(an edited article by Pastor J.D. Greer on the Who’s your one Evangelism plan)
Intentional evangelism has always been a defining characteristic of Southern Baptist mission—and rightly so, because evangelism is the primary tool by which we fulfill the Great Commission. Everything else Southern Baptists do is ultimately in support of evangelistic disciple-making. The criteria upon which our churches should measure their success is by how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes. Apart from that, all the money we raise, buildings we build, ministries we organize, sermons we preach, and songs we write don’t move the mission forward. Without this one thing, we fail.
Many today, most notably our current President Steve Gaines, have raised the question of whether we are losing our laser-like focus on evangelism, as indicated by several recent developments:
First, we’ve seen a precipitous decline in baptisms and membership. This decline is particularly troubling, as Alan Cross points out, considering that most Southern Baptist churches are located in the Southeast, where the overall population is growing the quickest. Our surrounding communities are growing by leaps and bounds, while our churches are—for the most part—shrinking.
Second, many churches in our Convention seem to lack a clear evangelism strategy. In the church where I grew up, Wednesday-afternoon soul-winning was your first act of sanctification! Not kidding. I got saved on a Friday and went on my first soul-winning cold-call that next Wednesday. For various reasons, most churches have gone away from that. But what has replaced it? Door-to-door evangelism was where I learned to share the gospel. Are “ordinary” Southern Baptists equipped to share the gospel? Do they believe it is their responsibility? Are they actually doing it?
Just about everybody in the SBC agrees that we need to get good at making disciples again.
The question of the hour is, “How?”
How Can Southern Baptists Make Disciples Again?
We need a spiritual awakening that leads to action.
Historically, revivals have not begun with lost people getting saved but with the church getting “re-converted” to the gospel, which then leads to massive evangelism. Revival is an intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit. Until the Spirit comes, all else is lost.
Our reforms are not limited to spiritual ones (i.e., pray more, care about the lost more), but they certainly must begin there. Quite simply, many of us no longer feel the urgency of the gospel message. We do not long, like Paul did, for our countrymen to be saved, to the point that we’d be willing to go to hell ourselves if it meant they would come to Christ (Romans 9:1-3). We have grown complacent in our size, our budgets, and our secure retirement plans and no longer burn with the same evangelistic zeal that we once did when we had none of those things. A recent study revealed that nearly 90 percent of active, church-going evangelicals have never even shared their faith with someone outside of their family. Only 20 percent of churches in the U.S. are growing, and only 1 percent are growing by reaching lost people.
Our goal should be that we make it as hard as possible to go to hell from our communities. Has everyone in your community heard a compelling presentation of the gospel and been given a chance to respond? I think often of the words of Charles Spurgeon, who said,