Editor’s note: The columnist is vice president of evangelism at the North American Mission Board
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — There’s really no better sign of a church’s spiritual health than the evangelistic activity of its people. It always excites me to see Southern Baptists embrace their calling to make Christ known.
We’re fast approaching a season of intense, concentrated engagement in reaching communities for Christ. Crossover 2012 in New Orleans will provide citywide evangelism efforts as Southern Baptists engage in outreach leading up to the Annual Meeting in The Crescent City.
As summer moves in, SBC churches across North America will fan out into cities, suburbs and countrysides to reach this continent and other continents with the Good News.
Evangelism is the key component of any missions endeavor. This is why the North American Mission Board is committing even more resources toward evangelism efforts in 2012 ($4.1 million) than in 2009 ($3.5 million). Whether you’re planting a church or assisting someone in crisis, our driving motivation is to reach the whole person with the Gospel so that communities are made whole in Him.
There are six key components of NAMB’s evangelism strategy with which every church can connect:
1. GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing.
2. LoveLoud ministry evangelism.
3. Disaster Relief.
5. Church revitalization.
6. Collegiate ministry.
Let me take a moment to explain each.
This year God’s Plan for Sharing is focused on helping churches intentionally engage the community through attractional events. Facilitated by Ken Ellis, NAMB’s GPS team leader, GPS 2012 will emphasize the catalytic effect an evangelistic event can have on a community. Events like these provide a non-threatening way to engage people in friendship and with truth. Many churches will demonstrate the effectiveness of attractional events during Crossover 2012 and throughout the year as churches draw their communities to opportunities to hear the Gospel.
Al Gilbert, executive director for NAMB’s LoveLoud emphasis, is casting a biblical vision for loving neglected neighbors, neglected children and communities and cities in North America through ministry evangelism. Al is leading LoveLoud with the understanding that if we offer the truth of the Gospel without ministering to the needs of the whole person, we are only offering half of the truth.
Through LoveLoud ministries, Southern Baptists will join together to meet the felt needs of their communities through opportunities such as pregnancy care, ministry to children, standing up against human trafficking and other injustices, and a list of other urgent needs faced in many North American communities.
A recent change in NAMB’s organizational structure brought Southern Baptist Disaster Relief into the Evangelism Group, and I think that’s right where it belongs. We are committed to resourcing and serving our state partners in a way that will continue to allow Southern Baptists to provide timely, top-quality assistance to victims of disaster.
In addition, we want to give our disaster relief volunteers top quality resources and training that will allow them to offer the hope of Christ while they are giving the physical help so urgently needed in times of crisis.
I am thrilled to have retired Maj. Gen. Doug Carver leading our Southern Baptist chaplaincy ministries. NAMB undergirds chaplains serving in health care, correctional facilities, public safety, disaster relief and corporate environments as well as the U.S. military. His aim is to strengthen our chaplain base as well as find ways to connect chaplain ministry to local churches.
The need for ministry to chaplains and armed service personnel is a growing opportunity for Southern Baptist churches. As returning servicemen and servicewomen re-enter their stateside lives, we want churches to be positioned to meet critical emotional, spiritual and other needs of military families. Local church involvement and military base church plants are among the many new long-term ventures NAMB’s chaplaincy team is exploring.
Plateaued, declining and dying churches are a growing reality for Southern Baptists. Some 880 SBC churches die every year. And 70 percent of our churches are either plateaued or declining. Churches do have an inevitable life cycle but we don’t want to any of them die without a fight. This is why NAMB is developing a variety of approaches for bringing churches back from the brink of death.
For churches that are in a slump, we want to assist them getting healthy again and reengaging with their community.
If the decline is deeper, we want to help churches come under the care of a healthy church in hopes of bringing new life to the congregation.
Other churches might need a re-plant — a fresh start and new effort in connecting with the community around them. For others, it might be best to merge with a healthy congregation. For some there is no other option than closure, but we want to help be sure their property ends up with a new congregation that will shine the light of the Gospel in the community.
Collegiate ministry is an investment in our future. If we can play a role in a student coming to Christ and being discipled, then we are developing the future leadership of the church. NAMB knows this needs to be a key area of focus and we are currently taking a close look at what role is best for us to play.
I truly believe we are on the brink of something big as Southern Baptists. My heart’s desire is that we would be found faithful in our call to introduce the lost in our lives to the life-giving truth of the Gospel. God has given us an opportunity, in our time, to see a world worshipping Him. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of that heritage.
Larry Wynn is vice president of evangelism at the North American Mission Board. To view a video with Kevin Ezell and Larry Wynn about NAMB’s revitalization strategy, visit namb.net/podcast-church-revitalization/.