By JIM LYONS, Associate Pastor
Our church has been fortunate in that the city in which we are located has, for a number of years, been one of the fastest growing cities in the State of Texas. Hundreds of prospects were moving into the city every month. This meant that our pastor could encourage all of the members to come out to our visitation program, and be able to supply each of them with some prospects to visit.
However, in the past year our city has ceased its rapid growth, and now only a few people move into our city each month. This meant, of course, that we would either have to find some other place to secure prospects-or else not encourage all of our people to come to the visitation program. We did not wish to choose the latter, as visitation is one of the biggest blessings that the church membership can have.
So the eight following means of visitation are carried out each Thursday night by the Miller Road Baptist Church in our new visitation plan.
1. The Jails. Two of our finest Christian men do no form of visiting on Thursday nights other than jail visitation. Our city jail will usually have at least a couple of people in it each week, and sometimes has as many as ten or twelve. We feel that when Jesus died for every one certainly we should overlook no one in our visitation program. These two men have been highly success in their jail visitation, and have seen numbers of couple saved since the institution of our new visitation program, which included visiting the jails each week.
2. The Hospitals. Each week two or three teams composed of husbands and wives go to local and Dallas hospitals to visit those of our membership who are in the hospitals, and others who have been reported to the church office. They go for two purposes: First, to have prayer with those who are sick and ask God to heal their bodies. Second, they go to witness to those others who are in the rooms with the hospital patients from our church. Just recently one of our men went to see a person from our church who was in the hospital, and while visiting with the patient next to him, was able to win an eighty-year-old man to the Lord.
3. Tract Distribution in Shopping Centers. Each week we have three teams of four men each which distribute gospel tracts in shopping centers all over Dallas County. These men also go every time there is a great gathering of people for some special occasion-for instance, at the time our state fair was in progress, these men went each Thursday night and distributed thousands of tracts to people who were attending the fair. Hardly a week goes by that we do not receive a tract back through the mail, signed by someone saying that he has accepted Christ as his Saviour. Recently several of our fellows were passing out tracts in a shopping center that was just being opened. Many gifts were being given away on the formal opening night. The people at the shopping center, naturally thinking of the gifts that were being given out, formed a line to receive gospel tracts. Soon a long line had formed, and people were waiting to receive a gospel tract. You can imagine the surprised look on their faces when they got to the person who was handing out the tracts and found that they had stood in line to receive the Gospel.
4. Beer Joints. Our church is primarily a men’s church. We have probably as large a percentage of men in our church as any church in the world. Many of these fellows only a few years ago, were drunkards far down in sin. Beer joints are nothing new to these men, and several of them go each week to pass out tracts and witness to those in the beer joints, honky tonks and night clubs around Dallas County. This group is headed by a man who, by his own testimony, in a period of ten years did not see over ten days during which he failed to take a drink of liquor. This man was saved a few years ago, and now spends much of his time witnessing to the same crowd he once drank with. Hardly a week passes that this group does not bring one or several people to our church services on Sunday whom they have won on visitation night.
5. Bus Stations. One group of our men makes a regular Thursday night itinerary, which includes several of the bus stations and train terminals in Dallas. Many a person has found Jesus on Thursday night while sitting in a terminal waiting for his bus or train. Recently a young man seventeen years of age who had run away from his home in Kentucky, was found at the bus terminal. This young man gave his heart to Christ, came to the church and was baptized, has now found a job and is making his home in Garland. He is faithful to all services of the church.
6. Absentee Visitation. When a church reaches the size that our church has, there are many, many absentees each Sunday. We have found that the best way to visit these is in the church-wide visitation program on Thursday night. Each week someone from each class takes the “Absentee Book” and visits those who were not in Sunday school the previous Sunday from that particular class. This, of course, brings our people in contact with the entire family, giving them an opportunity to witness to those in the family who are not saved.
7. House to House Visitation. The last group to leave on Thursday nights from our chapel where we assemble for visitation, is the group which goes to visit in the homes in Garland. Even after sending someone to the jails, the hospitals, the shopping centers, the beer joints, the bus stations and to visit absentees, we still have quite a number of people left to visit from house to house in Garland. This group visits in pairs. They go to visit those who have just moved into our city, those who have visited in our church services, or those whose names have been turned in to the office as possible prospects for the church, or persons who need to be witnessed to. Many, many people have been won to Christ in our house to house visitation by the members of our church. On a recent Sunday morning a couple came down the aisle and united with our church. In talking to them, we found that the man had been won to Christ by two of our men while visiting from house to house in our city. After talking a little further, we found also that at a different time, one of our ladies had gone by and had won the wife to Christ. What a blessing it is to see people come to Christ, regardless of where they are found.
8. Visiting New Members. Our last type of visitation on Thursday nights is the visiting of those people who have come into the fellowship of our church. One of our deacons, accompanied by his wife, goes and visits each person who joins our church. We have found this to be an effective means of visitation, in that others in the family who are lost or unchurched are contacted in this way. Recently while visiting a new member of our church, our deacon found that a couple was visiting from out of the city. Before long, this couple had given their hearts to Christ there in the home.
Our church, in the period of time since it has been organized, has received many, many blessings, but perhaps the greatest blessings that we have received have been trying to carry out the Great Commission in the vicinity in which we live.