving right now.
Johnny Hunt: That’s great Jarrett. What we’ve found out is that different people just have different vision, dream, but the main thing is just any and every way we can to be in contact with those who we can turn everyday conversations to gospel conversations. What would you say God is using mostly in follow up? I know you’re going to end up with tons of guests, and opportunities, and Easter so many show up but what follow up do you use with your guests that attend outreach events or even your Sunday morning services?
Jarrett Stephen: Sure. Well, I would say that’s one of the things that we’re probably mot intentional about. For us that’s the blocking and tackling of everything that we do, that’s the basics is when someone visits we’re on it and really the old school way of doing it. If they’ll give us their information and we try to get that in a number of different ways. So, if it’s an outreach event, if a neighbor comes to one of these neighborhood parties we’re getting their contact information if they’ll give it to us. We’re not pushing ’em and making ’em turn in all of their information. But if they if they come to church, if they fill out a guest registration form, if they get it into us we are following up and we do it the old school way Pastor Johnny. We’re not afraid to use the phone and we’re calling them. And for us our heart is we want to contact them in about 72 hours. We want them to get three to five contacts.
Jarrett Stephen: We’re not trying to overwhelm them but the story of Prestonwood is some people can visit a big church like ours and think oh they’re not intentional, they don’t care about me, they don’t care about the one so to speak. And we have to fight hard against that. And so, we’re very intentional in calling our guests, seeing if there’s any way that we can serve them, and this day and age not a lot of people answer their phone and so we’ll leave a message, we’ll send text messages, but we’re very intentional on making sure that we try to close that back door. And it’s not just ministers calling. Obviously, our small groups or Bible fellowship classes are geared toward reaching out to guests. They know, that’s in our DNA and so if they visit a small group they’re getting a call from them, they’re getting a call from our children’s ministry. We’re pretty welcoming in that regard.
Kevin Ezell: Jarrett, I know Prestonwood everyone knows is a huge church. You said it yourself just a moment ago the size. But really any pastor or any church of any size in any context can do this. The most important thing is you have to engage. I know brother Jack is, you are, the staff, you have to be very intentional about everything you do regardless of the size church.
Jarrett Stephen: Yeah you really do. And again I think it starts with the leadership. We can only take our people and lead our people where we’re willing to go and that involves telling stories, it involves intentional equipping of our people. I mean I just think of the power of the laity. I mean they’re in the mission field every single day. I mean right now as we’re doing this podcast they’re getting ready to go to work or if they’re not already at work and just the ton of influence that they have in hospitals, in school classrooms all across this city that if we could equip them and to be thinking about, “How do you win the right to be heard?” Are we serving in the name of Jesus with one hand and intentional in sharing the good news of the gospel on the other hand? I think there’s great power in that. We talk about that all the time.
Johnny Hunt: You know you talked about your small group leaders also reaching out. In all of my study in recent days the three priorities of Sunday School or small groups when they first started and made the most effective is their number one priority was reach, then it was teach, then it was care. And so, we’ve tried to put our small groups in such a care ministry that they basically have an outreach leader. Every Sunday School class, every small group, and then you become very intentional like you say when somebody visits or they even see the roll of all of the people that showed up for your Easter event. So, it’s being intentional as well as making it a priority. So, do you do the same thing in your small groups? You guys have an outreach person and?
Jarrett Stephen: We do. That’s our core values of our Bible fellowship small group ministry is reach, learn, and love, and we put them in that way Pastor Johnny. Reach being that again if we don’t keep it at the forefront it will always go to the back, it’ll take a lesser priority. And so, we don’t have closed groups, we have open groups. We want people to know that they can come in and then in all of these Bible fellowship classes we try to give leadership a way. This is where spiritual gifts are used, this is where ministry is done. And so, whether it’s a teacher or a director we have an outreach leader, we have in reach leaders on these big events. People are getting called that maybe haven’t been to the church in three weeks. We had that absentee report pulled. I mean this is again for us it’s the blocking and tackling.
Kevin Ezell: Jarrett I know you guys have had thousands of people go through EE, Evangelism Explosion. What tool is the one that you’re currently using?
Jarrett Stephen: Well, currently we’re using three circles and we’ve found it to be received very very well and we’re driving it through our entire organization right now. We take three weeks just about every single year to train our Bible fellowships in three circles and we’ll do three weeks on three circles. And so, we’re pretty intentional about it and we’re already in conversations now about having Jimmy come in and train our whole church. So, we love it, that’s what we use, we’ve driven it so far down our organization. I was taking my 13 year old to school, this happened two weeks ago, and I was just talking to her on the way to school and she said, “Now dad tell me about this three circles again.” And I was showing her the app on the phone and she was using it in a presentation in her class. And so, even our Prestonwood Christian Academy is getting it as well and so it’s really cool to see it going down and being driven by the whole organization.
