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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–True heroes are hard to find these days. While some may look toward athletes or musicians, some of today’s heroes of the faith may be found among the thousands of bi-vocational pastors serving in Southern Baptist churches around our convention.

Several weeks ago a small gathering of seven bi-vocational pastors came together in a one-day summit in Atlanta. While it would have been wonderful to sit with every bi-vocational pastor in the entire convention, we had a good cross section representing various geographical parts of our convention. These men truly represent the very best of pastoral ministry, often serving in very difficult yet rewarding places.

The primary purpose of this gathering was to provide a listening forum to hear what God is doing among these churches, but we also asked the question, “What can the North American Mission Board do to help you become more effective in evangelism?” Their insights and testimonies were simply amazing. Let me share a few with you.

Gabriel Mata has served for six years as pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana Manantial de Agua Viva (Living Waters Church) in Layton, Utah. In addition to being a pastor, he is a software cost analyst for a major firm in the area. He was first a member of the church, but when their pastor left, Gabriel stepped in to help as a lay minister. Out of this experience he began to feel God’s call as a pastor. While there were difficult days of transition, Gabriel has a passion for equipping people in personal soul winning and they are making a huge difference in the military community in which they live.

Randy Hall has been pastor of Allyn Baptist Church in Allyn, Washington for three and half years. The average age of the congregation when he arrived was 70 and they had one youth (which was his child!). Because of a renewed emphasis on evangelism, they have begun to reach new families in the area and now have 15 youth and the median age is 45. Randy baptized five new believers last year — a total which, he said, “is HUGE in this area.” Randy is a teacher in the local school district; he believes this allows the perfect platform to get to know people in the community so he may build evangelistic relationships.

Doug Parham is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Ohio, a vice president for a valve company and a mechanical engineer by trade. His church is made up primarily of “blue collar” workers who bring their work ethic with them in their ministry. Doug has found a great deal of evangelistic success using servant evangelism as a way to move beyond the walls of the church and into the community. Last year the church baptized 28 new believers and has already baptized 14 this year.

How blessed we were to hear how God is moving in these congregations. Space in this article will not allow me to tell all the stories, but the other four pastors were:

— Steve Joiner who pastors First Baptist Church in Buffalo Gap, Texas. The congregation has grown from 30 to over 400 in attendance in the 20 years Steve has been pastor.

— David Reed, a juvenile corrections officer who pastors Underwood Church in Montevallo, Ala., which is located in the fastest growing county in that state.

— John Roszak, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paisley, Fla. He is also using servant evangelism to reach people in his community.

— Bruce Scott, pastor of Shiloh Church in Robertsville, Mo. He has been there 18 years and has seen the church grow from an average attendance of 20 to over 100.

What did we learn from these heroes of pastoral ministry? First, it was refreshing to be reminded that a significant number of all Southern Baptist churches have bi-vocational pastors. While it may be easy to think of them as “part time,” there is no such thing as “part-time” in ministry. There wasn’t a man in this meeting who approached his ministry as only “part time.” Indeed, most of them feel their secular employment provides a platform to do evangelism.

Second, we learned these bi-vocational pastors had more contact with lost people in their community than many other pastors do because of their secular employment.

Third, we found a deep commitment and passion to reach their communities for Christ. Our evangelism staff here at NAMB came away with a renewed sense of urgency to pray for and help resource our bi-vocational pastors as never before. If you are reading this article and you are a bi-vocational pastor, please know you are loved, prayed for and appreciated. If you are not a bi-vocational pastor, our prayer is this article will encourage you to build a relationship with one or more bi-vocational pastors in your area. They will cherish the fellowship and you may just meet one of God’s heroes in the process.
Gary Hollingsworth is senior director of the cultural evangelism team at the North American Mission Board.

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  • Gary Hollingsworth