U.S. baseball player asks people to go back to church

By September 15, 2011

USA (MNN) — National Back To Church Sunday, a cross-denominational movement to reverse declining church attendance and encourage everyone to revisit congregational life, will be celebrated Sept. 18 across the country.

Lending his voice to this year's event is Texas Rangers all-star Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League Championship Series MVP who credits his comeback from drug addiction and suspension from the game to his faith and church.

"God's Word tells us to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, and not give up meeting together," Hamilton said. "We are to walk through life with other believers. My family and I have found that church is a wonderful way to do this, so I encourage you to join thousands of Americans as they go back to church on National Back To Church Sunday."

National Back To Church Sunday has become the single largest community outreach in the nation with 10,000 churches expected to participate in 2011. This event reignites the power of personal invitation to empower church members to bring the community back to church. This year's event will be held the second Sunday after Labor Day to accommodate more churches.

Since the initiative began in 2009, National Back To Church Sunday has seen increased success with church members inviting more than 1.4 million family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to special services last year. Some 3,800 churches participated in 2010, reporting an average 26% increase in weekly attendance.

National Back To Church Sunday was launched in response to a 2008 study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board. Out of 15,000 American adults surveyed, 67% say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. 63% say an invitation from a friend or neighbor would likely get them to respond.

"We found that the effectiveness of the invitation was often tied to its form: the more personal, the more effective," said Philip Nation, ministry development director of LifeWay Research.

"We were encouraged by the response and feedback from churches that participated in National Back to Church Sunday last year," said Eric Abel, vice president of marketing for Outreach, Inc. "Creating ways to empower church members to reach out to their friends and neighbors is exciting. And we are looking forward to this event continuing to gain momentum."

An interactive Facebook page is available at http://www.facebook.com/backtochurch, and a list of participating churches is available at http://www.backtochurch.com/roster. When churches register their participation, their names and locations are added to the roster, allowing unchurched people to easily find a church to attend on that special Sunday.

Outreach, Inc. (http://www.outreach.com) is the largest provider of outreach products and services in North America, including "Outreach" magazine, a leading publication for church leaders worldwide. The company was launched in 1996 with the mission of empowering Christian churches to reach their communities for Jesus Christ. Outreach, Inc. endeavors to create a network of churches and ministries working together to invite and connect every person in America to a Bible-believing church, and ultimately, into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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