ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — A diverse group of more than 120 pastors, association leaders, state convention staff and other leaders within Southern Baptist life gathered at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Alpharetta Friday, Nov. 10 for a multiethnic evangelism training event led by NAMB’s evangelism team. There were 45 different language or affinity groups represented at the meeting.
“We are here to work together to help build a culture of evangelism in our local churches,” Mark Hobafcovich, NAMB’s director of multiethnic evangelism, told the group. “We have a tendency to complicate things, but our mission is refreshingly simple: proclaiming the gospel and urging people to turn to Him in repentance and faith.”
For the first time in U.S. history, the number of residents who are members of a local church has fallen below 50 percent. Approximately 30 perent of Americans say they are “nones,” describing themselves as agnostics, atheists or “nothing in particular.”
Training for the event centered around NAMB’s new Evangelism Kit. Released in June, the kit helps pastors shift the focus of their church toward engaging in and celebrating evangelistic activity.
“Our goal is to create a culture of evangelism in the church so that every believer realizes the very reason God leaves us here after we are saved is so we can help lead others to Him,” said Tim Dowdy, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism.
Dowdy and other NAMB evangelism team leaders took turns leading the group through the process outlined in the kit — examine, embrace, engage and encourage. During each step, participants were given time for discussion with fellow attendees and to complete questionnaires in a booklet included with the kit.
During the examine portion of the training, Dowdy encouraged pastors to take an honest look at how they are doing spiritually, emotionally and as it relates to their wife and families.
JJ Washington, national director of personal evangelism at NAMB, challenged pastors personally to embrace and make evangelism a priority.
“As pastor and leader of your church, we (pastors) control the temperature of evangelism. If it’s not burning hot here,” Washington said, pointing to his heart, “it’s not burning hot out there in the church.”
Catherine Renfro, NAMB’s national director for women’s evangelism, led through the engage portion of the training.
“Every follower of Jesus,” Renfro said, “is placed where they are on purpose and for a purpose. That purpose is for us to know Jesus and to be a part of making Jesus known.”
Renfro shared examples of several ways the kit helps church members actively engage in sharing Christ, including how to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations. Other topics include helping people overcome fear, preparing them for rejection and a list of questions people can ask that help get someone thinking about spiritual matters.
The fourth phase outlined in NAMB’s Evangelism Kit is encourage. In order to build an evangelistic culture, churches need to celebrate those occasions when members share their faith with someone and when people place their faith in Christ.
Toward the end of the training participants divided into affinity groups to discuss how the training could be contextualized for their specific language groups.
Dowdy’s prayer, he told participants, is that the training will help churches re-shape their culture, not just conduct another evangelistic campaign.
“A culture is in the life blood of the church,” Dowdy said. “In every facet of the organization, you are focused on sharing the gospel of Jesus. Your distinct aim and purpose is to make Jesus known. It’s a part of everything the church does. That’s what this culture of evangelism is all about.”