Archives For evangelism

By Andrew Woodrow

Classic Outreach

In a town proud of its Route 66 heritage, thousands gather every year to celebrate what John Steinbeck called “the Mother Road.” For more than 20 years, Edwardsville’s annual Route 66 festival at City Park has offered visitors fun, food, and classic cars. What was missing, realized church planter Rayden Hollis, was a gospel opportunity.

Hollis is the planter and lead pastor of Red Hill church in Edwardsville. The church isn’t quite three years old, and they don’t have their own building yet. But Hollis is passionate in leading his church by a missions strategy based on Jeremiah 29:7.

“Just as the Israelites, exiles in their community, were commanded to seek out the welfare of the city they were living in,” Hollis said, “it’s our philosophy that we too, as exiles, need to seek out the welfare of the city we live in and pray for it.”

That philosophy is at the core of Red Hill’s presence at their city’s summer festival—and it’s a noticeable presence. At this year’s event June 8-9, park visitors stirred the humid air with hand-held fans emblazoned with Red Hill Church. Diners at picnic tables ate under misting fans donated by the church. Dog walkers at the festival discussed their pets with dog walkers from Red Hill. Church members brought a bean bag set and played alongside park visitors.

Church Hits the ‘Mother Road’ from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

And showcased just outside the church’s two tents at the festival: a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The gleaming red and white car—made even more vibrant by the sun’s glare—attracted visitors to the Red Hill display.

To Hollis, Red Hill isn’t just about gathering for their Saturday evening worship, it’s about the church going out into the community and making the city better.

“I’ve been a part of churches where if the Lord removed that church from the community, the community wouldn’t even notice,” Hollis said. “We don’t want to be that church.

“We want to be so deeply integrated into the life of our community that if we were pulled out, it would have a devastating effect upon the regular rhythms that people engage in inside of our cities. So, we’re trying to find ways that we can step in and make an immediate impact and difference in the life of our city, just by observing what’s naturally happening in it.”

Nothing in return

Early on, Red Hill began to observe the rhythms and patterns of Edwardsville, seeking out ways to serve at city events with a focus to “breathe even more life into it,” Hollis said. “We want to be given an opportunity to show the city how much our church cares for it.”

Once Hollis learned of the success of Edwardsville’s Route 66 Festival, he knew he needed to get involved.

But at first, it wasn’t easy. Katie Grable, assistant director for the Edwardsville parks department, was uncertain about allowing a church to actively participate in the festival. “Initially I was a bit skeptical,” she told the Illinois Baptist. “Not because I was against a church partnership, but rather, I was nervous that their angle would be vocally evangelistic.”

Still, in 2015, Red Hill was granted permission to set up a photo booth tent in the far back corner of the festival. They provided props and space for festival-goers to pose for photos. “We wanted to do something that added to the festival’s success,” said Sarah Hollis, Rayden’s wife. “And through that, begin those gospel conversations with the park visitors.”

Realizing the potential to reach up to 10,000 people in one weekend, Rayden Hollis was eager to do more the next year. He asked Grable how Red Hill could best contribute to the festival, and the city’s success, from Red Hill’s own budget. His requests puzzled Grable, leading her to eventually ask Hollis what was in it for his church.

“Nobody just gives freely without wanting something in return,” Grable said. “And they were just willing to offer so much I eventually asked what Rayden wanted, and we would see what we could do to help.”

To Hollis, Grable’s question came as a surprise. “At first I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said. “But then something really awesome happened.” Hollis was able to explain to Grable that what Red Hill was doing was meant to be a reflection of God’s love. Hollis further explained there wasn’t anything he needed but rather that the opposite was true. “I told her I had something that she desperately needed,” Hollis said. “And I got to share the gospel with her.

“Now the unfortunate news is that she didn’t receive Christ, but because of what we’re doing as a church, I got the opportunity to share with someone why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Grable wasn’t yet ready to receive Christ, but she understood Red Hill’s genuine intent in giving. And a partnership blossomed between the Parks and Recreation department and Red Hill.

