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‘Personal evangelism,’ Rainer says, transcends excuses, fueled


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“Personal evangelism” is not an oxymoron, despite the example of many Christians, said Thom Rainer, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, in a Sept. 2 address at the seminary.
While Christians say they believe in evangelism, Rainer focused on the personal aspect of evangelism, asking: “Is it always something that we’re willing to share that it just overflows in our heart, in our being, in our words?” Or: “Do we really make personal evangelism an oxymoron?”
Citing Philemon 8-14, Rainer cited three truths about evangelism from the Apostle Paul’s life.
First, Rainer said, Paul’s life situation did not hinder his passion for personal evangelism.
“I think Paul could have had a lot of excuses not to share his faith with others,” Rainer said. Paul could have used prison as an excuse. He could have excused himself from evangelism because he had important letters to write.
But, Rainer said, “Paul was so excited about what Christ had done to him on that Damascus Road experience that he could not help but share Jesus Christ with other people. …
“How busy is your life?” Rainer asked. “Is it so busy studying? Is it so busy teaching? Is it so busy with doing good that we forget that we are to be obedient to that Great Commission?”
Second, Paul was personally evangelistic because he knew the gospel’s power to transform lives, Rainer said. Onesimus, whom Paul had led to Christ, was formerly useless but became useful upon his conversion. He “was lost, but now he is saved.” He went “from damned to redeemed,” “from blind to seeing” and “from bondage to freedom.”
Third, Paul was personally evangelistic because love compelled him. “If we read verses eight through 14 without seeing the love that permeates the life of the Apostle Paul, we’ve missed something significant,” Rainer said. It was Paul’s love for Onesimus that made Paul witness to him.
“It is one of the greatest honors in the world to be at a seminary where personal evangelism is raised to the height that it is,” Rainer said. “Where personal evangelism is required in your course of study. Where church planters go out in the name of Jesus to personally evangelize.” But, he continued, “We can have all the tools at our disposal. We can have all the courses ready-made. We can have the best of curriculum and the best of professors. And we can have an environment such as this that is so conducive to sharing Christ. But obedience is what determines whether or not we will be personally evangelistic.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›