ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–“Just do it” was not only a slogan for a commercial about shoes, but it was also a command from my father about homework, taking out the trash or cutting the grass. There were many occasions my dad found it necessary to remind me to “just do it.”
As a pastor, there were times when I had very important things that needed my attention, but quite often, I would become preoccupied with less important tasks. I didn’t intentionally lose sight of the important priorities. However, it seemed the lesser things, like committee meetings or plumbing problems, always managed to get me sidetracked.
I’ve never met a pastor who said to me, “I don’t want to lead anyone to Jesus.” Yet for pastors, personal evangelism is one of those areas that can get pushed aside by other things — important things, mind you, but nevertheless things that distract from the most important priority of sharing the Gospel.
Jake Roudkovski, assistant professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, discovered something startling while doing his doctoral research: A pastor’s commitment to personal evangelism makes a powerful impact on his people’s willingness to witness.
Another discovery Roudkovski made ought to excite any pastor: If you will lead people to Jesus, use with discretion your witnessing stories as sermon illustrations and equip your people to share their faith, the number of people you baptize will increase exponentially.
In his book, “The Evangelism Mandate,” author and professor David Larsen maintains that evangelism must be the priority of the church. That’s not to say the church should neglect its other tasks, such as discipleship and fellowship. However, these functions of the church are not ends unto themselves. They should work in harmony and encourage people who don’t know the Lord to become committed followers of Christ.
I’ve discovered that if I’m going to help church members get excited about evangelism, I have to refocus.
First, I need to remind myself of God’s promise. Jesus said in the Great Commission, “I will be with you always….” When I witness, I go out with the delegated authority of Jesus. The marvelous thing is when I go He also goes with me, even to the ends of the world.
The second way I refocus is to remind myself of God’s power. Jesus said to his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, my work and my witness amount to little. However, the work of the Holy Spirit convicting someone of sin is powerful. I have to remember the tool the Lord uses to share the Gospel is a spirit-filled human being. He wants to use me.
Finally, to refocus on personal evangelism I must make it my priority. As a part of the body of Christ, I should be quick to brag on Jesus. All of us search for willing ears that will listen to the latest accomplishments of our children and grandchildren. We can’t wait to brag on the statistics of our favorite sports stars. In the same way, we shouldn’t hesitate to tell others about how good God has been to us.
Across our convention, statistics indicate that baptisms have been flat or falling. Those statistics can change. And they will change, if and when we listen to our heavenly Father’s call to “just do it.”
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism & church growth team.