Before he was the newly elected President of the Southern Baptist Conventionâ€”the country’s largest Protestant denominationâ€”Pastor Fred Luter was a widely respected mega-church pastor with a mega-heart for the New Orleans community he serves! His local church Franklin Avenue Baptist Church has been instrumental in reaching out to and rebuilding the lives of many in the New Orleans community post-Hurricane Katrina. Pastor Luter has employed a fantastic and adoptable method for growing a church of thousands which he calls, â€œF.R.A.N.gelism.â€
Here in his own words, Luter describes the origins and impact of the ministry strategy he calls â€œF.R.A.N.gelismâ€:
God has truly blessed our ministry. We have never been on the radio, never been on T.V., never had a billboard. Our church grew by word of mouth.Â I just had a conviction that if we\’re being blessed by God, then we need to tell other people what God has done in our lives. I use this technique calledÂ â€œF.R.A.N.gelism.â€ It\’s an acronym for: Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors.
I told all of the folks in my church thatÂ if God has done something in your life, if God has changed your life, if God has used this church to change a single life, to change your family life, to change your walk with God, or really madeÂ an impact on your life, then you are obligated, according to the Word of God and the Great Commission, to go share what God has done in your life with other people. It\’s something that everybody can do.
We tried other evangelism methodsâ€”we tried faith, we tried one-on-one witnessing, we tried knocking on doors, but nothing did for us what F.R.A.N.gelism did. â€œF.R.A.N.gelism” goes all month: I call First Sunday of the month Friends Day, Second Sunday Relatives Day, Third Sunday Associates (Co-workers, Business Partners) and Fourth Sunday Neighbors Day.
It’s like a big pep rally. During my pastoral announcements I say, “Okay all you who brought friends stand up.”Â When people stand up, we clap and applaud. It is a really big deal.
You can\’t force people to come to your church, but once they come, you\’ve got to make them feel welcome. That\’s the great thing about our church. Anybody who comes to Franklin Avenue will feel welcome. They’ll feel like, “Oh this is family.” We don\’t call our first-time people visitors, we call them guests, because they\’re our guests and we want them to feel like they\’re guests.
We go out of the way to make sure that our guests are welcome and we also have a number of ministers there to help people to grow in their walk with God. We\’re very strong on family ministry; we\’re very strong on reaching men. As a matter of fact, anywhere from 48-49% of our congregation are men. I\’ve just always had the conviction that if you save the man, the man will save his family. I’ve often told our folksÂ that our young men can never be what they have never seen. So, I\’ve always been very strong on theÂ necessityÂ of reaching the family by reaching the men and that’s what I encourageÂ pastors all across the country to do.
Now, most of our churches are led by women. As a matter of fact, if women would leave our churches, 90%Â of them would have to close down. At the church I pastor,Â I tell people ifÂ there are a lot of single parent women in the neighborhood where I\’m pastoring at, then when all single parent women find out that on any given Sunday that anywhere from 48-49% of the congregation are men, guess where they\’re going to church at on Sunday morning? They\’re going to Franklin Avenue, and so the word spread about that. And then once we get them in there, we challenge them with the Word of God. We challenge them from the pulpit. We challenge them to give their hearts and their lives to the Lord. We let them know that Jesus can make a difference in their lives and as a result of that, we just started growing and growing like crazy.