Capturing a Town for Christ is a hidden treasure. This book serves as a reference behind an unwavering vision of dedication to evangelism during the hey-day of Sunday School in 20th century America.
Let’s get into my review of ‘Capturing a Town for Christ’.
About Capturing a Town for Christ
Published by Fleming H. Revell Company in 1973, Capturing a Town for Christ is written by Elmer Towns and Jerry Falwell. In the book, we are presented with the evangelistic strategies of Pastor Falwell and Thomas Road Baptist Church, as he pushes forward with an aggressive and powerful plan to present the Gospel at all costs to his community.
The book is split into 2 parts. The first part of the book focuses on the strategy, vision, and ministries Jerry Falwell set in motion. The second part is a series of his most popular sermons written down during the time as Pastor as Thomas Road Baptist Church.
⚠️ If you are in serious consideration to read this book, I would ask that you not ‘Google’ ANYTHING about these people, or the story. Read the book first. It is much more satisfying. ⚠️
The Old Time Gospel Hour
Jerry Falwell opens the book with a foreword that is encouraging, intentional and contagious.
I want every bible-preaching church to grow and win souls. We at Thomas Road Baptist Church want our example to motivate other churches to super aggressive evangelism.
The first sentence of the opening chapter reads, “The largest Sunday school since Pentecost is said to have met at Thomas Road Baptist Church, on June 25, 1972, when 19,020 people assembled on the 16th anniversary of the church” – Chapter 1
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Jerry Falwell explains all the mediums and ministries through which the church is spreading the Gospel. he goes on explaining school buses, radio segments, TV broadcasts, building a college, alcoholic ministry, youth church, direct mail, ‘IBM computer’, prison ministry, junior church and others.
“the strength of these programs is in the local church laymen-oriented ministry’ – Chapter 1
In the next few chapters, Jerry goes in depth, explaining the vision God has given him to saturate the area with the church in order to win souls to Christ.
We must reach every available person by every available means at every available time.
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The Importance of People
Opening up in Chapter 3, Jerry explains adamantly that “the church is more than bricks, pews, and windows. It is people!” – Chapter 3 pg 49
He goes on to explain the harsh reality of some churches during this time period:
Some pastors feel laymen should be involved in the local church, and the best involvement is sitting on committees. Such churches are simply weekend country clubs, not New Testament churches.
Throughout the first half of the book, the examples are echoed on the importance of people and the power of the Gospel Message being preached to everyone. There are testimonies of millionaires, convicted felons, broken homes, drug addicts all coming to Christ through the power of the Gospel being preached in truth.
Defining a Great Church
During the 4th Chapter, Jerry Falwell starts explaining what is going on with Thomas Road Baptist Church and its ministries.
He talks about how the goal of Thomas Road Baptist Church is to be the greatest church since Pentecost. He goes on,
Quoting from Chapter 4 pg 75 – “If we state that Thomas Road Baptist Church can be the greatest church since Pentecost, the natural question follows: What constitutes greatness in a local church? Greatness is not measured by size only, though attendance must be counted in greatness, along with finances, bible teaching, outreach, spiritual power, dedication of service, and quality of life of those who attend the church.”
Jerry then goes on explaining the 3 points sociologists have used to measure church greatness, with the last 2 being biblical reasons:
- numerical growth
- involvement of members in the total ministry
- the change in those who attend the church
- ministering to the total needs of the members
- saturation evangelism
Thomas Road Baptist Church is making more effective use of the mass media than perhaps any other church in America
Jerry goes on explaining that, media alone will not create a strong, growing New Testament church. The message must be biblical, the outreach must be evangelistic, finances must be collected, buildings must be constructed, lives must be changed, and Christians must be fed the Word of God.
Saturation Evangelism In Action
Throughout the whole book, the term ‘saturation evangelism’ is mentioned as an integral strategy of the great commission every local church is called to partake in.
Quoting from Chapter 5 pg 89 – “Most preachers interpret “God’s provision” as a supply of money. Falwell interprets “God’s provision” as power to lead people to Jesus Christ. He believes the enabling hand of God must be operative in the soul winner’s life to lead people to Jesus Christ.”
The movement at Thomas Road Baptist Church is to stress Koinonia fellowship groups. They make fellowship their mandate, and from the relationship with Christ and the local body comes the overflow from the heart to evangelize.
I am not interested in the invisible church, wherever it is or whatever it is. I am interested in churches that capture towns and spread the gospel.
The second half of the book are chapters full of transcribed sermons Jerry Falwell gave during the rise in popularity at Thomas Road Baptist Church.
As you can glean from the pictures, wordage used, and the people mentioned; this book was written in a time that no longer exists.
During the pinnacle of Sunday School America in the Bible Belt come testimonies and stories from the 1950s through the 1970s. However, the message of God does not change. The examples of faithfulness as well as strategy can be read, prayed through, and even implemented with modern day twists.
If anything, this book will bring encouragement from the lasting impact and fruit that has been produced since the 70s. Like I said, once you get done reading the book, Google the church. It’s amazing to have an example recorded in modern times that gives testimony to the power of Jesus in America
Thank you for reading my personal review of ‘Capturing a Town for Christ’ by Jerry Falwell and Elmer Towns.
Below I have provided a full list of links to the materials mentioned in this review: