Roc Collins hosts a panel discussion at Summit 2018 on evangelism and discipleship that features Steve Gaines, Randy C. Davis, Thomas Bester and Derek Smith.
David Leavell: This moment I want to introduce Roc Collins to you. He’s the director of Strategic Objectives for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and he’s gonna be introducing those that are gonna be part of our evangelism panel. So, Roc. There you go.
Roc Collins: Thank you Mr. President. We’ve been blessed and fortunate to see some wonderful testimonies on these videos. Thank you for your kind comments and I just think they keep getting better and better. I praise the Lord for what He’s doing. Today we wanted to take just a few minutes and put a panel together. We want to talk about evangelism and discipleship. It seems that today there’s a whole lot of discussion about evangelism and discipleship. So we just wanna talk about it a little bit. My hope is that from our discussion, you gonna be able to have some tools or some ideas, some insight, that’s gonna help you as we work together to win Tennessee for Jesus. So let me just introduce to you our panel. Very distinguished panel here, wouldn’t you agree? Amen.
First I’d like to introduce Thomas Bester, and Brother Thomas is the founder and senior pastor of Forerunner Baptist Church in Ripley, Tennessee and at present, he is the coordinator for the evangelism efforts in the Big Hatchee Association and he’s doing a super job and we’re glad to have Thomas Bester on our panel.
Randy Davis, we found, I don’t know if y’all have ever heard of him, but Randy Davis has been the executive director and president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention since 1910, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board now, since 2010. Did I say 1910?
David Leavell: You said 1910.
Roc Collins: Sometimes it feels, anyway-
Steve Gaines: He looks good for his age, he really does.
Roc Collins: He does, he does. Since 2010 and he has pastored churches in Mississippi and Tennessee and he’s doing a great job in leading the Tennessee Baptist effort to win Tennessee for Jesus. I just want to say on a personal note, that he has been very strategic since 2010 in reinvigorating Tennessee to remember we need to win people to Jesus and I am so grateful. I’m so grateful for his leadership.
Steve Gaines is the pastor of Belle View Baptist Church, just down the road a little ways and he is also the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and God is using him in a mighty way, and we’re so glad to have him on our panel.
And Derek Smith is the lead pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee and I don’t know if you know this, but Clarksville is one of the fastest growing cities in our state and Brother Derek is strategically placed there in a church that is growing and reaching their community for Jesus. So this is our panel today and we’re gonna take just a few minutes and ask them some questions again, that I pray will help us all as we press forward to win Tennessee for Jesus.
Brother Randy, you’re about to have an article that will be coming out in the Mid America Theological Journal on the idea of seeing the world, and especially the work here in Tennessee, as a cross-cultural missionary. I wonder if you would just elaborate on what you mean by that?
Randy Davis: They asked us to write something about the urban settings and church revitalization and evangelism and the point is this, that if we’re gonna impact our culture, we cannot think of it in the context of 1950 Tennessee. I remember a conversation that really kind of articulated what I was learning in 2010. I had with Dr. Jeff Iorg at Gateway Seminary in California. He said, “How’s it going?” And I said, “Dr. Iorg, I just have been surprised that Tennessee is so lost. I had no idea that we had so much spiritual lostness. I had my nose to the grindstone in Sevierville, I knew Sevier County, but I had no idea that Tennessee was so lost.” And he said, “In five years, Tennessee will look like Colorado and in ten years it will look like California.”
This deep south is rapidly taking on characteristics of New England or Western Europe, if things do not change. It’s been 40 years since we’ve had a great awakening and we’ve gotta think like missionaries in reaching lost people. We cannot look in the mirror any longer, we’ve gotta look out the window and we’ve got to see our communities like they are in the context that they are. We can’t continue to curse the darkness, we’ve gotta be the light. I think that’s the thing we wanted to express in the article we wrote for Mid America, is that the idea that if we’re really gonna impact lostness in Tennessee, we’ve got to see us for where we are. Are we really a mission field? When you’re growing as a state by 50 to 60 thousand every single year, that means every ten years we pick up another city the size of Memphis, Tennessee. The gap between those that profess Christ as savior and those that do not profess Christ as savior, in Tennessee is growing rapidly. I’ve mentioned this before, you come into my office, you’ll find pictures of my four grandkids, not nearly as many as some people on our panel and that’s all you will find in my office. You’ll not find diplomas or ordination certificates or that-a-boy’s or plaques because I am thoroughly motivated and passionately moved about impacting that generation for Jesus and our state and turning this around.
