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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The hurricanes keep coming. And they always will until Jesus comes. This is the fallen world we live in. But that has always been an opportunity for God’s people.

Good news is most needed where bad news seems to reign. And there are Southern Baptist good news heroes all over the place these days. I met many of them during the time I spent on the Gulf Coast. People like Pastor Rossi Francis of Grace Temple Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. Pastor Francis’ church building is devastated, but not the church! They are serving, loving, feeding and witnessing in the midst of the destruction. I mentioned to him that he almost seemed happy. He said, “We are not disheartened at all. God has said to us, ‘Move! I’m going to let you be salt and light.’ And we are moving. We have good news in the darkness. This is revival for us!”

It could be revival for all of us. But if that is to happen, we cannot just move on with our lives and do business as usual in-between disasters. People without Christ walk in disaster and face the potential of eternal disaster. If there was ever a time for every Southern Baptist to decide to be good news to those who need Jesus, it is now. Many of them are in the same places they were before the disaster –- next door, across the hall at work or in that part of town you try to avoid. Will we love them? Will we befriend them? Will we believe it is our individual and corporate responsibility to share the good news with them until we see them saved, baptized and sharing with others? Until they are family?

While I was in Gulfport, I went out with a Salvation Army mobile feeding unit one day. They were working in partnership with our wonderful Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers. We went to an area of Gulfport that was impoverished before the hurricane, and was now filled with wandering, destitute people. As they came to get food, I was able to listen to their stories and share with them. I began to talk to a group of 18 people sitting in the shade of a tree. I became so involved in the conversations I didn’t realize that the Salvation Army had left. You’re in bad shape when you are forgotten by the Salvation Army! But God had His plan.

I shared with these people for more than an hour. One of them, a woman named Vera, gave her life to Christ. When I finally had to go, we had a strange sense of family. One woman said, “Please don’t leave. If you stay, when Thanksgiving comes, I will fix you the best dinner you ever had.” Tears came to my eyes as I wondered how she would do that when she had no stove left. Another said, “Stay with us. We need someone who cares and will help us.” I promised them that I would help and others would too and that I would never forget them. Another said, “You won’t be able to remember our names, so just think of us as the people under the tree.”

I see their faces even now. I want to see them become the people under Christ’s tree! I want to see that for all those hurting and seeking. You do too, don’t you? Then what will you do about it? And what will you do about those who live where you are? I’m confident that you will answer that question well. Because since the beginning, we have been at our best as Southern Baptists when we have the biggest needs before us and rally around the Good News call of evangelism.

In 1895, a flyer was sent to Southern Baptists announcing the first Annie Armstrong offering for Home Missions. In the flyer is this excerpt from a poem:

From North to South the cry rings out;

From East to West, from sea to sea;

The work is great, the laborers few;

Redeemer Christ, we come to thee.

Open our eyes to view the need,

Lift up our eyes Thy strength to see;

Thou bring’st the people unto us,

Help us to bring them, Lord, to Thee.

Our mission has not changed. Disaster has brought people to us. We can bring them to Jesus. That’s how 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