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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I wonder if most of us realize how truly open most people are to the Good News of Jesus. I find it everywhere I go, among people from all ages and cultures. Almost everyone, if approached right, will talk about Jesus. And many people are only one friendship, or even one conversation away, from becoming His follower. So how can it be that so few Christians ever witness? Why do we keep the Good News to ourselves?

I often hear sermons about the need for us to repent in order for revival to come. I have preached similar sermons and do not disagree with the need for repentance. But I have a problem with these messages. Although I have heard plenty of messages calling for repentance for such things as homosexuality and abortion — issues that primarily originate in the lost world, not the church — I have never heard a message saying that the lack of evangelism was keeping us from revival. But I believe this to be the case. What greater sin could there be than for us to allow people to go to hell without even attempting to share the Good News with them?

The enemy is lying to you. He is telling you that evangelism is scary, only for super-Christians, that you don’t know enough of the Bible, that you are too busy, that no one will listen to you and a hundred other lies. And the church has been listening to him, believing him and following him. We follow the devil away from the very people who are ready right now to accept Christ, and others who will be ready after they know you and see Jesus in you.

Sometimes we follow the devil to church. When I was a pastor, I told our people that if they were spending so much time at church going to one Bible study after another, one more committee meeting, and one more fellowship that they had no time to spend with lost people, then they needed to quit coming to church so much! Have you noticed that most churches these days don’t have many lost people who even visit? Why is that? I believe it is because we have forgotten the meaning of the word “church.”

In the Greek, “church” means “the called-out ones.” Most of our churches look like the “called-in ones!” At the end of every service at New Hope Baptist Church, where I was pastor, I would say, “What time is it?” And the people would say, “Time for church!” We wanted to remember that we had just finished worshipping but now church was about to begin. We were about to be called out into the world where people are lonely, hurting and lost –- and where they are open to Jesus if someone will just care enough to share with them.

Yes, it is time to repent. We need revival in our land. Could it be that the key to revival in our day will be a sweeping decision by thousands of Southern Baptists to stop following the devil away from lost people and start following Jesus to them? I believe so. And the wonderful fact is that this will bring the greatest joy into your life. Remember, evangelism is sharing Good News! God will fill your life with joy as you begin to share His. And you will be so surprised at how open people will be.

A few years ago, I led two friends to faith in Jesus. They have become some of our best friends. Recently, I asked them if they thought the unchurched people they knew would be open to coming to our house and talking about Jesus. They said they would ask. A few weeks later they called my wife and said, “When are we going to do this? Everyone wants to come!” So in a few weeks we are going to have all their seeking friends over. All we had to do was ask! I can’t wait. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What are you waiting for? Repent today of keeping God’s love to yourself. Challenge your friends at church to do the same. And then get in on the joy of sharing Jesus. Revival will come when Southern Baptists start making 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