Roc Collins: Thank you. This is just for all of you or any of you, maybe one or two of you, what role does contextualization play in evangelism?
Randy Davis: I would contextualize it in that people are lost. They’re either going to heaven or they’re going to hell.
Steve Gaines: I think that any time you’re a speaker, a preacher obviously, you have to know your audience. I think that’s one of the most important aspects of speaking. I spoke here last night, I kind of knew my audience and I am a Baptist preacher, so I kind of knew the guys I was talking to last night, but before I came here, I spoke to some seminary students in my son’s pastoral ministry class and that was a different context. So, a lot of those guys are just starting out and so what I’m trying to say is, you’ve got to know if you’re talking to somebody and they are a lay person, you’ve got to try to connect with them. If they are a person that’s got some church background, you’ve got to connect with them. If they are of a different ethnicity, you’ve got to try to connect with them and I think that that is very important. I think that the gospel is the same, but I think we have to become all things to all people that we may by all means connect with them and share with them. I think that we have to go in, not with just some pat, the gospel is the gospel, we’re not gonna change that, but if we’ve got some little thing that we do all the time, we may have to customize it a little bit to make it fit, Roc.
So that we’re there to try to win them to Jesus, to try to become, if it’s a Jew, Paul said, “I’m gonna become like a Jew. If it’s a Gentile, I will come by a Gentile, I will do all things for the sake of the gospel.” So I think we have to really constantly pray and ask the Lord to help us. Jesus was a master at this, obviously, He’s God in the flesh, but Paul was great at this too. So were all the great soul winners. Any great soul winner you know, that’s the way they are. They become like the people that they’re around, in the sense of trying to make connections with them so that they can share the gospel. I think contextualization is important in preaching and in sharing the gospel.
Derek Smith: I’ve heard it said that, “Go to your Walmart any given Saturday and see the people there and your church should look like the people at your Walmart.” Do we look like the people in our community, are we connecting with the different diversities that are there and different ethnicities? I just think that’s important, valuable.
Roc Collins: I think that’s very good. Very well stated. I have heard a lot of discussion today, as I’m sure many of you have, about gospel conversations. Pastor Sam over at Red Bank Baptist Church has done a great work as far as a book on gospel conversations and leading his church in doing just that. Many of you talk about gospel conversations and having them and I don’t, I just would like to ask Brother Thomas, if you would, just tell us what role and how important that is to have, maybe I should ask you like this. Why are gospel conversations important?
Thomas Bester: Simply because the Bible says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and if you can’t share the gospel, then you can’t share the power. Dr. Sam, where are you at? I’ve never met you personally. Okay, they told me if I called your name, I’d find you. I’ve been reading your book Gospel Conversations and a couple of things I really like about that. Number one is that gospel conversations, first of all, have to take place with the source of the power. So our first gospel conversation needs to be with God. This entails God’s children talking to God. Then we must share that conversation with the people of God. Now when I say the people of God, I mean all people and we must understand that the people of God will become the children of God, only through the sharing of the gospel and by the use of that power of the gospel. So it’s important that we, as children of God, not keep the gospel to ourselves.
Now the Apostle Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel” and for the life of me, I don’t understand why the saints of God, have become ashamed of the gospel. We go to work and the sinner at work, they pull out their magazines, they pull out their articles, we look at TV, we hear radio, we hear all of these dastardly things going on, but we seem to be ashamed of sharing the gospel. So it’s important for us as people of God, as believers, to unlock the power, the only power that can save, is the power of the gospel and the Bible didn’t say it’s a power of God, it is the power of God. So, it’s most important that we take that concept, that we have the only thing that can change a dying world. We have the power and the power is the gospel and our failure to share the power is one of the reasons the world is as dark as it is today.
Roc Collins: Amen. As pastors, how do you connect with spiritually lost people, in order to build a relationship to talk about the gospel? How do you personally do it?
Derek Smith: Well, for me it’s pretty simple. I’ve got five kids, twelve and under, so they’re active. We put them in public school for a reason. My wife and I, my wife is a school teacher, so we prayed about home schooling. We chose not to do that. We chose to put them into public schools so that we could build relationships more intentionally with people in our community. It’s been said before, don’t isolate your kids, insulate them. So that’s what we do. We pray with them and send them out. So we connect serving through the school, coaching little league teams. So often we’re so wrapped up in the stuff of the church that we’re not able to get outside of the church, as pastors, and connect with those that are lost. So, through my kids, we’re able to do that.
