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Why are you in ministry if you are not witnessing? pastor asks seminarians

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Just as Jesus is pursuing sinners with diligence, ministers cannot be casual about evangelism, the pastor of an influential Texas church told Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students at a Nov. 17 chapel.
Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, lamented that many ministers forget that God actively seeks sinners. Unlike other religions, Christianity is the story of God seeking man, he said.
Bowman challenged the ministerial students to pursue sinners just as the woman searched for the lost coin in Luke 15:1-8 and just as Jesus pursues sinners in order to find them. Bowman said the passage shows three ways God pursues sinners.
First, he pursues sinners directly. Luke 15:2 says, “this man welcomes sinners.” The word for “welcomes” means extending his hands toward sinners, Bowman explained. Further, Israel was an occupied nation and tax collectors were administrators of the hated Roman rulers gouging their fellows Israelites. Yet Jesus directly pursued even tax gatherers. “That direct approach in evangelism always spells compassion, “Bowman said. “Jesus is a hands-on Savior. He’s willing to roll up his sleeves and get involved in people’s lives.”
Bowman, a Southwestern graduate, became pastor of the Austin church in May 1997. He shared the story of a member of his church who ministers to prostitutes. Word of her ministry reached the Austin police department, and they invited her to come minister to prostitutes in a seedy part of the city. “That’s hands-on evangelism,” Bowman said.
The church is trying to figure out ways to get the unchurched to come visit, Bowman observed. “Let me tell you a little secret: You go where they are, [and] you’ll never have to figure out how to get them,” Bowman dared his listeners. “I believe with all my heart, seminary student, that if we care about people, love people, reach out and touch people, show them we care … I believe we will win them to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Second, God pursues sinners with devotion. In verse 4, the shepherd left the 99 to “go after” the one lost sheep. Bowman cited the words of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, when he was invited by the king of England to sign the monarch’s guest book.
“Some men’s ambition is fame,” Bowman quoted. “Some men’s ambition is art. Some men’s ambition is gold. My ambition is the souls of men. Would to God that I could say with a shaking hand near the end of my life that my ambition has been the souls of men.”
Ministers today should have the same devotion, Bowman said, which means lost people should never be far away.
“Sometimes doing evangelism in the seminary climate is not easy. You’ve got to work at it,” Bowman challenged. Even in what he called the greatest seminary in the world, “known throughout the world for evangelism,” it is easy to get isolated from sinners, he said.
Third, God pursues sinners with diligence. In verse 8, the woman lit a lamp, swept her house and searched carefully for the lost coin.
Bowman noted ministers can be contemporary, innovative and seeker-driven, “but you cannot be, you must not be casual, because this passage of Scripture tells me that Jesus Christ pursues our souls in anything but a casual manner. Jesus Christ pursues our souls with diligence.”
Bowman described how his father-in-law loves to go to the beach with his metal detector patiently walking and watching the detector’s gauge, listening carefully with headphones for signs of hidden treasures. “And when he hears that crackling in his headphone, he pulls out a special shovel and digs around and sifts through like an archeologist looking for a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
In the same way, Jesus is slow, patient and diligent in pursuing sinners, Bowman said. “When I think of where I was when Jesus found me, I’m glad he wasn’t in any hurry. I’m glad he didn’t look at the mess I was in and say, ‘Well, I don’t think I’m going to get involved in this.’ … I’m glad that Jesus took his time,” Bowman said.
Bowman relayed the story of two churches in Houston in similar neighborhoods. One Sunday evening the parking lot was empty at the church with a sign that read, “Come hear.” The parking lot was full at the other church just down the road. The sign in the parking lot at that church read, “Go tell.”
“The thing that every one of us — professors and students and pastors and ministers of music and staff and education people and every one of us — ought to be doing is saying, ‘If I’m not winning souls, bless God, what am I doing?” Bowman declared.
“We ought to be discovering, cultivating, developing relationships with lost people so we can win people to Christ,” he said. “We’ve got to be involved in the diligent discovery of searching and seeking for lost people because Jesus pursues the lost in order to find them.
“Let’s go claim what’s in the lost and found.”

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  • David Porter