DALLAS, Texas — The largest state Baptist group in the nation wants Christ’s message of hope heard on CDs in every home in Texas — about 9 million of them — by Easter.
That’s a challenge in a state as big and diverse as Texas, where more than a third of households speak a language other than English. Along with Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog and Chinese are increasingly heard.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas is promoting a multilingual, multimedia CD that allows folks to listen to key biblical passages in their native languages.
It’s part of a three-pronged campaign dubbed Texas Hope 2010 to convey what “we really believe; that there’s hope in Christ,” said Randel Everett, the Baptist group’s executive director.
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Pop one in a car CD player or load it onto an MP3 device and hear the third chapter of John explain how “God so loved the world” in English or Spanish.
Slip it into a computer and download the entire New Testament in one of more than 400 languages, complete with dramatic pauses, sound effects and background music. Organizers say they’re not snubbing the Old Testament; the audio is not yet available in all those languages.
“I really think that people need to hear the Gospel in their heart language, whether they read and understand English or not, people need to know that God speaks their language,” Everett said.
The CD includes a toll-free telephone number and six two-minute video testimonies of black, white and Hispanic Texans sharing their personal stories, some in Spanish.
“They’re not celebrities, just ordinary people throughout Texas who have been rescued through Christ,” Everett said, recalling one woman on the video who said she thought about killing her kids and herself before she found the Lord.
In Alpharetta, Ga., the North American Mission Board, which is tied to the Southern Baptist Convention, recently launched an initiative to share the Gospel with everyone in North America, but they’re taking 10 years and it’s not CD-centric.
Because the U.S. and many Texas cities are now so global, Heath said local Christians must think and act more like missionaries who are going into a different culture. The CD is a good start, but relationships are still the key.
“When people ask the big questions in life, when they’re hurting and in trouble,” Heath said, “they need a friend who will put an arm around them and say ‘How can I help you when you’re struggling?’, and an 800 number is not going to do that.”
Scholars say the Baptist group is well positioned to reach every household by its April 4 deadline.
“I think realistically they could do it, the delivery system can be very effective if they can convince Baptist churches around the state to participate,” said David Mills, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The group is relying on its 5,700 congregations and 2.3 million affiliated members to purchase and distribute the CDs, which cost them $1 each.
Because each Baptist church is autonomous, none are required to participate, and several have opted out, saying they’re too busy with their own programs.
Still, the group has found distribution leaders in 242 of Texas’ 254 counties so far, each designing a CD dispersal plan that fits their region.
A few doorbell-ringing churches are delivering homemade cookies and pies with every CD.
“The hot apple pie opens the door,” said Mitch Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Shallowater. “We let the DVD do the talking. We don’t stay at their home or try to pressure them.”
Sam Silva, director of Community Ministries with Park Cities Baptist in Dallas and Buckner International, said the church’s men’s Sunday School class bought and mailed about 20,000 CDs to a neighborhood of immigrants.
Members of the church’s bilingual service followed up face-to-face, asking people if they received the CD and telling them about their church. Silva said the CD went out about 10 weeks ago, and families are starting to show up at the church, professing a belief in Christ, as a result.
Only time will tell how effective the CDs are.
“It would be good to look back 10 years from now to see how many people became fire-breathing Christians who truly gave their lives to God because of that CD,” Heath said.