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Singing, and sweating, in steamy West Virginia

Church members and visitors assemble in the Parkersburg, W.Va., high school field house for a Gospel meeting. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

Blogging from Parkersburg, W.Va.
Last week, I traveled to this industrial, working-class city on the Ohio River to cover the “Christ Is The Answer” campaign.
The joint effort of area Churches of Christ involved knocking more than 24,000 doors. About 200 local and out-of-town church members participated in the outreach effort, which resulted in a number of Bible studies and more than a dozen baptisms.
Roughly 1,000 people attended each night, most of them fanning themselves to try to stay cool in the un-air-conditioned Parkersburg High School field house.
We Care Ministries, Sojourners and the “In Search of the Lord’s Way” television ministry joined forces in the campaign, as did 13 congregations that supported the effort:

Camille Jones and Rebecca Haguewood, both 11, knocked doors during the “Christ Is The Answer” campaign in Parkersburg, W.Va. Both attend the North End Church of Christ in Parkersburg. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

Camden Avenue Church of Christ in Parkersburg.

Concord Road Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tenn.

Grand Central Church of Christ in Vienna, W.Va.

Hopewell Church of Christ in rural Wood County, W.Va., south of Parkersburg.

Lubeck Church of Christ in Washington, W.Va.

North End Church of Christ in Parkersburg.

Rockport Church of Christ in West Virginia.
• Rosemar Church of Christ in Parkersburg.

36th Street Church of Christ in Vienna, W.Va.

• New Matamoras Church of Christ in Ohio.

• Barlow-Vincent Church of Christ in Vincent, Ohio.

Belpre Church of Christ in Ohio.

Mount Juliet Church of Christ in Tennessee.

Mark Shockey and Richard Egnor worked long hours to build the special baptistery for the event. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

“Search” speaker Phil Sanders preached for four nights at the field house. Chris Walker, a Lipscomb University student, grandson of Ray Walker and member of the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Franklin, Tenn., led singing. Joe Wells, editor of Kaio, a publication of Focus Press for young people, focused on youth issues each night. The campaign drew the attention of WTAP-TV, where “Search” airs each Sunday.
The nightly singing and preaching in the Parkersburg field house came 43 years after a similar event featuring Jimmy Allen. Many area church members still remember the 1967 event, and my future story in The Christian Chronicle will explore what’s changed — and what hasn’t — in Parkersburg and evangelistic outreach since then.
My thanks to Keith Stotts, president of Ohio Valley University, who invited me to a special lunch with campaign organizers, and Alan Stephens, a Concord Road church member who played a leading role in organizing the event and invited me to cover it for the Chronicle.
In June, my Chronicle colleague Erik Tryggestad did a blog post and wrote a news story about a separate door-knocking effort in Oklahoma City.

  • Feedback
    One thing that hasn’t changed since 1967 – the Parkersburg High School Fieldhouse still has no air conditioning.
    Dennis Cox
    August, 4 2010

    Amen on that, Dennis! It was HOT in there. Sorry I missed you when I was at OVU.
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    August, 4 2010

    I live in San Antonio, Texas. But I’m glad to hear that the church around Parkersburg, WV and OH, and Tenn. reached out to the youth and others in that area. I went to Jr. High and High School in Portsmouth, OH and still have family back that way. I was born almost 62 yrs ago in Fairmont, WV. May GOD BLESS YOU.
    I’m praying for you all. Thank you for your service. In Christian Love, Pam Tobias
    member MacArthur Park Church of Christ
    San Antonio, Tx
    pam tobias
    August, 4 2010

    Wow, you had me there for a minute. The article said Sojourners participated in the event. Good thing I went to the link; didn’t know anything about the RV crowd. I thought maybe there’d been a breakthrough & Jim Wallis was on premise. Now that would have made for an interesting story!
    August, 4 2010

    In June you highlighed the Lawton group; in September you have highlighted the Parkersburg activity…. now I hope you will do one on We Care Ministry.
    I hope Christian Chronicle will interview and write up a lengthy article on We Care Ministry’s history of 30 years. They knock doors and present the gospel on the spot. In last 6 years for each 75 doors knocked, they present the gospel to 5 people and baptism 1+ (one campaign in 2009 they baptized 1 out of every 3 studies). My last recall, they have averaged 500 baptism per year for many years. They also have a very special effective after care program.
    Bill Ferguson
    August, 4 2010

    We’ve tried many things, brochures, talks, radio, Cable TV, and all of the facts and data I have shows that door-knocking still is the number one most effective way to reach people. Knock and the Door shall be opened. Door knocking is not pretty. Its not particularly pleasant. It is hard work. Not everyone can do it. But is is the most effective way to reach people.
    Earle West
    August, 5 2010

    Thank you for covering this campaign. In it we hope to spur more interest in personal evangelism across the country. The effort was highly successful because Jesus was the center of the effort. When we sow the seeds of Jesus Christ, He will bring increase.
    We Care, Sojourners, workers from Tennessee, and the members from Parkersburg all came together with a common goal of sharing the Gospel with the lost. I highly recommend this approach in your area. If you need help call us and we will help however possible.
    May God bless your efforts to teach others of Him
    Steven Haguewood
    August, 5 2010