“It was through that experience that I finally realized this was just an honest willingness in wanting to help,” Grable said. “They’ve been our most frequent partner since then and are the only organization that is coming out to basically anything that we do in the city.”

Valued partners

Since their first involvement with the Route 66 Festival in 2015, Red Hill has come a long way at the event. Their photo booth tent is no longer in the far back corner of the park. It has instead been moved to the front.

“We even have a second tent where we pass out handheld fans,” said church member Casey Elmore. “And we do almost all the volunteering for the kids’ activities.”

Elmore emphasized Red Hill’s devotion to the city as a “heartbeat to serve and build relationships within our community. And through that, crack open those opportunities to share the gospel.”

The church is also fostering its relationship with the Parks and Recreation department, who has called on Red Hill to help open their newest park, and even made Hollis an administrator on their Facebook page.

The pastor thanks Illinois Baptists for giving through the Cooperative Program to help make his church’s outreach possible. 

“Events like this would never happen unless Southern Baptists of Illinois continued to give to the Cooperative Program, to the Mission Illinois Offering, and other Illinois Baptist offerings. So, to every pastor, thank you for inspiring and encouraging your church to give. And to every Illinoisan who’s given over the course of their lifetime, thank you.

“Your generous gift helps make this moment possible for us to be a gospel witness and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this city.”

By Meredith Flynn

Evangelism

DOOR TO DOOR – Kyle Walker (left), vice president for student services at Southwestern Seminary, and his wife Lauren (kneeling), share the gospel in Fort Worth during the Crossover evangelistic outreach prior to the SBC annual meeting.

Taking the gospel to the world is a critical task—one that will require Baptists to work together, reported a task force appointed by outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines. The group, named by Gaines at last year’s annual meeting, presented their report in Dallas, where it was adopted by messengers.

Before the vote, the task force concurrently submitted to messengers a list of 12 evangelism affirmations and denials, based on and supported by Scripture. The report also includes several recommendations for individuals, churches, pastors, SBC entities, and the denomination as a whole—all meant to renew evangelism.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to provide a clear set of principles in terms of things we believe Southern Baptists can heartily affirm as it comes to speaking about evangelism,” said task force chairman Adam Greenway, “and with clarity saying things we do not believe evangelism entails.

“One of the most important things we can give to our convention of churches, and to a watching world, is a clear statement about…where Southern Baptists stand on the issues related to evangelism.”

The task force, which met throughout the year to develop the report, was created to study how Baptists can be more effective in evangelism, amid continually declining baptism numbers across the SBC. Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon and a member of the task force, said the group noted the element of personal responsibility inherent in evangelism. “We need to be intentional and purposeful,”

Munton told the Illinois Baptist. “I was glad to hear our convention talking about evangelism. The evangelism task force work will be, I pray, a helpful step.”

The report, available in full at BPNews.net, alludes to differences in theology in the SBC, but also calls Baptists to unify around the Great Commission given to all Christians.

“We affirm that the Scriptures teach that gospel conversations should seek to include both clear presentations of the ‘good news’ of salvation and genuine invitations for all people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” the group wrote in one of the affirmations. Following it, the group denied “that gospel conversations are merely general talk about spiritual things and that an evangelistic invitation may only be extended by a singular methodological approach.”

The task force recommended the SBC Executive Committee put a “Baptism Day” on the denominational calendar. Illinois is among the states who have celebrated a statewide baptism emphasis—more than 400 people were baptized this spring on One GRAND Sunday.

Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, said the report was a great reminder of Baptists’ mission to share the gospel and disciple people who come to faith in Christ.

“Anything we do that reignites a passion for evangelism is a good thing,” he said. “It’s so easy to get distracted by doing good things, busy work, administrative duties, and daily church work that we neglect the Great Commission. And, in eternity, the most important thing will not be if the newsletter was attractive, the calendar was up-to-date, the deacon meetings were on time, the piano was in tune, or the building was clean.

