Dixon said, "My only regret over the years is that I didn't challenge my people to give more money to God." Dixon indicated there are several
As Spokes in a Wheel
Dr. Jack Hudson Northside Baptist Church Charlotte, N CThe 6:00 P.M. news telecast featured a special, "God Is Not Dead—He’s at Northside." The television screen showed crowds going to Sunday School, (pastor) preaching, and the altar filled with people kneeling and receiving Christ. The news commentator indicated the Sunday School had grown from an average of 700 to 2,100 in the last three years. For three successive evenings the five-minute news special showed different facets of Northside Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. The final excerpt showed hundreds of children getting off Sunday School buses, and the TV announcer concluded, "And people continue to come to Northside."Many churches desire to grow in attendance, but for some reason do not. The secret of growth at Northside is simple. When the Lord led Dr. Jack Hudson to organize the Northside Baptist Church 17 years ago, he used a plan, of which he states, "I hesitate to mention this plan because it is so simple. Think of a wagon wheel. The hub or center represents the church, the spokes are the various ministries of the church, each one contributing to the over-all growth of the Sunday School." These spokes are visitation, quality education, communication, transportation, a Christian school, Bible training, preaching, cooperation, youth ministry, promotion and adequate personnel. Each spoke represents a section in this chapter. According to Hudson, the spokes have no order of importance, but each spoke depends upon the strength of the others, and all are involved in carrying the load. One defective spoke cripples the total operation.VisitationNorthside Baptist Church has an aggressive evangelistic visitation program patterned after the New Testament model. On Monday night men go visiting, attempting to lead other people to Jesus Christ. Thursday is the regular visitation night, when the whole church is organized for soul winning. Teenagers participate in this program, especially visiting teenagers. The ladies of the church meet at 9:00 A.M. Tuesday morning, and visit other ladies who are at home. Also, there is a Saturday afternoon organized visitation program attempting to reach people for Jesus Christ.Hudson stated, "You cannot build a Sunday School without visitation." He pictures radio, letters, newspapers, and advertising as the air force which softens up the enemy. Next the plodding foot soldier must go in and capture the enemy. Each Sunday School teacher is likenedunto the foot soldier, responsible for visitation in his class. The Reverend George Ballard, minister of visitation, heads up and directs the visitation program. He stated, "We try to contact each convert and new member every week to welcome them into the church." Jack Hartman visits the hospital, the convalescent homes, and the shut-ins, and heads up the ministry to the handicapped.The bus workers are asked to spend three hours every Saturday visiting prospects on their route. These are some of the most faithful visitors for the church; however, they do not have a specified time for visitation, but go out at their own convenience. Usually the bus captain and driver go together. Several of the routes have a man and wife team who visit together effectively.Quality EducationAccording to Hudson, visitation is only the beginning; the secret is to keep prospects coming back. He feels quality education draws visitors into regular attendance.The first step in quality education is a Bible-based curriculum. Hudson stated, "We are living in a highly sophisticated age where people have a good education. The old-fashioned quarterly expertly evaded doctrinal issues, so we write our own, covering a book in the Bible for as many quarters as it takes to complete the study." The Reverend James Corn has been with the church for 16 years and writes the Sunday School lesson for the high school and adult departments. These lessons are printed in booklet form and become commentaries for each quarter.In the early days of the Sunday School, the Sunday School reflected the Southern Baptist philosophy of education. Dr. Jack Hudson, who came out of a Southern Baptist church, built Sunday School facilities into small cubicles for 10 pupils each. The church has built additional Sunday School facilities seven times in its past 17 years. Each time, Sunday School rooms were made larger, reflecting an evolution in Hudson's concept of teaching. At present most of the Sunday School rooms are large, open rooms, the size of a public schoolroom. The Sunday School has been reorganized into a modified team teaching approach. The Northside Christian School meets in the church facilities. This school with grades K through 12 is one of the reasons why the Sunday School rooms are built according to public-school specifications. There are approximately 30 to 60 pupils in each Sunday School class. Two or more teachers are assigned to each room.Hudson indicated that the change from small cubicles to open-session teaching did not come easy. Many of the adults, reared in Southern Baptist tradition, were not originally willing to switch to large classes where the master teacher could teach lessons. Hudson recently gathered all adults in the Sunday School together and asked, "How many of you are saved?" Most of the hands went up."All right, let's go get boys and girls who are not