Sunday School that excels

A new book I am pleased to be a contributor.

Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, said, “As a young man growing up in this church, I repeatedly saw the positive effects of a “Friend Day” used by my father, Jerry Falwell.  Many were brought into the church.  I fully support the new title, “ My Friendship Connection”. In 2008, Jonathan Falwell led the church to have one of the greatest Friend Day events ever. There were over 12,000 in attendance with 2,676 “Friends” and 51 salvation decisions.  Jonathan asked the congregation to place an “X” on the visitor’s card if anyone wanted him to call and explain more about going to heaven.


Pastor Terry Mosley of Temple Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, North Carolina said his church’s average attendance was 190-200, but they had 370 in attendance on Friend Day, and 13 people trusted Jesus as their Savior. Mosley exclaimed, “What a service!  Our attendance was up almost fifty percent and before our follow-up visitation, we had a 23-year old lady saved as well.  Needless to say, our people are more excited than ever.”

Friend Day can be one of the most successful events on the church calendar to bring non-churched people into the church, but it is not just a “slogan”- nor does it work just because church leaders are announcing that everyone should bring a friend on a specific Sunday. It’s an interactive strategy that involves everyone, and, in so doing, it teaches church members new skills in (5) Relationship Evangelism, so that they reach their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors all on the same Sunday.

Friend Day can function like a revival for a church but is a completely different strategy of outreach. The traditional revival is geared to the spiritual ability of the evangelist to attract the crowd, present the gospel, and actually win people to Jesus Christ. Friend Day does not focus on a visiting evangelist, rather it focuses on each member leveraging their relationship to win their friends to Jesus Christ. Week long evangelistic events such as revivals can reach people for Christ but can be limited because:

  • Often both husband and wife work, so they have less time to attend church.
  • Schedules of children have become increasingly complex.
  • The pervasiveness of television and other forms of entertainment interfere.
  • The number of church evangelists has declined.
  • Negative images toward church evangelists hinder attendance.

Research shows that approximately 86 percent of all who are converted to Christ do so through the influence of a family or friend. This is called Relationship Evangelism or Friendship Evangelism. Therefore, Friend Day is a campaign that takes advantage of this research to help Christians in local churches become “spiritual influences” to reach their friends and to bring them to church where they will hear the gospel and become Christians.

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention wanted to find out what brought the people of First Woodstock to Christ. Knowing precisely how they came to Christ would help him prepare a strategy to be more effective to reach more. Several thousand were present the Sunday night he did a simple “hand raise” survey. “How many were primarily motivated to receive Christ because of something like a tract, billboard, door hanger, or TV?” Less than 10 people raised a hand. “How many came to Christ because of a pastoral contact?” Again less than 10 hands were raised. “How many were reached through our visitation program?” Again, less than 10 hands were raised. “How many came because of the simple invitation of a friend or relative?” A powerful picture was seen as thousands in the room lifted their hand to show relationship evangelism is the most effective outreach in our contemporary society. There was no question. Johnny Hunt, and everyone present, knew exactly what they needed to do to be most effective in reaching more for Christ. Friends must reach their friends for Christ.

Rick Rasberry surveyed five-thousand churches from a list of those that recently had purchased Friend Day resources. In his doctrinal dissertation, Rasberry demonstrated that churches were successful when they carefully followed the directions of the packet and got the following results:

  • Churches added fourteen percent of their first time visitors to the church membership.
  • Churches had an average of six decisions on the actual Friend Day with eleven decisions made for Christ during the four weeks follow-up campaign.
  • Church attendance increased six percent.
  • Churches sustained their growth over the average attendance for the previous year.

Phil Campbell is a small town in Northwest Alabama. The census of 2000 identified only 1,091 people residing in the town. There are nine churches located there and many would think the town is too small and has too many churches to have a greater impact for the kingdom. However, Pastor Sammy Taylor of Mountainview Baptist Church learned differently as he led his people to pray for Friend Day. Pastor Taylor reported, “I haven’t seen this much excitement in our church in years. The two crosses in the sanctuary are loaded down with “Yes” connect cards. There were a total of 187 souls (cards) that need to be touched by Jesus. Because of Friend Day, eight people trusted Christ, and about twenty-five “unchurched” are still attending.  Because of continued follow-up, Pastor Taylor baptized thirty-eight people that year. Taylor was excited to report, “Our second attempt at Friend Day was even better than the first!”

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011 powerful EF-5 tornadoes with winds in excess of 210 miles per hour ripped through the small town, and most of the community was destroyed including Mountainview Baptist Church. The church buildings were leveled, leaving only the parking lot and lots of memories. Many of the survivors showed up on the asphalt parking lot for a sermon by Pastor Sammy Taylor for a word of hope and to bury the dead. On each previous Friend Day, Taylor had carefully informed the people “If you ever need a pastor to talk with you or pray with you, please call me.” This clearly was the time that Pastor Taylor was recognized as the leader because of all the friendship connections his church had made in the community on Friend Day.

Steve Parr. (2013). Sunday School that Really Excels.