Archives For Gospel conversations

Engaging the lost requires a new level of commitment

At a recent evangelism workshop, one Southern Baptist pastor articulated a major struggle in many churches.

“I hear so many pastors say, ‘You’ve got to love the lost, you’ve got to win the lost.’ People in the pew think, ‘I should but I don’t know how.’”

One GRAND Sunday boxIBSA’s Pat Pajak equips pastors across Illinois to help the people in their pews answer that question: How do we share the gospel with the people around us? Pajak is leading an effort to see 1,000 baptisms in IBSA churches on April 8, the Sunday after Easter. In addition to the numerical goal, One GRAND Sunday is designed to help people begin thinking intentionally about evangelism.

“Who do they know that needs to hear the gospel?” asked Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism.

“Are they willing to step out of their comfort zone and share their faith with others?”

The call to renewed evangelistic commitment comes amid declining baptisms in IBSA churches—and the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2017, IBSA churches baptized 3,441 people, a 13% decrease from the previous year’s total of 3,953. And 352 churches reported zero baptisms. The national numbers for 2017 will be released this summer, but in 2016, baptisms in SBC churches declined nearly 5%. Despite the lower numbers, Pajak often notes there is much reason to rejoice when one person comes to faith in Christ.

Cliff Woodman is preparing his church for One GRAND Sunday with a strategy they’ve used before to boost personal evangelism. Woodman, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, asked church members to commit to share their faith with one person by the Sunday before Easter. They were invited to make their commitment public by placing a commitment card on the church altar.

Woodman prays daily for the people in his church who filled out the cards and will follow up with them after March 25 as a way to remind them of the commitment, and to hear their stories.

The pastor shared the idea with other churches in his association and with the IBSA Pastors’ Evangelism Network that Pajak facilitates. Nine other congregations are using the commitment strategy along with Emmanuel.

Gospel conversations
At an Engage 24 workshop in Las Vegas in February, a panel of Southern Baptist leaders shared real-life stories of how churches are reaching people with the gospel. The training session was one of a series of workshops sponsored by the North American Mission Board and designed to give leaders practical ways they can create and foster a culture of evangelism in their churches.

Speaking at the workshop, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page encouraged pastors to intentionally cross borders, risk negativity, and create a loving environment without compromising truth.

Referencing Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan Woman in John 4, Page spoke about the responsibility and call of the church to be leaders in building and maintaining relationships with those who are currently a part of a congregation, as well as those who are not. He noted this requires proactive engagement and responding to the responsibility of the church.

“Christ was the great example of reaching across ethnic and gender boundaries, and so if we’re going to follow Christ, we have to be his hands and feet in doing that in the world,” Page said. “And what other organization is it? Is it education? Is it government? Who is it that should be leading the way? It ought to be the church, not following, not pulling up the rear, but leading in this.

“The church is duty-bound because of our allegiance to Christ to be like him in this world,” he said, “and that’s reaching across these barriers like Jesus did with the woman at the well.”

At Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, people are learning specific tools to help overcome the barriers Page referenced. Every year, said Pastor Sammy Simmons, he and his staff focus on a tool people can use to share Christ. This year, they’re learning to share the gospel using their hand—a method they employ on mission trips to Africa.

Every Sunday between now and Easter, Simmons will explain the gospel-sharing strategy from the pulpit. He’s also using four consecutive Wednesday evening sessions to teach on gospel conversations, which he differentiates from religious conversations.

“A gospel conversation is when I am explicitly talking about the life of Christ, his death for our sins, his resurrection, and giving an invitation for them to turn from their sins and for Christ to be their savior,” Simmons said.

Church members are sharing about their gospel conversations in 60-second videos. One such testimony was from a stay-at-home mom who threw a Valentine’s Day party and connected it to God’s love, sharing the gospel with her friends.

IBSA and the North American Mission Board also are encouraging churches to focus on gospel conversations this year, with a goal of recording one million of them by the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas this June. At gcchallenge.com, gospel-sharers can view 60-second videos on real-life gospel conversations, and upload their own.

With at least 8 million people in Illinois who don’t know Christ, the time for talking about Jesus is now, Pajak said. “We need to pray for lost people by name, train people in how to share their faith, and commit to witness to at least one person between now and Easter Sunday.”

– Meredith Flynn, with additional reporting from Baptist Press

Churches challenged to baptize 1,000 on one day

One Grand social

One thousand baptisms on a single Sunday. That’s the challenge behind One GRAND Sunday, an initiative designed to help IBSA churches train church members in evangelism, share the gospel, and follow-up with believer’s baptism.

One GRAND Sunday is scheduled for April 8, one week after Easter.

“Easter is normally a high attendance day, and the strategy of scheduling April 8 as One GRAND Sunday is to encourage people to return the following week to witness an historic event—their church being a part of 1,000 people being baptized on one day!” said Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism.