saved. The very chair you occupy may seat an unsaved boy or girl next week." The pastor pleaded, "We need your seat for children." The response was unanimous; the adults wanted to go to the consolidated class.Hudson ended with a challenge especially to the ladies: "Bring your husbands with you next week; let them know they will sit with you in Bible class and you can study God's Word together."When the consolidation took place in Northside's adult department, there were four ladies', three men’s and two couples' classes. As a result of consolidation, several benefits accrued: first, Sunday School rooms freed from adult use were made available to children.Second, the adults became enthusiastic when they realized they could reach more children for Jesus Christ. Third, adults were motivated to bring their friends to Sunday School. Wives were motivated to bring their husbands to come and sit with them and study the Word of God together. Fourth, visitors to the church were given opportunity to come into a large class, listen without fear of embarrassment, and learn the Word of God. Hudson believes that many adult men will not attend a small class simply because they might be put on the spot with a question or have to shake hands with men they would rather not meet. In the large class, visitors are not readily identified, yet Hudson believes a warm, friendly atmosphere can be created so they will feel welcome without feeling conspicuous. Finally, the large adult classes utilize the best teachers. The Reverend Steve Byrd, minister of education, indicated that no teachers were put out of a job, but several outstanding teachers were transferred to younger age groups. Byrd indicated, "We challenged these teachers to take large children's classes, knowing this would require more preparation, follow-up and skill on their part." All of the teachers were relocated into younger age classes. Also, a co-teacher was assigned to every large class. The master teacher leads the lesson, the co-teacher assists.The children go directly to class without "opening exercises" on the departmental level. However, each class has its own opening exercise, which is part of the total teaching time rather than an appendage stuck on before the Bible teaching.An observer peeking through classroom doors notices that the Sunday School classes resemble public school classes rather than typical Sunday School classes. Children do not sit in circles but in armchairs used during the week by the Northside Christian Schools. Teachers stand at the front, write on the chalkboard, or sit at the desk. The associates may be working in one corner with slow pupils, or be standing at the door meeting latecomers.Hudson indicates, "One teacher alone can't take care of fifty pupils, but he can do it with helpers: ushers, secretary and associate teachers." Steve Byrd believes that one large class, with an outstanding teacher complemented by good associates, will accomplish more than several small classes. Hudson wants the same teachers standing at the door each Sunday morning, greeting pupils as they come in. Every student is contacted every week. Some weeks the masterteacher takes the initiative, other weeks the associates. One of the advantages of modified team teaching is that the associate is being trained through an apprenticeship with the master teacher.CommunicationHudson believes that a church must let people know where it is located and what it is doing. This is communication. There are several media of communication used by the Northside Baptist Church.Radio.—For 12 of the 17 years, Hudson has maintained a radio broadcast to the city of Charlotte. At present, he conducts two daily radio broadcasts, and the Sunday morning services are broadcast on ten stations covering about half of North Carolina. When asked why he uses radio, Hudson replied, "Radio never gets sick, lazy or needs a vacation. People listen to radio in their housecoats, in bed, at the table or while cleaning their home. If I were beginning a church tomorrow, I would try to be on radio the next day."Newspaper.—The church places 3-column by 6-inch ads in both local papers each week. They are kept interesting and informative. Hudson admonishes, "Avoid `churchy' ads; rather keep them up-to-date and professional."Direct Mailing.—Each member of the Sunday School receives a letter from his teacher each week, regardless of the content of the letter. According to Hudson, a weekly mailing tells the pupil, “We care.”Revival Advertisement.—Hudson believes that no church large enough to sponsor a revival should put out less than 3,000 pieces of advertisement. Then he went on to say larger churches should put out at least 10,000 pieces. The Northside Baptist Church usually mails 30,000 post-card-size revival advertisements. Hudson's theory is simple: "If the unsaved do not get to the church for the revival, at least they know where the church is located, and when they have a crisis in their life, they know where to find spiritual help."TransportationHudson maintains America is a mobile nation and the up-to-date church cannot afford to neglect the emphasis that the average American family places upon transportation. Two aspects of transportation are important in church planning.Parking.—Hudson believes that great churches attract people from long distances. He states, "People will drive as far to church as they drive to buy groceries or to go to work." Therefore, a modern-day church must provide parking if it is to minister to the multitudes. With this thought, the church recently leased two adjacent acres for additional parking, giving a total of seven and one-half acres of parking space.Busing.