I began serving on the staff of Cleveland Baptist Church (map) under Dr. Roy Thompson in 1985, and was Visitation Director there for seventeen years. In 2000 the church hosted a preacher's fellowship meeting. Pastor Kevin Folger mentioned that there would be many young preachers, some of them discouraged, attending the meeting. At that time the Lord ignited in my heart a desire to be a blessing to these discouraged preachers. At the meeting, I was able to interact with some of these men and discovered that indeed, many of them were discouraged. The cause of their discouragement was often the spiritual and physical load of their ministries. Many had just begun a work, or had taken over a struggling work. There was no associate. There was no staff. Often there were no trained men in the church to do soulwinning, followup and discipleship work (Exodus 18:22b).
As I began to think and pray about these men and their ministries, I realized that many of the resources I had accumulated and much of the experience God had given me over the years in my work at a large Independent Baptist church could be helpful to these pastors. I had always had a passion for getting the gospel out, for soulwinning and for discipleship. The Lord began to grow in me a burden to help these pastors, if I could, and out of that burden the H.E.A.R.T. Ministry was born. We stepped out by faith and began working full-time with churches in January 2002.
Our mission is two-fold. First, we seek to instruct and inspire faithful laymen to have a vision to carry out the Great Commission in their own neighborhood. This is accomplished through the local church, thus giving pastors more time for prayer and ministry of the Word (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 5:42, 6:4; II Timothy 2:2). Second, to come alongside the Pastor, his family, and the local church and assist in areas of encouragement, evangelism and education.
Encouragement. Many times in a small or struggling church, the entire burden of working the ministry is on the pastor and his family. They can grow isolated or lonely. We are often able to take the pastor and his wife out for a meal, and just enjoy a time of fellowship together around the table. Once having established a relationship, we become aware of needs we can pray with them about. Often we are able to point them in a direction where the need of the family or church can be met. It is our desire to be a blessing and help to the pastor and his family in whatever way we can.
Evangelism. Our number one priority is fulfilling the Great Commission. We make ourselves available to go soulwinning with pastors, or others in the church who are available and willing to make calls. Daily we help churches distribute gospel materials in their neighborhoods and teach laymen to sow and plant where they live. Well over 200,000 tracts, John / Romans and H.E.A.R.T. Bible studies have been distributed in northern and central Ohio. Our teams have walked well over 1,200 miles during saturation and infiltration of neighborhoods with gospel material in the past year (I Corinthians 3:6, II Corinthians 9:6b).
Education. Often laymen are fearful of going soulwinning because they have never been trained. We are able to teach in Sunday School, church services, or other times practical tips on how to be an effective soulwinner. Once taught, folks in the church are more willing to go out soulwinning with the pastor or his wife, or me or my wife. We try to equip church members to do the job, then go out with them to help build confidence and encourage them while they continue to learn.
With 28 years of experience in a broad range of ministries, the H.E.A.R.T. Ministry has helped diligent members of over sixty local churches enlarge their opportunities in their service for the Lord. Structures used to accomplish this are a soulwinning ministry ~ the N.E.W.S. Ministry ( Neighborhood Encouragers Willingly Serving) and a discipleship / caring ministry ~ the S.O.S. Ministry ( Serving Our Savior/Streets/Sunday School/Shut-ins/Struggling/Sick/Singles, etc). A brief description of these ministries follows.
The N.E.W.S. Ministry is a multi-service ministry in which every member is able to joyfully participate (Ephesians 4:16, Galatians 5:13). There are two phases: "Operation Saturation" and "Operation Infiltration". For Operation Saturation, tracts are merely distributed to each home within a designated area. Some weeks later, the same area is covered through Operation Infiltration. Returning to the doors where gospel material has been previously left, the doors are actually knocked on and a face-to-face presentation of the gospel is attempted.
The S.O.S. Ministry then links a church member with individuals in his own neighborhood that need to be discipled and/or ministered to. A tracking grid is provided to keep track of each individual and specific needs they may have, and serves as a ministry log.
A key to successful implementation of both programs is effectively mapping out neighborhoods where church members live. One method is to divide areas into North, East, West and South (also N.E.W.S.!). By directing members to calls in the neighborhoods in which they live, both time and monetary resources can best be utilized. Often, twice as many calls can be made in the same amount of time using this method.
Qualities Needed to Become a Layman Missionary:
- Commitment and a vision (to carry out the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20). Rekindle the burden that those within our influence, without a gospel witness, will die and go to hell (Ezekiel 33:7-9, Acts 1:8).
- Clean and contrite heart (God "wilt not despise") (Psalm 51:10, 17).
- Calling on the Lord continually (Jeremiah 33:3).
- Charity (that "never faileth") (I Corinthians 13:8, Galatians 5:13).
- Cash investment of tithe and offerings through the local church ("For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21).
- Compassion "making a difference" (Jude 22).
- Caring for "our" world (Psalm 142:4).
- Co-laborers (being faithful "to teach others also") (II Timothy 2:2).