By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
I confess. I am a headline snob. I know a good headline when I see it. I especially know a bad headline when I see it. Trust me, I have written my share of bad headlines in my 30-plus years with newspapers, both secular and denominational.
So, what’s my beef with the headline above?
Primarily, it makes it sound like the website and e-book are the solutions to the sad but true fact that evangelism has been on the decline for more than 50 years. Baptisms in Southern Baptist churches are still trending downward.
If only it was that easy. No matter how good the website or e-book may be, they are just tools. And tools only work if someone is motivated to pick them up and use them.
I can have a dozen hammers in my house, but the nail will not be driven unless I pick up a hammer and use it.
Tennessee Baptists have set a goal of seeing at least 50,000 people saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024. That’s a goal that can be accomplished. We haven’t baptized that many people in a year since the 1950s and our state has more than doubled in size. Lost people are all around us. The latest statistics show that there are nearly four million people in Tennessee who have no relationship with Jesus Christ.
But as good as they may be, no website or e-book is going to make me go out and tell others about Jesus.
That will happen only when me and every other Tennessee Baptist gets convicted that people are dying and going to hell every day — and that some of them may have had the chance to reverse their course had we simply told them about Jesus.
There has been a lot of talk and articles written recently about having “gospel conversations” in order to share Christ with people we encounter on a daily basis.
I will go a step farther. Just have a conversation with people. Have you noticed that a lot of people don’t actually talk any more. Just look around you when you’re in a crowd. You will see more people with heads down, typing a text message than you will having a conversation with someone.
If we will talk to people, God will open the door for us to talk about Him, if we let Him.
We make evangelism too hard. It is not rocket science. We think that if we haven’t learned the latest, greatest witnessing program or tool we are out of luck. Don’t get me wrong. Witnessing programs such as FAITH, Evangelism Explosion, and others have worked in the past and continue to be effective. But the greatest evangelism tool is allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. Build relationships with people and talk with (not to) them.
We don’t have to beat someone over the head with a Bible to lead them to Christ. In fact, they will probably turn and run. But if we establish relationships and have conversations with people, eventually a door will open to tell someone what God has done in your life.
I am the first to acknowledge that witnessing is easier for some people more than others. I tend to be more reserved so it’s not as easy for me. I have friends who can witness to a doorpost. They have a much easier time of engaging someone in a meaningful conversation than I do. The key is to recognize your weaknesses and work on them. A change may not happen overnight but it will happen if you pray and ask God to help you share your faith.
Back to the headline. Go ahead and visit the website (EvangelismRenewal.com.) and even download the e-book (Rainer On Evangelism) from that site. It can’t hurt and it probably will help, but don’t be fooled to think that alone will “spark evangelism.”
Evangelism will be “sparked” only when we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.