“What will count for all eternity is did we, as believers, share the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with others?”

– With additional reporting by Baptist Press

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Russian churches work around evangelism ban for World Cup outreach
Evangelistic outreach around this summer’s World Cup will have to get creative as a result of the host country’s anti-evangelism regulations, Christianity Today reports. Across Russia, churches will open their doors for viewing parties and other events to share the love of God, and soccer.

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Sources: Washington Post, The Christian Post, ERLC, CNN, Pew Research, Christianity Today (2)

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Aim of task force is renewed passion, effectiveness

With hopes of catalyzing “a fresh wave of evangelistic passion,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism task force has finalized its recommendations to the convention and will release them a week before the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

“The ETF has prayed and worked hard,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, and a member of the group appointed last year by SBC President Steve Gaines. “We have tried to seek the Lord and to consider ways to encourage the SBC in evangelism,” Munton told the Illinois Baptist.

The task force is scheduled to report Wednesday morning, June 13, at the SBC annual meeting.

“We will bring to the convention a list of affirmations and denials that we hope will sharpen our evangelistic focus, as well as some recommendations which we hope will encourage our convention toward greater effectiveness,” Munton said. “We certainly recognize that the SBC needs to seek the Lord as never before and to have a greater zeal for the Great Commission.”

The task force held its third and final meeting May 14-15 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to adopting its recommendations unanimously, the 19-member group elected Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Adam Greenway as vice chairman. Southwestern Seminary President Emeritas Paige Patterson is chairman.

Greenway, dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, said the meeting “was characterized by constructive conversations about our report and recommendations.”

“The evangelization of the world remains our top priority as a convention of churches, and the prayer of all of us serving on this task force is that God will use our efforts to help bring us together by renewing our passion for and increasing our effectiveness in bringing people to Christ,” Greenway told Baptist Press.

“We know that we need a fresh wave of evangelistic passion, but we also need the presence and power of God,” Munton told BP. “We won’t get it all right, being imperfect members of an imperfect convention in an imperfect world. We do pray we bring encouragement to the SBC to refocus our attention and energy on reaching the lost with the Gospel.”

Steve Gaines, who is finishing his second one-year term as SBC president, thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers on behalf of the task force and requested continued prayer “for the SBC as we renew our commitment to take the gospel to all people everywhere.”

High attendance anticipated
Dallas attendance is in line to be the highest at a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting since 2010, according to an event coordinator.

Advance hotel reservations, which ended May 14, were about 25% ahead of reservations this time last year, said William Townes, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention finance. Between 8,000 and 9,000 messengers could attend the meeting June 12-13 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, he projected, based on current hotel reservations and advance messenger registrations.

Messenger attendance at an SBC annual meeting has not been that high since the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando. Topped with 5,000 to 6,000 invited guests, exhibitors and other attendees, total Dallas attendance could surpass 14,000.

SBC President Steve Gaines urged messengers and guests to leave their neckties at home, recommending a casual dress code to beat the heat in Dallas.

– From Baptist Press, w ith additional reportingby the Illinois Baptist

Baptist Press | With hopes of catalyzing “a fresh wave of evangelistic passion,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism task force has finalized its recommendations to the convention and will release them a week before the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

The task force, appointed last June by SBC President Steve Gaines, held its third and final meeting May 14-15 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to adopting its recommendations unanimously, the 19-member group elected Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Adam Greenway as vice chairman. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson is chairman.

“We finalized several affirmations and denials regarding biblical evangelism that we believe will be readily embraced and adopted by the messengers of the SBC at our upcoming meeting in Dallas,” Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told Baptist Press in written comments. “We also set forth several recommendations that relate to Southern Baptists on multiple levels. We believe these will strengthen and enhance our evangelistic efforts as we move forward to reach our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Greenway, dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, said the meeting “was characterized by constructive conversations about our report and recommendations.”

“The evangelization of the world remains our top priority as a convention of churches, and the prayer of all of us serving on this task force is that God will use our efforts to help bring us together by renewing our passion for and increasing our effectiveness in bringing people to Christ,” Greenway told BP in written comments.

