SPARTA — When J.D. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church here, first heard about 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, he dismissed it, thinking that it would not be a good fit for his congregation.
But after a long conversation last August with Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Davis began to seek how 1-5-1 could benefit First Baptist.
1-5-1 Harvest Plants was developed by Welch and TBC staff to assist Tennessee Baptist churches in evangelizing and discipling people as well as starting new churches.
Harvest Plants are geared toward off-campus efforts aimed specifically at non-Christians for the purpose of sharing the gospel.
Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort, with the Lord’s help, to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, and planning on each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.
While First Baptist had a strategy in place to reach new prospects, they did not have an effective method in place to move through the different phases of reaching and discipling people, the pastor noted.
With 1-5-1, groups are formed based on affinities, led by people with the same affinity, Davis said. Those leaders will continue with the groups and hopefully lead people into a relationship with Christ. They will then be able to stay with them and disciple them as well, he said.
After presenting the 1-5-1 plan to his church last October, the church caught the vision.
It culminated recently with a special service in which more than 40 church members were commissioned to begin 16 harvest plants over the next few months. Welch led the commissioning service.
“The commissioning service was exciting,” he noted. “It was like we were commissioning missionaries, but we were sending them out to our own communities,” he continued.
“It was putting ministry in the hands of our members,” he added.
In addition, Davis estimated there are about 40 more members who are ready to begin harvest plants as well.
Some of these plants have already begun, Davis said.
The pastor noted that 1-5-1 builds on something the church has done for years — community outreach.
The church holds between six-10 outreach events each year, Davis shared.
Now, instead of asking prospects where they attend church, they ask, “Would you like to meet people who like what you like?” Davis said. Then, the next question is, “What do you like?”
In keeping with the concept of going beyond the four walls of the church, the harvest plants all meet off the church campus.
Groups have been formed around cooking classes, hiking, running, fishing, sewing, crafts, photography, automobiles, and more, he said.
Davis said each of the groups already have prospects who have said they are interested in that particular affinity. He also noted that the leader or leaders of each harvest plant are encouraged to invite others to join the group.
Davis said he senses an excitement at First Baptist that he has not seen before during the seven years he has been its pastor.
“Our people are excited about meeting people, forming relationships, and sharing Jesus,” Davis said.
Because of the nature of the harvest plant concept, those leaders can then help disciple those who make decisions for Christ and lead them to start their own group at some point.
Davis admitted he has been surprised at the response of his congregation.
“We have had people get involved who were previously uninvolved.”
And the volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds — from long-time members to teenagers who are leading affinity groups for their friends, Davis shared.
While some of the harvest plants have more than one leader, they intentionally have said no one group can have more than three, Davis said.
“We don’t want a plant to become a ‘church group,’ ” he explained. “We want just enough members to give it leadership and direction.”
Meetings of each group will include a Bible study written by Davis. He stressed the lessons will be simple and focus on a Bible verse and then five questions: What is the issue in the verse? How do you handle it? Where do you see God at work? Have you had a problem like it? Does the Bible’s answer help you?
“My hope is that at some point that a member of the group will open up and share struggles they have and that it will open the door to share Christ,” Davis said.
While First Baptist typically averages around 375 people on Sundays, Davis said the beauty of the 1-5-1 Harvest Plants is that it can be done by any church, regardless of size.
“Any church can do this. Just ask people what they like and put them together.”