—The business community realizes that if it is to sell to the public it must rely on public transportation or provide parking for private vehicles. Most downtown areas that have dried up as far as retail business is concerned, did so because of no public transportation or bus fares were raised so high that the average man cannot afford to ride the bus. The church has been slow to see the value of busing. Hudson agrees that he also has been slow to see the value of Sunday School busing. Approximately four years ago the church had a courtesy bus service that had been in operation for two years with little results from its outreach. The evangelistic bus program was put under the direction of Steve Byrd. He began knocking on doors on the south side of town, because a van-load was coming from that section. He personally helped build thefirst bus-load, and since then he continues to add buses whenever conditions permit. According to Byrd, beginning a bus route is simple: (1) Get your bus captains and drivers, and (2) get your buses. Then go to work. At present Northside has been curtailing bus activities for lack of Sunday School facilities. Their large blue buses are attractively painted, and recently in Christian Life Magazine a picture of the rear of a bus in traffic reflected the sign, "Follow me to Northside."The bus routes at Northside have a larger ratio than the national average for Sunday School buses. First, the church with 1 to 10 buses averages 36 riders. Churches with 11 or more buses usually average 29 riders per bus. The buses at Northside Baptist Church average 49 riders per Sunday. Also, most Sunday School buses bring in children of primary and junior age, whereas many high-schoolers and adults ride the buses at Northside Church, showing an impact on the community. The bus ministry now averages over 700 each Sunday.A Christian SchoolThe Northside Christian School, organized in 1963, grew out of a deep conviction to obey the Scriptures. Hudson feels that the Lord commands families, "Train up a child in the way he should go." Hudson preaches to his people, "The Federal Government is not responsible to train our children." This year over 700 students are enrolled in the school and most families pay the tuition because they are seeking the best education for their children. The school has attracted some newcomers to the church. However, Principal Paul Montgomery indicates this is not a major source of church growth. Some Christian families being transferred into the city will first look for a Christian school and then a church home. Many of them find both at Northside. Montgomery teaches the College and Career Class in the Sunday School.Hudson sees two positive impacts on his church because of the school. First, quality Bible teaching five days a week has produced changed lives in students, attracting attention to the church from all walks of life. Many pupils have been led to Christ in the school and others have gained victories over sin. The changed lives of students in turn make an impact on parents and neighbors, attracting them to the Northside Baptist Church.The second impact the Northside Christian School made on the Sunday School was the size of schoolrooms. It was obvious that the Northside Christian School could not use small Sunday School cubicles, so Hudson visited public schools. He concluded, "If a teacher can instruct 30 pupils during the week, a Sunday School teacher should be able to teach that many or more on Sunday." This insight led him to adopt the modified team teaching approach to Sunday School.Bible TrainingThe Northside Bible Institute was organized in 1958 when Hudson realized that some people want more training than can be provided in Sunday School, yet they are not ready to enter a Christian college or Bible school full time. The Institute meets each Tuesday night in the school building. Various subjects are taught on a Bible school level. The Reverend G. Cole is dean of the Institute. The faculty consists of well-trained, dedicated pastors from the area. Hudson indicated, "We do not encourage the students from other churches to become members of Northside; however, many of them wanting a place to serve the Lord do become members."PromotionHudson has often said, "Anything worthwhile is worth promoting." Although many criticize promotion, Hudson compares it to going fishing. He reminds the listener that Jesus called His disciples to be "fishers of men" (Mark 1:17) . Hudson likens promotion to the bait, and the gospel to the hook. Bait attracts the fish, but it cannot catch. He asked, "Have you ever tried fishing with nothing but bait? You will attract fish but you won't catch them. If you ever try fishing with just the hook, you'll never catch them. It takes a combination of bait and hook." Hudson indicates he uses promotion to get people to attend Sunday School. Then the teaching of the Bible or the preaching of the gospel in the morning service is the hook that keeps them coming back week after week. The pastor stated, "When I walk to the pulpit, I completely forget about our promotional devices and preach the gospel as though people have come to listen to God." Hudson does not care why a man comes to church, only that he is there. Also, he does not use promotion in the morning service but keeps it in the Sunday School hour. He continued, "The way