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‘All of us’ must evangelize, SBC agrees with task force

DALLAS (BP) — Lay persons, pastors, churches, state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention entities have a role in an evangelism renewal plan Southern Baptists adopted Wednesday (June 13).

Messengers adopted an eight-pronged approach recommended by an Evangelism Task Force Steve Gaines appointed in 2017 in his final term as SBC president. Task Force vice chairman Adam W. Greenway presented the plan to messengers after first releasing the document June 11.

“It will take all of us working together in unity for the task of the Great Commission to be accomplished,” said Greenway, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. “Every one of us has a part to play. This is a critical task for us.”

Before the vote, the task force concurrently submitted to messengers a 12-point Evangelism Articles of Affirmation and Denial, based on and supported by Scripture.

“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,” Greenway said, “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.”

Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and are not obligated to put the recommendations in action; but are encouraged to embrace the report as a ready and viable church resource.

The task force called on all Southern Baptists to “renew with great urgency the priority of evangelizing the next generations,” and to adapt the recommended methodology to individual environments “without changing our theology.”

“If the only people who ever hear you talk about the Gospel are already believers,” Greenway said on the annual meeting stage, “then you are not being Gospel centered. You’re not committed to sharing the Gospel.

“It was never meant to be merely an intramural subject for debate,” he said of the Gospel. “It was meant to be the intentional passion that we declare to lost people, that there is hope in Jesus Christ.”

Churches should set aside a day each month to pray for salvation of the lost and the effectiveness of the church’s evangelistic efforts, conduct annual witness training, adopt a baptism goal and submit their Annual Church Profile to help judge the SBC’s evangelism effectiveness.

Pastors should model personal evangelism for their congregations, present public Gospel invitations of various kinds that call unbelievers to repent and believe; and “renew extending to followers of Christ God’s call to the pastorate, to missions, to evangelism and to all other vocational ministries.”

Seminaries should train and engage employees and students in annual witness training and Gospel-sharing events, such as mission trips, local mission partnerships and local churches; and “consider enhancing curriculum requirements in evangelism.”

Directors of missions are encouraged to “identify, celebrate and use as a training model” churches and pastors that are effective in evangelism evidenced by baptisms, and to enlist support for churches from Baptist colleges, seminaries, state conventions and evangelistically effective churches.

State convention executive directors should infuse all their ministry efforts with an awareness of lostness and the need for salvation, the report states, and should prioritize evangelism in staffing, training and ministry.

The North American Mission Board should help reestablish evangelism as a denominational priority, the task force recommends, and NAMB’s senior leadership should involve churches, associations and state conventions in evangelistic outreach.

The task force recommended the Executive Committee of the SBC establish a Baptism Sunday on the SBC calendar. Churches would be “invited to work especially hard to lead people to Christ in the weeks prior to the selected date and to focus on a significant baptismal service in which the meaning of baptism is articulated in preaching and teaching,” the task force said.

Greenway presented the report instead of former task force chairman Paige Patterson, who resigned his chairmanship at the close of his tenure as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) president.

In addition to Greenway, task force members included SWBTS professor of preaching David Allen; Englewood Baptist Church of Jackson, Tenn., pastor Jordan Easley; Cross Church of Fayetteville, Ark., campus pastor Nick Floyd; North Phoenix (Ariz.) Baptist Church pastor Noe Garcia; newly elected SBC president J.D. Greear; Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg; Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) professor of preaching Robert Matz; Cross Pointe Church of Duluth, Ga. pastor James Merritt; and First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Ill., pastor Doug Mouton.

Concluding the membership roster were New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor of evangelism Preston Nix; Brown Missionary Baptist Church of Southaven, Miss., pastor Bartholomew Orr; SWBTS professor of evangelism Matt Queen; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) professor of evangelism Alvin Reid; Family Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., pastor Jimmy Scroggins; SEBTS professor of preaching Jim Shaddix; and Gaines, ex-officio.

See BP’s June 11 story for the full text of the recommendations and evangelism articles.