Johnny Hunt: Incredible. Hey you folks are also known for your next steps and how you set up a table after service, answer questions for guests, or those who visit want to know more about a relationship with Jesus, baptism. Ted Traylor we’re told that’s the same thing down at Olive. So, at Prestonwood you have a next steps class. What does this look like?
Jarrett Stephen: Well yeah. First of all we have what we call Guest Central that is in the middle of our atrium after every service. So, if someone is interested in knowing more about Prestonwood, if someone is interested in joining our church, we give an invitation every week but we just believe that there needs to be multiple points of entry. And so, we ask people to fill out those guest registration forms in the service. They can put them in the offering plate when it’s passed and we said, “Better yet take it to guest central in the atrium. We’ve got a gift that we want to put in your hand.” And we give away one of Pastor Graham’s books. We give away new believer’s Bibles. At the end of every service the closing announcement is, “Listen if you have questions about your faith, if you’re here and you’re not a believer, and you’re just stepping into this and you have questions we want you to go guest central. We’ve got a brand new Bible want to give you.” And we give them a new testament Bible every week. And so, and we keep tabs on this, I mean this is important to us. And so, I’m just pulling up the numbers from this past weekend. We had 17 guest forms completed at our Guest Central.
Jarrett Stephen: So, a lot of people may not feel comfortable filling it out there and putting it in the offering plate or whatever but their intentional when you say, “Hey we’re going to put a gift in your hand. It’s just our way of saying thank you for being here.” We had 17 filled out yesterday at Guest Central and we gave away 20 new believer Bibles. So, we’re trying to gauge this. And then, our next step class is just our new member’s class or it’s also for guests that are just kind of kicking the tires, want to know more about Prestonwood.
Jarrett Stephen: They come in and we take about, we do it once a month during a weekend service. And so, we do it on Saturday nights right after our Saturday night service and then we do it on Sunday morning and we take about an hour to an hour and a half just to share with them the mission, vision, values, learn more about our staff, how we’re governed, ask questions, and we put deacons and leaders of our church at every table where there’s a guest so that questions can be answered. We try to get them engaged in a small group. And so, it’s a really great class and what we’ve found is it just allows people to ask questions, to meet our leadership and know the heart of our leadership. We’re constantly as big of a church as we are have to think small and so this is one of the ways that we do it.
Johnny Hunt: That’s incredible. You know I love that mindset and I love the Guest Central, we call ours Connect Desk and one of the things we try to do and incorporate in our next steps is we close that morning out by giving a brief clear gospel presentation.
Jarrett Stephen: Absolutely.
Johnny Hunt: And then, we also invite any that are there that are considering membership if they’d like to join and I’ve really really, I’ve got to be honest. I’ve been taken back by how many people respond to the gospel in that room and how many even desire to unite with our church in that context. So, I love your next steps.
Jarrett Stephen: Yeah, we’re seeing the same thing and what we’ve done, we do a weekly invitation every week and we want to share the gospel in everything that we do. Our people know that and it’s built into the mission statement of our church. Our mission is to glorify God by introducing Jesus Christ as Lord to as many people as possible. And so, we try to drive it down in everything that we do. But if they receive Christ or join at Next Step we give them a little card right there and say, “Hey you’re going to the next service. Why don’t you just walk down forward when we give the invitation and you just hand in this card and that says you received Christ at Next Step or you’re joining the church.” And again, it’s just a way of introducing people to come forward in our services because our people are praying for that weekly invitation, they’re inviting friends and seeing that movement, seeing that coming forward is just a real encouragement to our church.
Johnny Hunt: How encouraging. Hey Jarrett thanks for taking time to be with on the podcast today and we’re grateful for the ministry taking place at Prestonwood and the emphasis y’all have on reaching your community with the gospel. I know this fall Lord willing we’ll be with you at Prestonwood for a Sunday night rally on evangelism and then turn around on a Monday morning and train people on having a chance to hear from you, and Jack, and other guests that will be there that will talk about evangelism in their churches, how we’re training our people. We want to beat the drum as much as we can all across America that once again Southern Baptists would have as a major priority the making known of the gospel to those who are far from God.
Jarrett Stephen: Well, you’re doing it and again thank you so much for leading the way on this who’s your one emphasis just in our services again looking toward Easter. We had yesterday, we just stood up in front of the church and said, “Hey Easter’s on the way and all of you have one person that you can make the invite to. And so, we want you to begin right now just praying for that person whether they’re at the office, at the workplace, in the school, where you work out, wherever it is. Who is that one person that you can be praying for God to soften their heart right now and who is that one person that you can pray for courage to make the ask, make the invite. Who knows an invite could change a life forever. And so, thank you Kevin and Pastor Johnny for leading the way on this emphasis.”
Kevin Ezell: Well, Jarrett we are so grateful for you, your example, and for Brother Jack and Prestonwood and how you share with pastors today. And Pastors if you have any questions let us know and we will try to answer them on a future podcast. Just email them to Evangelismatnamm.net. Again if you can’t spell it you’re probably not doing it. So, listen next time on our podcast.