you `catch' a person is the way you keep him." He went on to indicate that at the Northside Baptist Church they catch people with the hook of the gospel and keep them by preaching the Word of God."Standing before his teachers, Hudson is the epitome of the true fisherman. He gets up early in the morning, sacrifices sleep and does without breakfast, to reach people for Jesus Christ. Hudson challenges his Sunday School teachers to do more than the weekend fisherman who rises wearily and sits on a wet bank shivering in the cold, just to catch a fish. He exhorted, "We must sacrifice, do without the pleasures of television, even do without meals so we may reach lost people for Jesus Christ."Hudson also believes, "Do not promote what you cannot produce." He asked the theoretical question, "Suppose Coca Cola spent millions in advertisement and only several hundred dollars on its production plan. In no time, people who are encouraged to buy Coca Cola would become disenchanted if they found the shelves empty." Hudson says simply, "Don't promote what you can't produce." By this he means, do not promote the idea that you are having the greatest revival meeting in your city if you are not.Four years ago Steve Byrd was given co-responsibility for promotion. This relieved the pastor for other duties. Byrd indicated they have no set number of promotional campaigns per year. "Just when we need it." The church sponsors several special days annually.Northside claims credit for beginning Transportation Day, now used by many churches. On a designated Sunday, the entire church demonstrates that people still go to Sunday School and do so by driving to Sunday School in a variety of vehicles: antique cars, fire engines, riding lawn mowers, or dump trucks. Last year, a member who is an amateur parachutist, dropped out of a plane onto a nearby driving range, depicting the world's most unique way to go to church. His unfolded parachute displayed a gigantic flag inviting, "Follow me to Northside."Once a year, Northside Baptist Church has a multi-week campaign. Last fall the Ten Commandments Campaign was held, a favorite of Northside because it was based on the Word of God. A charm bracelet was given to each pupil at the beginning of the campaign. The pastor preached on a Commandment each Sunday and a small charm of that week's Commandment was distributed, so faithful attendance let pupils acquire all ten charms.Other promotional techniques include Early Bird Sunday (when the city goes on Daylight Saving Time), Twin Sunday, and Youth Sunday. Recently, as Hudson was rummaging around in the church attic, he found the original bell of the old church. He instituted Ring the Bell Sunday.Each Sunday when the attendance remained above 2,000, the church bell was rung. This was especially effective since many Southerners come from rural backgrounds where the church bell invited them to Sunday School.Byrd indicated gimmicks are not biblical, but Jesus often used external motivation. Christ fed the multitude and told Peter to get a coin out of the fish's mouth; also He healed physical bodies as evidence of His compassion. Byrd formerly had reservations about external motivations until God began to give him ideas for attendance campaigns. When he saw these motivate unsaved people to attend church where they were led to Jesus Christ, he said, "I'll use any means I can to lead people to Christ." Byrd indicated, "I do have reservations about some gimmicks used by other churches. A promotional event must be controlled by Scripture and must honor God, otherwise I will not use it."Dr. Hudson often repeats the statement, "If we make much of Jesus, He will make much of us." This is printed in much of the church's promotional material. Hudson answers, "We use promotions to make much of Jesus."Byrd used a recent campaign "I Love Jesus Sunday." The bus workers went out visiting on Saturday. They gave each prospective rider a blank application reading, "I love Jesus and will prove I love Him by getting on my Northside bus and going to Sunday School unless something real bad happens that I can't go." No prizes or gimmicks were used. People rode the buses simply because they loved Jesus Christ. According to Byrd, this was one of the best-attended drives in the history of the church. He indicated this type of motivation appeals to the proper incentives, and experience proved that the best way to get people to work in a local church is to appeal to their spiritual motivation.Last Homecoming Day the church had a record attendance of 3,050. All the teenagers gathered in the gym for a large combined Sunday School class. The children met out under the trees, where 1,000 folding chairs were waiting. The adults packed into the main sanctuary to hear the pastor preach the Word of God. Following the Sunday morning service, an old-fashioned dinner-on-the-grounds was held. This year the church plans for 5,000 in attendance on Homecoming Day.Hudson indicated that a church should not plan to bring 1,000 extra visitors without a well-organized program in which attention is given to small details. He advises: (1) Think through every detail; (2) think through the consequences to the people; (3) know what to do when they arrive; (4) have enough help for every aspect of crowd control; and (5) plan every small detail to publicize the event to as many people as possible. Byrd stresses, "Details lead to success." He went on to explain: "Get a lot of workers and make sure they know what to do. Details will make or