Then just meeting needs in the community. That builds bridges to the gospel. So often in today’s world we’re talking about felt needs in the church. We need to preach the gospel in the church and we need to tap into felt needs outside the church and use that as the bridges to the gospel. The gospel is the only supernatural transformative message in the history of mankind. So, we use sharing as a bridge. So that’s how I do it.
Roc Collins: Somebody else.
Thomas Bester: Brother Roc, you pointed out a very poignant word, lost. Too many times we look at people through our eyes and not through the eyes of God. We see black people, we see white people, we see yellow people, we see brown people, we see Asian brothers, we see Latino brothers, but there are only two kind of people. Saved and lost and when we start seeing lost people wherever they are, whoever they are, regardless of cultural differences or whatever differences our human eyes see, then we begin to connect with them and understand that if they’re not for me, they’re against me.
Steve Gaines: We’ve got a gym at Belle View and I never go to it because I go to the YMCA and I go to the YMCA, not just to work out, but to witness and it’s amazing how many people are there. Also, as Donna and I are out in the community, we keep our spiritual antennas up and we pray for God to open doors and I enjoy talking to people. I really enjoy just striking up a conversation, and inevitable when we’re out, eating or whatever, we always pray for our waitress and we get to share the gospel on times like that, but when we’re just out, we’ll just engage people and it’s amazing how people are open, if you’re kind. Well kindness is a big deal, I would say. You can’t be mean and be a soul winner, but if you’re kind to people and you’re loving, it’s the kindness of God that leads them to repentance and I think that when you are out, there’s always people that will listen to you. I usually start off with my testimony and just try to soften them up a little bit with that and then go right into the gospel.
I wanna say one thing before we go on, I think that the goal of every gospel conversation should be a gospel presentation and a gospel invitation. I believe, just because you’ve talked a little bit about Jesus, doesn’t mean you’ve had a gospel conversation. If you have not shared with somebody that God loves them, that they’re a sinner, Jesus died for their sins, He rose from the dead to give them eternal life, and they need to repent of their sins and believe savingly in Jesus and call upon His name by receiving Him as Lord and Savior, and what I just said to you is exactly what I think you ought to say and not that I’m shoving word, that’s the gospel. That’s the evidence.
If you don’t do that, you have not had a gospel conversation. I think that then and there, if at all possible, you oughta say, “Is there any reason why you should not repent of your sins and believe in Jesus right here?” You know, you say that’s too pushy. Well, I mean, hey. I believe we’re supposed to encourage them to repent and to believe. That’s all over the Bible. So, I believe unless, again, unless you have had a gospel presentation and a gospel invitation, with all due respect, you may have a little talk about Jesus, but you’ve not had a gospel conversation.
Roc Collins: Amen. I would concur and I would also like to ask you a question, this is a yes or a no, and I want everybody to answer it. Okay. Do you share from the pulpit, when you’re preaching, about personal evangelistic experiences that you have had?
Thomas Bester: Yes.
Derek Smith: Absolutely. Yeah.
Randy Davis: Yes.
Steve Gaines: Yes and sometimes I share when I didn’t do it and I should’ve. I do both because I don’t always want to set myself up as the hero, you know?
Roc Collins: Sure, sure.
Steve Gaines: People can learn from your faults too.
Roc Collins: I totally agree.
Steve Gaines: But yes I do and I share the gospel so many, in fact, you might wanna know Ken Whitten, how many of you heard Ken preach last night? He texted me this morning and on the way to the airport, lead the cabbie to the Lord. Amen? Amen? Doesn’t that bless you right there? Now, what I just did was just share with you that he lead somebody to the Lord, that encouraged you and when you lead somebody to the Lord and you share it and that’s the reason I did it, it will bless your heart, and it will make your people want to be evangelistic.
Roc Collins: I asked that question because I’m convinced that the devil loves to tell those of us who preach the gospel, or even if you’re standing to teach a class, and you’ve had an opportunity to share your faith with somebody, the devil will say, “Well if you share that, you’re making yourself to be the hero.” And I say to you, we need to be telling the people we have an influence with, that we share the gospel. They need to hear it from us and on the tail of that, I want to ask this. How do you take your people from hearing you talk about winning somebody to Jesus, to begin the process of them telling others how to be saved? So, somebody jump on that one.