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Task force member Doug Munton (left) said he is “encouraged by the brothers on the evangelism task force. They love the Lord, the SBC and the Gospel. It is my prayer that we see renewed passion for evangelism and the work of the Great Commission.”

The task force “has worked hard and prayed hard,” Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., told BP in written comments. “We know that we need a fresh wave of evangelistic passion, but we also need the presence and power of God. We won’t get it all right, being imperfect members of an imperfect convention in an imperfect world. We do pray we bring encouragement to the SBC to refocus our attention and energy on reaching the lost with the Gospel.”

The task force is scheduled to report Wednesday morning, June 13, at the SBC annual meeting.

Gaines thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers on behalf of the task force and requested continued prayer “for the SBC as we renew our commitment to take the Gospel to all people everywhere.”

-From Baptist Press, BPNews.net

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By Pat Pajak, Associate Executive Director of Evangelism

The “Pioneering Spirit Challenge” is well under way! It was launched at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November 2017, and (123) churches have already committed to “Engage New People” with the gospel.

One of the four purposes of the “Pioneering Spirit Challenge” was to ignite a fresh passion for sharing the gospel and seeing people follow the Lord in believer’s baptism. As a strategy to help churches do that we also promoted “One GRAND Sunday” on April 8. SO far, 416 baptisms have been reported. More important is the renewed desire by many of our churches to reach their communities for Christ.

Three downloadable helps to train a church know how to increase its effort to become a frequently baptizing church can be found on the IBSA Resource Center.

I encourage you to use all three of these training resources. And if your church has not yet committed to the Pioneering Spirit Challenge to go to the website and do so. LINK

By Eric Reed

5-07-18 IB cover lgAfter our last issue of the Illinois Baptist went to press, we remembered what we left out of the article, “Why this one matters.” Our collection of items to look for at the Southern Baptist Convention in June should have included the forthcoming report on evangelism in the SBC by Steve Gaines’ blue ribbon committee. The panel, which includes Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of FBC O’Fallon, is scheduled to present its study on the declining rate of baptisms in SBC churches and several key proposals to turn that around.

The report, by seminary presidents, SBC entity heads, and megachurch pastors, was to be Gaines’ parting word to the convention as he concludes two years as president. It is a very important word at crucial moment in the life of our denomination. We meant to say that in our May 7 issue previewing the Dallas convention.

We didn’t.

We forgot.

Gaines’ important prescription for recapturing the SBC’s evangelistic fervor got muscled out by breaking news about abuse of women and the argument over inappropriate statements by statesman Paige Patterson two decades ago.

The same appears likely to happen again at the convention in June.

Any one of these stories could be the headline coming out of Dallas:

“SBC shifts generation and theology in top leadership vote.”

“Proceedings slowed as messengers argue diversity among nominees.”

“Messengers debate ERLC leadership and another round of resolutions repudiating racism.”

“SBC speaks on abuse, women, and their place in the denomination.”

“Patterson announces retirement, takes final lap before exiting SBC stage.” Or, “Patterson unseated as convention’s keynote; denied final sermon after controversial comments.” (A special called Board of Trustees meeting May 25 at Southwestern Seminary may determine if either of last two headlines proves true.)

But the headline will likely not be: “SBC adopts new plan for evangelism to turn decline in baptism and refocus churches on leading the lost to faith.”

Why?

Because the overwrought news cycle of the current era has overtaken the SBC too. If only we could come out of Dallas writing stories about a fresh wind of God’s Spirit and our renewed commitment to share the gospel. If only we could file reports of our people falling on their faces in repentance for failing to share salvation with lost people, then hitting the streets to tell the good news.

Yes, all these news stories are very important. As a people, we must deal faithfully with women and our treatment of them in the church as well as the larger culture. But while we are doing that, we must remember what brought us together as a denomination in the first place. The world needs Jesus. And all today’s headlines are evidence of that great need.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.