The baptism-focused Sunday is part of a series of “Pioneering Spirit” challenges put before IBSA churches at the 2017 Annual Meeting. The evangelism challenge is for 200 or more IBSA churches to baptize 12 or more people each year, or to baptize more than the church’s previous three-year average. In other words, the commitment is for IBSA churches to become “frequently baptizing churches.” So far, 57 churches have accepted the challenge to engage new people with the gospel.

“Unfortunately, baptisms across our state have been declining over the past several years, and I would like to see One GRAND Sunday serve as a reminder that the church exists to evangelize and baptize those in the communities where God has planted them,” Pajak said.

The One GRAND Sunday emphasis coincides with a North American Mission Board-sponsored effort to promote gospel conversations, or opportunities to share the gospel. NAMB is urging Southern Baptists to have one million gospel conversations by next summer’s Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. At gcchallenge.com, people can upload videos of themselves sharing about gospel conversations they’ve had, and get more information about gospel-sharing resources, like the “3 Circles” guide.

With just under three months left until April 8, Pajak suggested this timeline for churches preparing for One GRAND Sunday:

January: Collect your church’s baptism numbers for the past three years. Prayerfully set a new goal for this year.

February: Announce the baptism event and launch gospel conversations. Register your goal at IBSA.org/Evangelism. Conduct the training for church members. Consider teaching the “3 Circles” method.

March: Promote One GRAND Sunday. Personally follow-up with prospects and new believers. Teach about baptism, either personally or in a group setting.

April 8: Baptize!

April 9: Start over again.

One thousand is a large number, but Pajak put the goal in perspective. “What may look like a very lofty goal can easily be accomplished if every one of our 1,000 churches simply committed to baptizing one person.”

For more information about One GRAND Sunday and evangelism resources, or to register to participate in the April 8 emphasis, go to IBSA.org/Evangelism.

Jacqueline ScottRecently I was blessed to join a group of individuals that had a heart to reach out to the inhabitants of Cairo, Illinois. This town on the southern tip of the state is a fraction of the size it once was, and is plagued by poverty, crime, and despair.

I was anxious to be part of the evangelism team. Speaking to others about Christ is my passion, especially in a street ministry setting. The analogy I use is that the army of God needs boots on the ground, and I enjoy the march.

As my friends and I drove through the overpass into Cairo, a darkness seemed to engulf us. I don’t think they noticed, or at least they didn’t mention it. It was the darkness of spiritual oppression, even in the light of day. We were all joyous about the possibility of new converts and changed lives, yet I clearly recognized the spiritual stronghold on this community.

We were sent out two-by-two, just as Jesus illustrated with the disciples. We were given a small tract called “Your Life (A New Beginning),” which could be used as a conversation starter. We were to inform the individual that this little booklet had valuable information on obtaining a good life, then ask them how their life was going.

In Cairo, I saw the effect of simply talking with people about Jesus.

On the first day I felt some trepidation about this task. I would vacillate between complete trust in the Spirit’s leadership, followed by strict attention to the tract. Although I knew the tract was simply a tool, I found myself concerned about whether I’d covered all the bases. I became more focused on my presentation than on the individual’s reaction or response.

A “cold call” is never an easy form of interaction, especially in witnessing. Having just a few minutes at the door, our purpose is to offer the A-B-C’s of salvation, and hope for follow-up and for growth to come later. Nevertheless, we sometimes fall into “Christianese” while conveying the message. This often results in more confusion than clarification. And on that first day in Cairo, I found myself far too focused on checking the talking points in the tract.

As a group we had prayed numerous times, but in this wavering between trust in him and desire to complete the presentation, I knew the Lord was beckoning me to a new place of reliance on him.

I can honestly say I love to talk and I love people. I’ve often said my spiritual gift is beneath my nose and my spiritual calling is to “love people into the kingdom.” So the question is: what do I love to talk about? Answer: people coming to a real relationship with Christ.

For me, having a “gospel conversation” is a natural process, as natural as any other conversation, if the subject matter is about something or someone you love. The word of God reminds us that we are equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17), and we are always to be ready to give an answer to everyone for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).

If we have been mandated to “go and tell” as the Great Commission emphasizes, are we to conclude that God would purposely make fulfillment of that call difficult? I believe not. His word cites in Deuteronomy 30:14 and Romans 10:8 that the word is very near us; it’s in our mouths, which means all we have to do is open our mouth. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and allow him to speak his truth through us as yielded vessels.

There in Cairo I asked the Lord to allow me to be natural, sensitive, and intentional, using the gift that he had given me, the gift of sharing, whether it be a through a booklet, a testimony, or conversation about the commonalities in our lives.

The next two days were significantly better because I released the idea that I had some sense of responsibility for the outcome of a person’s decision. With each day, I felt more liberated to have natural conversations. At one house, an individual of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion informed my partner and me that we made a good team. This was strictly due to how we presented the message in a natural, non-threatening manner. The man was willing to listen because we didn’t so much “present” the gospel; we simply talked about the Savior.

Jacqueline Scott is a member of Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg. She also serves on the IBSA Board of Directors.