Thomas Bester: Set an example. They have to see it in you. A couple of weeks ago, we were in a restaurant in Memphis, Dr. Fred Tappit and I, and the waitress came up and as we prepared to pray over our food, I asked her. I said, “Jennifer, is there anything that you want us to pray with you about?” And she says, “Four weeks ago, my four week old baby died. Would you pray for me?” And we prayed for her and talked to her. Found out that she was saved, but even in that aspect, she had a weight lifted that somebody cared. When people see the pastor, when they see their leaders do this. A few years ago, on the way to Ridgecrest for the Man to Man Conference, I had a group of young boys with me and we stopped in Ashford and we ate and we prayed. I had a guy I never even knew and he got up and he came over to the table. He tapped me on my shoulder. He said, “Sir, I really do appreciate what you just did.” That had an influence on all those young men that was a part of that group. They have to see it in you. So example is …
Roc Collins: So, you’re telling me that it’s not enough to just stand up and give a testimony of being a witness, but you actually need to witness in front of your people, is that what you’re driving at?
Thomas Bester: Acts 1:8, He says “Be witnesses of me.”
Roc Collins: Amen. Anybody else on that one?
Steve Gaines: I’m going out tomorrow night with one of my deacons. We’re going soul winning. We provide opportunities for people to go door to door on a regular basis. A lot of people say that doesn’t work. I’m telling you, if you go door to door with a little gift bag, the Jesus movie in there that costs virtually nothing, it’s been seen by a billion people, and some popcorn in there, just some little gift and something about your church, and then just go up to a door, knock on the door, and say “We’re in the community praying for people, how can we pray for you? And we’ve got a gift for you.” We see 19 out of 20 people will open their door, talk with us, some let us in. We get to share the gospel, and when you take your people out and do that, you can’t teach evangelism in a room reading a book. You’ve got to go out and do it. You’ve got to get out where the people are.
Roc Collins: So you’re saying we ought to actually go witnessing with our people.
Steve Gaines: Uh, yeah.
Roc Collins: Imagine that.
Steve Gaines: I’m gonna brag on my son, they’ve been doing that and they’ve seen about 40 people get saved in the last few months. Here’s the deal, when you go, they come. Sowing and reaping. If you’re not going, they’re not gonna come.
Thomas Bester: That’s right.
Steve Gaines: But if you’ll start going, they’ll come. God will send people to you, if you’ll go after people. He’ll send you people that you didn’t even go after.
Roc Collins: Amen. Someone much wiser than I, said that evangelism is not taught, but it’s caught. So I think that’s a great word. Derek, would you explain the relationship between evangelism and discipleship?
Derek Smith: Sure. You know, evangelism and discipleship are flip sides of the same coin. I mean they really are. You think about the great commission, the command is go and make disciples. So, we write mission statements as a church, but really Jesus already gave us our mission statement. It’s the great commission, make disciples. So disciple making is the end goal of evangelism. Evangelism is disciple making. You think about the disciples call, when Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Followers are fishers. We see that in Jesus’ ministry. So followers are fishers, in fact I’d argue if you’re not fishing, you’re not following.
I mean Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.” So, that’s the heart of God. So the two go hand in hand. Disciple making, you know you talked about Paul saying being all things to all people. So that I may, by all means, save some. We know we don’t save anyone, but he’s talking about his personal responsibility in sharing the gospel there. That he took personal ownership in sharing the gospel and investing in the lives of becoming all things to all people, in the lives of those that he was sharing with. So going, baptizing, teaching, we need a measure in the ACP, wasn’t it Ken Whitten last night, you know talking about maybe it says new disciples, maybe even beyond baptisms. Who are new disciples that are now engaged? That have been baptized, that are now engaged in teaching. So, flip sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand.
Roc Collins: So how do we go about developing evangelism and discipleship, which are both sides of the coin, in our churches? How do we develop that?
Randy Davis: Well, I just wanna say on the front end and the back end of the whole evangelism/discipleship spectrum, is A, you’ve gotta be a people of prayer. You become brokenhearted and concerned about people you’re praying for. I went into The River over in Cookeville, Steve had asked me to come preach there, Steve Tiebout, and I noticed when I walked in they had sticky notes all over the walls of their sanctuary. Now, as I looked up at them, it had people’s names on these sticky notes and I said, “Pastor Steve, what’s this?” He said, “These are the people we’re praying for.” So that’s one end. The very beginning when you start sowing those seeds, who are you praying for?
Then on the other end of it is celebration. In Luke chapter 15 it talks about us celebrating finding the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son coming home. It becomes more contagious when you celebrate and you make a big deal out of baptism. Following the Lord, that is the first step of discipleship and I don’t think that, I think the biggest deal in making the connection between the two is not making them two separate issues or disciplines. They’re not, they’re one in the same. People that are being saved, need to be discipled, and when you’re discipled, you really disciple, then you become one that shares what’s happened to you. It’s gotta be very intentional and I don’t think there is a one size fits all. I think just doing something and the other thing that I would say about it is, you’ve gotta simplify it, not make it complicated. The most mature believers in your fellowship are those believers that have a daily regimen of being in the Word, that are being in prayer, a few simple disciplines grow some dynamic disciples in following Jesus Christ.
