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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism Good News again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Good news continues to invade the darkness of wind, flood and death and bring hope to all of us of a mighty movement of God in this nation. God’s people are rising from spiritual slumber and running to follow Jesus into the lives and the pain of people.

I am overwhelmed at what I am seeing and hearing. And everyone can get right in the middle of the movement. Go to www.namb.net and check out Houses of Hope and Adopt a Church. You will find a way to share in the blessing of helping the hurting victims and restoring devastated churches.

The reports of movements of God are coming in and we are only just beginning really to engage the lives of so many thousands of hurting displaced victims. Some of the reports are amazing. A chainsaw crew has seen more than 50 people come to Christ. A chainsaw crew! How much harder can it be to witness than with the noise of chainsaws all around you?

Pastors are relocating from their flooded homes and churches and picking up their ministries wherever they land. One pastor reported 700 people came to Christ in one service at a shelter. I hope to have more on that for you in the next few weeks. When you read this, I should be on the Gulf Coast myself to see first-hand what God is doing. I look forward to giving you that report

In the meantime, you need to see this wonderful email sent to us by Thomas Wright, the executive director of Missions in Mobile.

“Thank you very much for mobilizing your guys to respond to the overwhelming needs in Mobile Baptist Association. We are hearing reports of exceptional openness to the Gospel in areas that were hard hit and where our churches are ministering in spite of extensive damage. FBC Bayou LA Batre had three feet of water in the facilities. They still became a distribution center and will soon be the only distribution site in the area. But that is good news for our evangelistic ministry. Believers there reported that Bible distributions were more popular than food and water distributions (even though you can’t drink the water there yet and there is no power).

“… FBC Grand Bay has distributed several tractor loads of critical need items through their heavily damaged facility. (38K for roof repairs alone and insurance carriers will not cover churches in that part of the county). They also will resume Bible and tract distribution as soon as they arrive.

“Donna and Amy (my wife and daughter) were on a mud out crew through Cyprus Shores Church. The owners kept saying that they couldn’t believe that strangers would do such nasty work. Donna and Amy had excellent evangelistic ministry time with them. The pastor at Cyprus Shores drove down the streets of his community. When he saw someone in the yard, he stopped, handed them ice and water and asked what they needed. He has set up a place at his church where the owners of the 300 flooded homes there can come and fill out work orders. He also has extensive roof damage.

“Others are responding. One man saw my (retinal-damage inducing) yellow disaster relief shirt and said ‘Your God is not a very good God.’ I asked what he knew about God and he railed at me about God allowing this to happen. As we talked about his religious affiliation he said he was an atheist! I told him he was awful mad at someone he didn’t believe in. He was struck by that realization. We talked for a good while longer and he got more and more angry as he realized the walls he had built between him and God were collapsing. When we got to Jesus dying for his sin because God loves him, the man wept.”

What can we do, Southern Baptists? We can do a lot! And we are — together. Don’t stop. In fact, take it to the next level. Pray like never before. Give like never before. Adopt a church. Be a part of a House of Hope. And above all, share the love of Jesus with someone today. People are shaken. People are questioning. People are open. And people are ready — for us to make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant