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Stetzer: Get to know unbelievers

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SAN ANTONIO (BP)–To be missional, Christians must be obedient to the Holy Spirit by moving out of their comfort zones and reaching out to various people groups with the unchanging Gospel, Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Christian Resources told evangelists during their annual retreat in San Antonio.

“Much of evangelism in our churches has been recruiting people in other congregations and calling that evangelism instead of leading the lost to Christ,” Stetzer said in addressing the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists June 10 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 12-13 annual meeting.

Many congregations today err as they build an “attractional ministry” with members simply encouraging others to attend church, said Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and missiologist in residence.

Instead, churches should practice “incarnational ministry” in which Christians are sent to others to tell them about Jesus, he said.

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“We have ceased to ‘live sent,'” Stetzer said. “Most believers don’t know any non-Christians anymore….

“We are sent to them with a message that has already been given to us by Jesus: repentance and forgiveness of sins that is proclaimed to all nations,” Stetzer said. “The future is not bright if we lose repentance and forgiveness of sins.”

Even as the message remains the same, methods will change, he said. “The reality is that we are probably going to have to do evangelism and ministry different than we’ve done in the past.”

Stetzer cited changes faced by vocational evangelists in the kinds of events to which they’re invited to lead.

“If no church asks you to do a three-day revival … you’ve still got a call on your life — and that’s the ministry of evangelism,” he said.

“Make sure you’re empowered by the Spirit,” Stetzer advised. “You can’t lead people in spiritual warfare if you’re not a spiritual person.”

Another speaker, Jay Johnston, director of FAITH/evangelism and discipleship at LifeWay, said Christians should practice forgiveness if they are to be effective in evangelism.

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While ministers may seem to preach effectively about forgiveness, Johnston said, “We don’t always practice it.

“I truly believe that we stand at the threshold of the greatest harvest of our lifetime,” Johnston said, adding that Christians should “deal with unforgiveness so the world can see the power and love of Jesus in His children.”

During the retreat, COSBE members elected as officers Brian Fossett of Dalton, Ga., president; Jamey Ragle of Union, Ky., vice president; Dean Forrest of Pike Road, Ala., music director; Bob Smith of Huntsville, Ala., assistant music director; Bill Prince of Covington, Ga., parliamentarian; Margaret Allen, of Edmond, Okla., secretary-treasurer; and Carl Carrigan of Princeton, La., recording secretary.

Pastor advisers are Joel Southerland of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., and Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
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