Roc Collins: Thank you.
Steve Gaines: Can I say one thing about that?
Roc Collins: Yes you can.
Steve Gaines: The minute you get saved, you become a disciple. The split second you repent of your sins and receive Jesus by faith, you become a disciple and then you start to grow in grace. I think the tip of the spear in making disciples is evangelism. Dr. Fish used to tell us at Southwestern that if making disciples does not include evangelism, then there’s no evangelism in the great commission. So, making disciples is not just having a bible study with existing Christian. If you are not sharing the gospel as well, you are not making disciples. So I think it’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. I think we have to win people to the Lord and then help them to start growing and to become a obedient disciple to Jesus Christ.
And one other thing, I don’t think its scriptural to defer or to delay baptism until we see if they are really serious about it. I think that when they get saved, they need to be baptized immediately. Everybody in the New Testament was baptized immediately after they got saved and then they will grow in grace. I think it’s the first command after you get saved and why should Jesus give you another command if you don’t obey the first command after you get saved, and that is to get baptized. That you go public for Jesus in baptism. One of the things I appreciate about Jordan Easley, he taught me a lot about celebrating baptisms. I wanna say this, if you’re not making a big deal out of baptisms, that’s a big deal for everybody to know that they’re going public for Jesus Christ, and when you do that, it changes the culture of your church.
Roc Collins: Amen. You, Brother Steve, made reference to this earlier in our personal evangelism, but I’d like for you to share just briefly about why a public invitation in church is important.
Steve Gaines: Well, I think you have not shared the gospel unless you give them a chance to get saved then and there and you know, throughout the Old Testament, you had guys like Moses saying, “Who’s on the Lords side? You had Elijah on Mount Carmel saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” The New Testament you’ve got Peter on the day of Pentecost saying, “Believe and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” literally because of the causal use of ize there, and then it says he went on exhorting them and he said, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” And the thing about it is, they did get saved then and there because 3,000 got baptized. So he gave an invitation.
It doesn’t have to be a come forward while we’re singing Just As I Am, but you do have to give an invitation. It might be we got some guys in the back and you can talk to the folks over there. We got a room over here, people would love to talk to you if you’d like to receive Jesus, repent of your sins, believe in Christ. Some people down here in the front, all of the above, it doesn’t really matter. We’ve got four different ways anybody can get saved at Belle View apart from we’ve got hundreds of people walking around all day long that are soul winners, that are trying to get people to get saved.
So, I think that if you don’t share the gospel, if you don’t give the invitation, you have not really preached the gospel. I believe that the gospel demands a response and if you don’t give them the opportunity to receive Jesus then and there, in some way, again it doesn’t have to be a come forward, we do that and that’s great, but there are other ways. Just like I said, have them out there. If you don’t give them that opportunity, I think you have not really preached the gospel the way it should be preached. When Peter got through preaching in Acts 3, he said, “Repent therefore and return that your sins may be washed away. That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” and people got saved that day. So much so that they wound up eventually getting arrested.
One more thing and I’ll be quiet about this, when Paul got saved, it was not on the road to Damascus, in my opinion, because he himself said that Ananias came to him, he was blind and Ananias shared the gospel and said, “Now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins. Calling on His name.” Paul had not had his sins washed away. Paul had not called upon the name of the Lord. Paul didn’t get saved, the Bible doesn’t say Paul got saved anywhere. Doesn’t say it anywhere that he got saved on the road to Damascus. He got saved, I love this, in Judas’ house on Straight street. He got straightened out on Straight Street, amen? And it was in Damascus and not only did the physical darkness leave, but the spiritual darkness left and he was born again. He said it himself, out of his mouth. “My sins were washed away when I called on the name of the Lord.” I believe that that is important. We don’t have any problem leading young couples in their wedding vows and that’s when they get married. I believe we oughta lead people to Christ and give them a chance to get saved.
Roc Collins: So, let me just be clear, you’re for an invitation.
Steve Gaines: I’m for it, I’m for it very much so, yes.
Roc Collins: A public invitation. We should invite people to-
Steve Gaines: Public, private.
Roc Collins: Okay.
Steve Gaines: Semi-private. Semi-public. I don’t care, I’m for it. Amen.
Roc Collins: Amen. Amen. So our time is up, but have you enjoyed this panel? Thank you all very much, appreciate you. Thank you.