Evangelism Conference equips, encourages Arkansas Baptists 

LITTLE ROCK – Evangelism is the verbal proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.  

“The good news is the death, burial and resurrection of who Jesus Christ is. When you really think about the word evangelize it is to share a message that is a never changing message. … It’s to share a never changing message in an ever-changing way,” Ed Newton, senior pastor of Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, said.  

Newton was one of several special guests sharing the gospel with Arkansas Baptists on Monday and Tuesday during the Statewide Conference on Evangelism and Church Health (ECON) at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock. 

The Evangelism Conference focused on equipping, encouraging, and empowering Arkansas Baptist leaders to bring the good news to the forefront of their ministries. More than 800 were in attendance this year.  

Gospel conversation 

Jeremy Freeman, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Newcastle, Oklahoma, said the best definition he has ever heard of evangelism is “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  

“All you’re doing is telling people where to find bread which is in Jesus. …the bread of life,” Jeremy said.  

Adding to that, his son, Caleb, said evangelism is basically “sharing your story to help others.”   

“Anyone who is saved, they have a salvation story. It’s just learning how to share your story so that maybe it can encourage other people,” Caleb said.  

Jeremy said Baptists have hurt themselves over the years with conditioned evangelism programs because it has become robotic.  

“People can tell. It feels like a sales pitch, and I think people respond better to natural relational conversation about how Christ has changed your life,” Jeremy said. “… People respond more to the natural storytelling of testimony. I think the most powerful tool is your personal testimony.”  

“People are looking for something real,” Caleb added.  

Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, said he loves all styles of evangelism. “However, I do think sometimes we need a longer runway than just, hey, where are you going to go when you die? Because not everybody believes in Heaven and hell. Not everybody believes in God. I think that the way we introduce those spiritual topics is really important,” he said.  

In Dare 2 Share, Stier said they use three words: ask, admire and admit.  

“Ask great questions. Find out where somebody is spiritually. Get to know them first. Find common ground. Admire something about what they believe. … Admit the reason you desperately needed Jesus to save you. Tell your story,” Stier said. “I think the on ramp should be conversational. What we always say at Dare 2 Share is try to have a Gospel conversation not just an evangelism presentation.”  

Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and the current Southern Baptist Convention president, said he is thankful for people that are constantly looking for new, effective ways of evangelism.  

On the International Mission Board side of things, Senior Ambassador for the President Gordon Fort said a great tool for evangelism is technology. For instance, he said there are language programs that will simultaneously translate and share the Word.  

“If I have a connection to someone in China, for instance, and they are asking questions about what is the Bible? Who is Jesus? What does this mean? I can type in English to answer their question and the software system automatically translates it into Mandarin,” Fort said.  

“That technology just opens a whole new vista of possibilities. … When it comes to evangelism, we know we all have this sense of the power of the Word of God and so getting it into people’s dialect in a way they can understand it, you can imagine the potential of that evangelistically.”  

Evangelistic lifestyle 

J.J. Washington, director of personal evangelism for the North American Mission Board, said the Gospel itself does not change. 

“We can repackage our approach. But we don’t repackage the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. His life, death, burial and resurrection,” Washington said.  

When it comes to effective evangelism in the future, Washington said people need to be holistic and need to emphasize personal evangelism.  

“Evangelism should be a part of our lifestyle as believers. It’s our calling. It’s our identity. We’re ambassadors for Christ. That’s what God has called us to do,” Washington said. “It’s possible to do a lot of events and a lot of things but still not have a culture of evangelism. But if you’ve got a strong personal evangelism culture, that’s strong, and that drives all the other types of evangelism that you do.”  

Jeremy said leaders must also do a better job of helping people know how to share their story.  

“I think a lot of people sell themselves short, like I could never be an evangelist. I could never do this. That’s actually not true. Evangelism is just telling people where to find bread by sharing your story. You just need to learn how to share your story. We need to do better at capturing stories and helping people share their story and then giving them opportunities to actually do that,” Jeremy said.  “My wife (Emily) and I talk a lot about what’s missing in the church today, it’s the power of testimony. That could be at a person’s baptism, it could be through some sermon that you are using, but I think helping people learn how to share their story to tell God’s story is really what is missing today.”  

Adding to that, Caleb said when a person gives their life to Jesus, their life is no longer their own.  

