Whether it’s one-on-one or event-driven, sharing good news should be simple
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
But apparently, a new generation is not getting the message of the Great Commission as found in Scripture.
A Barna survey, “Reviving Evangelism,” released in early February, reveals that Christian Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are “conflicted” when it comes to evangelism with almost half of them believing it is wrong to share their faith.
Though almost three-fourths of Millennials feel equipped to respond about their faith (more than any other generational group), the Barna survey revealed that 47 percent of Millennials “agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal faith with someone of a different faith group in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”
Tennessee Baptists need to focus on the one statistic that really matters — 57 percent of Tennesseans do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, said Roc Collins, strategic objectives director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
That statistic means that nearly “one out of two people in Tennessee is lost,” he stressed.
“There is no shortage of prospects who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in Tennessee,” Collins continued. “Our society is becoming more averse to righteousness and more accepting of sinfulness.
“The only answer is Jesus,” he noted.
Church leaders in the state agree that all forms of evangelism are needed — whether it is one on one personal evangelism or evangelism-driven events that bring crowds to one location where the gospel is shared to many people at one time.
One of the most effective forms of event evangelism for many churches is Vacation Bible School. See pages 8-9 for articles regarding VBS and its effectiveness.
“Event evangelism is a great opportunity for a church to strategically plan training and community engagement,” observed David Evans, evangelism director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“When we prepare for the event, we are naturally reminded to schedule evangelistic trainings and consider the community’s calendar. Training and coinciding with the cadence of the community are two important evangelistic principles,” he noted.
Evans cited one concern about event evangelism. “Too often though we get too caught up in the event and forget about the evangelism.
“Many times I hear so many church leaders express that they cannot wait until the event is over. In those moments, the event has overshadowed the evangelism,” he said.
“At times, we may need to do less of an event so that we can do more evangelism,” Evans suggested.
Longtime Tennessee Baptist evangelist Phil Glisson of Memphis has seen a decline in old-fashioned revivals, but an interest in events that draw people to church who normally would not attend a regular worship service.
Though he remains a strong advocate of revivals, Glisson observed that special events “give church members something out of the ordinary to invite their unchurched friends and relatives to attend.”
Special events can include anything from music and movies to wild game dinners and car shows and everything in between, Glisson said. “Having special events outside on church grounds or at other places like parks will attract some people who might be hesitant to walk into a church building,” he said.
Glisson also observed that special events “can pull church members together to promote and do something evangelistic and thus raise the cooperative spirit for evangelism and outreach.”
Phillip Chambers, pastor of Yellow Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland City, is a strong proponent of using events to attract people who probably would not come to church for any other reason.
Yellow Creek holds several events a year including a car show and Southern gospel music nights, he said. He makes it clear that any event held at the church includes opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel. “We don’t do anything at Yellow Creek unless we have a gospel invitation,” he said.
The key to successful events, however, is follow up, Chambers stressed. “We don’t do a ‘raise your hands’ approach to accepting the gospel,” he said.
Chambers trains members of Yellow Creek to serve as counselors at all events and when a person indicates they want to accept Christ, they pray with the pastor, complete a card and talk to a trained counselor. During the counseling session, each person is given a study Bible and started on the road to discipleship, Chambers added.
Chambers’ love for evangelism and his desire to tell everyone he meets about Jesus is simple.
“I don’t want to see anybody I’ve ever met go to hell. That motivates me every day,” he said.
Ken Clayton, pastor of Pine Eden Baptist Church in Crossville, is a staunch proponent of personal evangelism.
Though in his 70s, the Crossville pastor still personally contacts visitors to Pine Eden. “If they let me come to their home, I will visit them,” he said.
Personal evangelism still works, Clayton said. The key is getting opportunities to talk to them one on one either in their home or some other private place. “Sometimes, people will come by the church and talk to me in my office,” he said.
At Pine Eden, church members periodically get together to canvass the community. In the fall, the church prepares packets and members are asked to go visit 10 homes in their community, the pastor said. Each packet contains a New Testament and a plan of salvation. Though the goal is to talk to families in their homes, the packets can be left even if no one is home and they still have access to the gospel.
Clayton noted that last fall’s efforts resulted in at least one person accepting Christ and being baptized and another family that began attending as a result.
During his approximately six decades of ministry, Clayton has seen personal evangelism work.
“People need to hear the gospel,” he stressed. He also noted it is important for Christians to know what they believe “well enough in order that they can explain it to someone else.
“When you share the gospel, you’re fulfilling the Great Commission,” Clayton said.
Jay Barbier, evangelism event specialist for the TBMB, is concerned about trends that show churches are in decline and fewer Christians are sharing their faith. “Over time, this will lead to fewer and fewer born again believers,” he observed.
Barbier said he is a living example of someone who “was captivated by fear when it came to telling others about Jesus.”
He overcame his fears when he finally came to the understanding that “God has called us to live our lives and make disciples. This is the Great Commission — living our life in a way that we share Jesus as we go.”
Barbier, who formerly served on the staff of First Baptist Church, Millington, noted that his pastor, David Leavell, constantly challenged him and the staff to share their faith. “If we want to see people come to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus, it must start with the leadership,” Barbier said.
“The culture of evangelism is more caught than taught. Every week we would be held accountable for who we shared Jesus with. This was scary at first for me personally, I had never been held to a high accountability like this but over the course of several months it became one of my favorite things about staff meetings — to hear and see the excitement of others as they shared their interactions with others as they shared Jesus.”
Barbier is a strong proponent of engaging in personal evangelism. “Find what works best for you. I simply talk and try to engage people with conversation that leads to gospel involvement. Look for opportunities to ask the right questions that can give you access to the cross of Christ,” he suggested.