Is your church experiencing serious struggles? Every church I've encountered that is genuinely trying to serve the Lord does! And the temptation can be to let our focus on evangelism slip while we address the struggle. Here's the testimony of Dr. Thomas Strong, the pastor of Metairie Baptist Church, Dean of Leavell College, and Professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and the church demonstrate how a church can respond to overwhelming obstacles.
We have just completed our third semester of FAITH at Metairie Baptist Church — on the edge of New Orleans. God has done a tremendous work within and through the church. After the hurricane, much was uncertain — we didn't know whether we would even have a church. But God has provided and protected our facility. Many of our members left the area and have not returned — about 30 percent. But many of those who did return came back to the city with both broken and renewed hearts. The result was that God began a great work within our church to help us be the church we should be — no longer a country club church, but a beacon to a hurting city. In the process, God used our emphasis on evangelism to motivate and train the church to reach out. We aren't waiting on people to come to us anymore — we are going to them!
This evangelism semester, we began with forty-two people. Our church was averaging about 160 in Sunday School at that time, so we were having 25 percent of our Sunday School attendance in evangelism training. During the semester, we have had several professions of faith and several who have joined and were ministered to through the visits. But as a pastor, what I have seen in addition is that those attending, being trained, and going out understand the purpose of the church more clearly than ever before — and they have a passion for Christ in their everyday lives. This is just a quick reminder that intentional evangelism is having a tremendous impact and our church is just one of many that have benefited.
It is summer, and we are excited about our next semester. We have already begun to make plans and put together teams.
We are discussing, even now, how to implement the next generation of material and how we can become an equipper church! This is a whole new ministry we can be involved in — equipping and helping other churches.
By the way, one of the results of our evangelism ministry is that it has caused us to start re-evaluating the purpose of our church. We have set the goal of one day having all members of the church involved and trained in evangelism. Some have said this is unrealistic, but our understanding is that only those members who are actively telling others about Christ have reached the level of maturity in discipleship that pleases God — and we don't want to stop until all have reached that level.
Again, as a pastor, I have greatly benefited from the FAITH training conference I attended, and it has had a profound impact upon my ministry, both at the church and the seminary. I am constantly using my teaching opportunities to encourage the use of intentional evangelism training and will continue to do so — and I will continue leading the church I pastor to do so.
Dr. Strong has said it all: Equipping the saints to do the work of evangelism. It works — we keep hearing it — I keep sending testimonies to prove it.
Summer is almost over, and you are now planning fall programs and direction for your church. I plead with you to put intentional evangelism training on the top of your priority list. Nothing will help you more to grow your people, reach your community, and do Great Commission work.
God bless each pastor and member to do all you possibly can to reach your world with the life-saving message of the Gospel.