“Our lives are now Jesus’s … I feel like we need to get better at not living by how you feel but living according to what Jesus says,” Caleb said.  

Clarity is also important, Stier said, noting sometimes Christians use terms that are confusing.  

“Jesus summed it up in John 3:16. Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life,” Stier said, adding he thinks Christians need to keep it simple yet at the same time tell the whole story. “We are going to have to learn how to love people that are different than us. Jesus loved the sinners. … Often, we are so cloistered as Christians that we are not around lost people, and we need to be around them and share the hope of Christ with them.”  

Newton said Christians must be willing to listen to people’s stories, ask better questions and try to get to know people. He shared a story he heard about two pastors. They went to play golf on their day off. The two approached a golf course employee who was on a smoke break. They asked him, “If you died tonight, sir, would you go to Heaven?” The worker took one last puff of his cigarette and asked the preachers, “If you were so concerned about me going to hell, don’t you think you should have asked my name first?”   

“Let’s be reminded that people have names, stories. Let’s try to get to know them. Sometimes we’re not afforded that opportunity because it’s maybe a five-minute conversation, but I would say let’s be intentional if we can to really get to know somebody,” Newton said.  

Barber said there’s power in an honest question, “If you ask people honest questions, it creates conversation. And honest conversation is, I think, always the most fertile soil in which to plant the Gospel.” 

Effective evangelism 

Washington said effective evangelism in the church starts with the pastor.  

“The church will only go as far as the pastor goes. I have not seen it, someone else may have said they have, but I’ve never seen an evangelistic church without an evangelistic pastor,” Washington said. “So, for the pastor, I would encourage him to start with just examining his own life, where he is.”  

The congregation can then follow by example.  

“It’s the law of picture. People do what people see. When they see it, they begin to do it,” Washington said.  

Washington then encouraged pastors to look for tools to utilize to train their people on how to share the Gospel. He said there are several tools and training opportunities available.  

One resource is Dare 2 Share. Stier said they have free curriculum, free training, and free apps, items to help church leaders become effective at evangelism.  

Stier said the time of come and see has come and gone.  

“If we are building our whole outreach strategy on come to our church, come to our youth group, come to our outreach, come to our building, come hear our pastor, come hear our choir – for every one person that will come there are 99 that won’t,” Stier said. “Jesus talked about leaving the 99 to reach the one. Yes, we need to do that. My question for pastors is are you willing to also leave your church to get to the 99? Are you willing to mobilize your people to go and rescue? In the future, we need to combine come and see with go and rescue. We need to do both. If you are just doing come and see, you are going to limit your outreach. But if you mobilize your people or your teenagers to be missionaries where they are at, their school, their campus, their neighborhood, their family, their friends, now you’ve got a movement on your hands.” 

Barber said some people are going to say no to the Gospel, and that’s okay. Churches and pastors should become comfortable with that and not allow discouragement and fear to stop them from sharing the Gospel. If nine out of 10 people say no, there is still the one that is being reached.  

“You have to get to the point where you look and say, I’m committed to sowing seed and I’m not going to be dissuaded by those occasions where people don’t accept the Gospel. I’m going to just persist and find the people who will – people that God brings to faith,” Barber said.  

As the community and culture changes, Fort said churches must adjust their methodology of evangelism. 

“Communities are not static, they change, culture changes,” Fort said. “In rural Arkansas, it seems to me it’s very family oriented. There are a lot of deep family lines. But their children, they’re on the internet, they’re watching their phones, they’re being impacted by the culture. So, the subsequent generations, although they may still be aligned with their family, there may be still deep family ties, the culture that they live in and grow in and become aware of is rapidly changing. They don’t think the same way the parents thought. They don’t have the same values the parents had. And if a church doesn’t pay attention to that, they’re going to lose them, that generation. And this is unfortunately, where we are in many places.”  

Fort encouraged the church to pay attention to the younger generation. He also urged congregations to become praying churches. 

“We have to become a house of prayer. The most effective evangelism will flow out of effective prayer. I have no doubt. I’ve seen it. There’s no question in my mind. I can tell stories over and over of how the Gospel is advanced through prayer.”  

Click here to watch sermons from the Evangelism Conference.  

Share this article


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the
ABN eMagazine

Sign up to receive the ABN Digital News Magazine in your email inbox. New issues arrive every other Thursday.

Copyright © 2023 Arkansas Baptist News