FRANKLIN — For many believers, the biggest pothole on the road to evangelistic success is the fear that they won’t know the right words to say.
Preston Condra is trying to help them avoid those hazards.
Condra, a renowned author and founder of Sufficient Word ministries, has been serving as the featured speaker at the Gospel Conversation Workshops being held at various places around the state.
The workshops, sponsored by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, are an ongoing series of seminars that started in March and continue in September.
Condra said the workshops have been successful in helping attendees recognize some of their biggest hindrances in regard to witnessing.
“The participants respond strongly to the fact that our approach solves their three main fears in evangelism — what to say, answering objections, and avoiding causing offense,” Condra said. “They immediately identify with these barriers in sharing the gospel, and report feeling relieved to have the solutions that our materials offer.”
The curriculum for the seminars include a six-week study called Asking the Question, along with the textbook, Can I Ask You a Question. Condra is the author of both.
Condra noted that perhaps the biggest takeaway from the workshops “is that the training fosters a positive mindset toward evangelism and facilitates immediate action.”
Mark Miller, baptism-discipleship team leader and Sunday School specialist for the TBMB, agreed that the seminars have met their main objective.
“The workshops delivered on the promise of helping attendees overcome their fears of sharing the gospel,” said Miller. “We also hoped (attendees) would come away from the workshop knowing how to answer objections from the Bible. And we certainly feel that was accomplished, too.”
The first workshops on the series were held in March and April, with host sites including Madison-Chester Baptist Association Office, Jackson; Missionary Grove Baptist Church, Camden; Covenant Baptist Church, Nolensville; Summertown Baptist Church, Summertown; First Baptist Church, Gallatin; First Baptist Church, Manchester; Hamilton County Baptist Association Office, Chattanooga; and First Baptist Church, Cookeville.
This fall, the Knox County Association of Baptists office will host a workshop on Sept. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and again that night from 5:30-8 p.m.
The following day, Sept. 19, Russellville Baptist Church, Russellville, will host a workshop from 9:30 to noon. That evening, Boone Trail Baptist Church, Johnson City, will host a workshop from 5:30-8 p.m.
“The regional training workshops have been well received, and I am looking forward to the next set of events in September,” said Condra.
Miller said that the more that people know about sharing the gospel, the more likely they are to do it.
“The premise of the workshop — and the resources that are being used with them — are based on the notion that if we can solve the most common challengs, then evangelism will increase,” said Miller.
Miller noted that the majority of the seminar participants said they often fall into the trap of “making the process of sharing the gospel way too complicated.”
Condra has helped attendees simplify the process, and he said the response has been heartening.
“It has been a great encouragement to see the enthusiasm going in and the confidence going out,” he said. “Because our training is practical, easy to remember, and can be used immediately with anyone, the feedback that we continually hear from participants is: ‘I can do this!’, ‘This is so simple!’ and ‘I can remember this!’ ”
The workshops have served as an opportunity for rebranding and editing of the resources that Condra developed for Texas Baptists, Miller said. Using the WinTN logo and other TBMB branded material, the seminars marked the official unveiling of these four resources, each authored by Condra:
• Can I ask You a Question?
• Answers: Jesus and The Christian Message
• Asking the Question: Action Guide for Evangelism-Facilitator Guide
• Asking the Question: Action Guide for Evangelism-Learner Guide
Miller said the seminars got off to a strong start in the Spring, and he is looking forward to the next series this Fall.
“It was very exciting to see how the pastors responded to Preston’s presentation,” he said.
Having the seminars at regional sites was an intentional decision, allowing attendees to have shorter commutes.
“The three stars in the flag represent three grand divisions for a reason, so the decision was made to offer 12 workshops across Tennessee and to have at least one workshop in all six harvest fields,” said Miller.
“As (TBMB president and executive director) Randy C. Davis often says, ‘no matter how you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field.’ And the only way that we can reach that mission field, and win Tennessee for Jesus, is to help every church and every Tennessee Baptist win their harvest field.”
Condra said he believes the workshops can assist with that: “Our desire is to be a blessing and help to the churches, so it is gratifying to directly work with believers in training events, as well as to help churches conduct their own classes.”
Evelyn Gilbert, ministry assistant for Madison-Chester Association of Baptists, said that “seeing pastors realize that they could, in a short period of time, equip their people with ways to share their faith in any situation or conversation was truly encouraging. They saw how they could use their lunch break or a conversation over a cup of coffee, at the gym, on the golf course, anywhere, to reach people, not just on a special designated outreach night.”
Gilbert said it was also encouraging to see attendees begin to understand that many non-believers “want and need the chance to have people speak to them about their relationship with Christ and to ask them if a relationship with Christ would be important for them.”
Giving attendees several options — by having both daytime and nighttime seminars — helped bolster attendance, Miller said. “It was interesting to see that our morning events were attended primarily by pastors and staff,” Miller said, “but the four evening events were dominated by lay leaders from the host churches, who were able to come because of the regional approach.”
Miller said he hopes to see increased attendance at the upcoming seminars, but said the number of bodies in the room isn’t the focus of the ministry.
“Naturally, we’d love to see the event grow even more (in the Fall) now that we are able to share the stories of churches utilizing the resources and to hear the testimonies of association mission strategists and pastors that attended one of the first eight,” said Miller. “But the most important thing is that we share the gospel and that we help others share the gospel.” B&R