break you."PersonnelHudson stated that every church has every person it needs to do the job God wants it to do at a particular time. However, many churches fail by the wrong choice or management of personnel. He cites the ability of Vince Lombardi to build the world champion Green Bay Packers because he chose his men well. "The church is no different," declares Hudson. "Everything rises or falls on leadership," according to Dr. Lee Roberson, Highland Park Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee.Hudson believes you cannot hire people to work for God. You may give them wages for the necessities of life, but if they do not want to serve the Lord more than anything else in life,they will always be hirelings waiting for a more lucrative position in another church. Since outstanding men are hard to find, Hudson feels one answer is fewer teachers with larger classes. He pointed out that fewer than 50 comedians entertain the entire nation on television. From this he drew the conclusion, "Obviously, only the best ones are used because they command the attention of the viewers." Sunday School teachers are far more important than TV entertainers and are even more difficult to find. Hudson and Byrd carefully choose the Sunday School teachers after prospective teachers complete a questionnaire on the doctrinal beliefs and standards of separation.Four years ago the Northside Baptist Church had four on its staff: the pastor, secretary, custodian, and the Reverend Hartman, who assisted the pastor in visitation. One of the causes leading to the phenomenal growth has been the addition of eleven full-time staff members.The leaders feel that their strict standards of separation have produced quality and quantity growth. Teachers are not allowed to smoke, attend movies, mix-swim, or play cards. They indicate this stand each year by a signed statement. However, Hudson says, "Separation is a means, not an end. Many small churches have an aim to be pure, but their whole Christian life is centered around the negative—what they will not do." Hudson believes that purity leads to power; therefore, the separated teacher is the useful teacher. He added, "Many small churches are concerned that their teachers do not participate in sin. I am most concerned that my teachers are powerful instruments in the hand of God to transform the lives of their students. Then I know that my teachers are not being troubled by sin."PreachingHudson believes that no matter how well oiled the Sunday School machinery, it is still the preaching of the gospel that builds great churches. He feels that both Sunday School teaching and gospel preaching go hand in hand to build a great church. He feels the message should be warm, down-to-earth "telling like it is," with a definite urgent appeal to be saved now!YouthNorthside Baptist Church has an outstanding youth program. In many cases, a family's choice of a church is based on the program for its young people. This youth program must be enlightening rather than entertaining. Hudson feels that the young people are very knowledgeable and will not attend a church based on gimmicks. They come where the Word of God is taught, where their problems are dealt with and they can be helped to meet the issues of life. Hudson goes on to say, "The church that survives the next 10 years will be the church that gears itself to the youth." The average American youth department numbers 12 percent of Sunday School attendance. The ratio at Northside is much higher, with 20 percent of the total in a youth department.CooperationHudson points to the spokes of the wheel; none is more important than the other. If one spoke collapses, the whole wheel is weakened and eventually collapses. He feels very little has ever been accomplished in a New Testament church apart from cooperation. The first church in Acts teaches this: "They were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). The propermotivation for cooperation is not just making people follow—it’s motivating a person to "want to follow." Hudson feels that just as God guides individuals, so He guides churches. And God best guides moving objects.ConclusionHudson and Byrd agree that it is impossible for the Sunday School to "hold on" to their present attendance level. Their program is "geared up to growth." Hudson indicated, "If we tried merely to hold on to our present attendance and not to grow, we would kill motivation and discourage our teachers."Dr. Jack Hudson has suffered crippling arthritis. One factor in the recent spurt in attendance was his surgery in 1967. Immediately thereafter he resumed a daily radio broadcast on WKTC, which he had conducted for seven years but had dropped due to ill health.The Sunday morning service is televised on a closed circuit TV network into the six nurseries of the church. Also there are eight TVs in the balcony for those who cannot see the pulpit. The network is called NBC for "Northside Baptist Church." The gym and other large rooms are wired for TV. During revival meetings and special promotional days, TV sets are installed for the overflow crowd.The church believes in utilizing outstanding men of God. Just as God blessed His work in biblical times through great men, Dr. Jack Hudson believes in bringing the best speakers in America to his church. Among these have been evangelists Bob Harrington and Freddie Gage;Dr. Lee Roberson; and a perennial favorite, Dr. Lyman Strauss, a Bible conference teacher.
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