    I sincerely hope the effort in Parkersburg is a great success. May I suggest you follow-up with those congregations and others where door-knocking campaigns have been conducted and where lage numbers of baptisms are reported to determine how many of the subjects are still faithful. Unfortunately, door-knocking is a form of cold-calling and the initial response rate is very low and the retention rate is dismal. My congregation conducted such a campaign two years ago to the tune of $20,000. We baptized about 36 over the 10-day period, and diligently implemented the recommended follow-up program as best we could. The people who were baptized were accepted with warmth and love and assisted with food and financially in some cases. A fair number continued to attend worship services for a while. Others we couldn’t locate or they dismissed us. The only ones remaining until recently were a man and his wife. Some of our members took up a collection and gave them a car. A couple of weeks later we received a note from a local Christian church telling us that they were happy to welcome this couple into their fellowship. I find this to be the case with other congregations that have talked contacted. I certainly admire the dedication and sincerity of those who work with these campaigns, but giving away food and paying bills does not always a disciple make.
    When you take a survey of the members of most congregations I dare say 95% or more of them will tell you they became a Christian because of someone they knew – a friend, a relative, or co-worker. I am convinced that relaionship building along with sharing one’s faith is what it takes to make converts. Bible study is essential and methododolgy is important, but it can’t be effective until there is rapport and trust. Furthermore, many people in today’s society have no or very little knowledge of God or Jesus. It’s no longer a matter of convincing people about what is the correct doctrine, it’s about helping them understand the need and benefits of having Lord in their lives. Until this occurs they are not a candidate for baptism. Too often we are getting people wet without their having counted the cost and having come to a proper understanding of the meaning of repentance and commitment.
    I hestitated to submit this response because it is not my intent to trash door-knocking per se or the people who work with these programs. We certainly need to be doing something to reach the lost, and there are some very good aspects to the door-knocking program. An organized campaign helps motivate and mobilize the congregation. You gain in Bible knowledge and how to present the gospel. By doing it you learn how to approach people and how to overcome the fear of talking to people about the Lord. And, there are always some who remain faithful and become devoted and faithful servants in the kingdom. But, overall, I don’t believe it is a very effective means of spreading the gospel.
    I believe the recipe for church growth is as follows: 1)we must quit aplogizing for being the church of Christ and being intimated by other groups that are following secular trends, 2) we must once again be known as the people who know the Bible, 3)our lives must reflect our faith, 4)we must stick to the pattern of the new testament in our worship and in our teaching and preaching, and 5) we must have the courage and conviction of those who door-knock and do personal work and start cultivating relationships with people that we come in contact with outside the church and sharing our faith with them and with people we already know.
    Larry Taylor
    August, 5 2010

    Thanks for all the comments. Bill, in reference to We Care, we did a full-page interview with Larry West last year. Here’s the <a href=”https://christianchronicle.org/article2158787~Dialogue:_A_conversation_with_Larry_West” rel=”nofollow”>link</a> if you missed it.
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    August, 5 2010

    I read with interest the article concerning the West Virginia campaign and, with equal interest, I have read the comments you received. Oddly, I grew up in Parkersburg and have been a firm believer in the door-knocking, cold call approach to evangelism. A little insight from both perspectives!
    No one rejoiced more than I did when I heard of the campaign in my hometown. It was good to see brethren laying aside small differences to cooperate in reaching the lost. I rejoiced to know of the 13 that were obedient to the gospel during the effort. I have informed the church here in Williamsburg,Virginia of the effort and reflected with them on this campaign and the one held in 1997 in which I participated.
    Also, we have conducted two We Care campaigns here in Williamsburg (2004 and 2008) with wonderful results. Respectively, 38 and 25 were obedient to the gospel with others added following each campaign. We have maintained the same percentage of folk from the campaigns as we have in non-campaign efforts. No difference at all. The key is the follow-up efforts regardless of the type of outreach it is. We prayed hard and worked hard to keep these folk and by the grace of God did so.
    Our story here in Williamsburg has been an exciting one over the past fifteen years. From a church of 100 to one that is now 200 in size. From a budget of $1300 that was not being met, to one of $4300 being surpassed. From very few children, to a church filled with the laughing voices of children of all ages. Why has this happened? Organization? No. Leadershp? No. Hard work? No. All of the above has been the result of getting out of God’s way and letting him grow his church. Obviously, we made ourselves available to him, but he brought the people to us and we made every effort to meet their needs.
    When churches have a mindset to grow and are willing to be available, God will bring about a dynamic, lasting, and very, very pleasant season of growth!
    Bill Butterfield
    August, 5 2010

    Bobby, The date for the Parkersburg, WV campaign in which I participated was 1967 and the speaker was Jimmy Allen.
    Bill Butterfield
    August, 5 2010

    I love West Virginia. Its hot and miserable and bugs galore for a Cailfornia boy, but my buddy Mike introduced me to the girl I married at a gospel meeting there. What a great place!
    August, 5 2010

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