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Students spread gospel throughout Wake Forest

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–On a rainy February night last winter, six Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students piled into a car and set off down a road. With no idea of where they were headed, but burdened by a desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, the seminarians drove to a nearby neighborhood and started knocking on doors.
Student Body President David Sims, a master of divinity student from Washington, D.C., was one of the students who braved the winter elements that night. A few months later, following a visit with an elderly woman who lived a mile and a half from the seminary, what began as a compulsion for a few seminary students quickly transformed into an obsession for leading people to Christ.
“‘I have lived here 20 years and no one has ever told me what you have just told me,'” Sims recounted the woman’s comments before she prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Sims said the woman’s statement served as an indictment against himself and the seminary collectively — an indictment for which he and many other seminary students refuse to held accountable.
“If somebody can live a mile and a half from the seminary and never hear the gospel, that’s a tragedy,” Sims said. “At first, we had no goals of covering the Wake Forest area. We just knew we wanted to share the gospel. But once we received the vision to reach Wake Forest for Christ, we started to strategize.”
During the fall 1997 semester, this student-led initiative developed into an evangelistic thrust — “Doulos,” deriving its name from the Greek word for servant — embarking weekly on door-to-door visits throughout the Wake Forest area. What began with a handful of students has now blossomed into a weekly contingent of soul-winners, students and faculty, young and old alike, averaging 45 participants weekly, once numbering as many as 99 — recording 62 professions of faith thus far.
As of November, the Doulos group already has accomplished its original goal of presenting the gospel “to every home within a one-mile radius of the seminary.”
Although this is an impressive feat, quantity is not the objective, said Phil Hopkins, a master of arts in Christian education student from Williamantic, Conn. Hopkins is one of the students responsible for the mapping assignments. “If someone isn’t home, we always make sure that we go back a second time. The goal is not to see how many doors we can knock on, but rather to share Jesus Christ with every home.”
Having revised their vision statement, Doulos is now focusing on the greater Wake Forest area, with plans to reach each house with the gospel within a five-mile radius of the seminary. The group initially began going out every Friday evening and currently are making visits on Saturday mornings.
James Fitzwater, a master of divinity student from Madison, Va., recounted how he and a friend went out with Doulos despite having term papers due the following morning. “What we want,” declared Hopkins, “is a Third Great Awakening. We are praying for a Third Great Awakening. And that starts by sharing the gospel.”
At each Doulos meeting, street assignments are given to teams of three. Participants are grouped such that those least comfortable with witnessing are paired with those who are most comfortable. This ensures that people who may lack confidence in one-on-one evangelism do not have to go it alone.
Doulos’ framework, Sims said, facilitates witnessing training for even the most reticent Christians. Organizers said they have seen students transformed from lambs into lions for Christ as a result of witnessing training.
“My best experience with Doulos,” shared Southeastern student Bryan Sims, brother of David Sims, “is seeing people who were very timid about sharing their faith catch fire and become excited about sharing the gospel.” Kathleen Bell, a master of divinity in church planting student from Hollywood, Fla., noted, “All it requires is for people to take that first step.”
Bryan Sims, a master of divinity student from Richmond, Va., still beams with joy when he talks about when he led an elderly man to accept Christ as his Savior. “What I remember the most,” said Sims, “is how grateful he was. … He kept thanking us over and over. He called me one time and told me that when he laid his head down at night, he knew everything was going to be OK.”
But the Doulos experience does not conclude with an evangelistic visit. Following each outing is a time of evangelism and discipleship training. This event usually involves a study in different evangelistic techniques and emphases. For example, one evening featured a converted Mormon who taught on how to witness to other Mormons, a particularly pertinent issue in light of the increasing Mormon presence in the greater Raleigh area.
Furthermore, the group emphasizes not just evangelism, but evangelism bathed in prayer. Every Thursday night the students host “Thursday Night Live,” a time of intercession in preparation for the next Doulos outing. “Prayer is everything,” stated David Sims. “Every Thursday night we get on our faces and pray for the harvest and for the workers. I always say that the most important thing about Friday night is Thursday night.”
Southeastern President Paige Patterson said Doulos’ emphasis on prayers shows the group has their priorities in order. “Not only are they concerned about people’s eternal destiny,” Patterson said, “but they also realize that not all of this is done in the flesh, but it’s done only by the intervention of the power of God.”
So what does the future hold for Doulos? The group is now preparing to embark on an evangelistic collaboration with Open Door Baptist Church, Raleigh, N.C., to disciple all who make decisions for Christ, David Sims said.
And so from a few, the Lord has brought about much. Those six men had no idea what was to come when they set out on the road that first night last winter. But God did.
David Sims is quick to defer any credit for Doulos’ success to the unquenchable power of the gospel. “God has clearly been the leader of the group,” he said. “He has simply assigned some of us different tasks to do. We want no credit.”

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  • Randall Galarza