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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The new year is here! What better time could there be to decide to get in on the joy of sharing Jesus?

It continues to be the stunning truth that most Christians never share their faith and don’t see this as a major problem. As a result, our churches are filled with people who think they are there to get their needs met, rather than to be launched as missionaries. More often it means that our churches just aren’t filled with anyone at all. The greatest need for repentance in the church today is not for sexual sin, gossip or greed. It is for allowing people all around us to go to hell while we ignore them and spend all our time with Christians “growing deeper.” We don’t need to be any deeper than Jesus who loved tax collectors, sinners, adulterers and lepers and rebuked religious people who kept their distance from them.

Maybe this will be the year when this finally begins to change. I don’t think it will happen simply because preachers like me try to make you feel guilty for not sharing Christ. That is not my purpose of this article. I believe it will happen when we finally get it –- that there is no greater joy than sharing our faith; that until we do, we are missing out on the heart of the Christian life and will never know all the wonder and passion Jesus has for us. In short, we are missing all the fun! Remember -– the definition of evangelism is to share good news with friends. Who doesn’t like sharing good news? And who doesn’t like having friends? All of us can do this. Let it become more than your New Year’s resolution. Let it become your New Year’s life.

Last month, I spent four wonderful days with your SBC evangelism leaders from across America: directors of evangelism from state conventions, seminary evangelism professors and our evangelism staff at the North American Mission Board. I came away from that meeting with faith. There have been many days in the not-too-distant past when I really didn’t believe that Southern Baptists would turn evangelism around. I wondered if perhaps God was finished with us as a force in His kingdom. Not anymore. I have faith again.

I believe with all my heart that we are about to see our greatest days of the movement of God in our history. My faith has been restored by the relationships I have built with these wonderful leaders. I wish every one of you could meet them, could see their passion and hear their hearts. They are God’s leaders and all across this nation they are poised to move us forward creatively and biblically to reach North America. And we are ready to do it together as never before. I truly believe that the days of turfism and harsh criticism of each other in the SBC are drawing to a close. We are ready for the power of God again!

We left the meeting having accepted three challenges together: to daily make evangelism our joy, not our job; to commit to reach the vast ethnic populations of America as never before; and to make either 2006 or 2007 the greatest year for evangelism and baptisms in each state since the Jesus movement. Our only hope to accomplish this is for you to join us in this mission. I want to ask you to stop where you are -– right now -– and ask God to help you join this mission of joy. And don’t let this day go by without making a new friend who doesn’t know Christ and sharing the story of what He has done in you. As we do this together, our lives will become an adventure and our churches will be filled with power. That’s what can be ahead for us -– if together, we will 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