It's no secret — baptisms are down for the second year in a row. "What can be done?" they ask. "This is horrible and embarrassing," they say. Simple response: All we have to do is what the Lord commanded us to do … GO! Don't wait for them to show up, but go to them. In order to go, it certainly helps to be trained. The good news is that many are now doing just that, and the Lord has blessed them.
First Baptist Church of Panama City, Florida, is a great example of a church doing all they can, where they are, for the cause of Christ and the lost. Consider their story from their pastor, Dr. Craig Conner.
First Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, is definitely a "FAITH" church. As I write this article, we are about to begin our twenty-third semester. As the senior pastor of First Baptist, God convicted me several years ago that we needed to become more intentional in our evangelism.
And yes, I am blessed to have so many people who realize how hot hell is and that, with training and the Holy Spirit, they have the tools to rescue someone. But they had to be trained and led — and that's my job.
Since beginning our outreach, our baptisms have steadily climbed. Last year we baptized 253 people. God honors intentional evangelism, and our evangelism ministry has grown to the point where we have hired a full-time staff person to give direction to this ministry. Our director, Carol Daniel, is the grease that keeps the wheels turning.
At First Baptist, we have classes, go soul winning, and visit year round. The fields are white unto harvest, and we can't afford to take the summer off. I dread seeing a break between semesters because the traffic down the aisles during our invitations slows down. It seems like as we go, they come! We consistently average 120 people year-round going out weekly as soul winners. We have come to believe that God honors our efforts.
All age groups are involved in our intentional evangelism efforts at First Baptist. Not only do we have adult teams, we also have student and children's teams. We believe one of the first things a child should be taught is how to share the Gospel. An outline that communicates the Gospel is being used by our children to lead their friends to Christ.
The highlight of my week is Celebration time on Monday evenings following our visits. To sit and listen to a senior adult, young adult, student, or child tell how God used him to lead someone to Christ has transformed us into "shouting Baptists!" That's the kind of stuff worth shouting over.
I could not begin to tell of the impact intentional evangelism training has had on our church, our people, and our unsaved community. So many lives have been transformed. The transformation I have witnessed in the lives of believers involved in evangelism has been incredible. One example is Jock Cullen. Jock enrolled after God spoke to his heart about committing his life to Christ. Since his enrollment to be trained to share his faith, he has developed into the greatest personal soul winner I have ever known. In one year he personally led over 250 people to Christ!
I could not imagine our church not being involved in going and sowing and reaping! We have truly become a Great Commission church filled with Great Commission Christians.
If we are going to win more:
Pastors, this is where we desperately need you to lead, train, encourage, and get excited about winning the lost. Start with two people if that's all who are interested. But don't stay inside your church and expect people to run up and ask you how to stay out of hell and go to heaven.
People of the church, somewhere you must realize that church is more than social events and encouraging each other. On Sundays we should come in, get equipped, and then go out into the highways and byways in order to reach the lost and see lives changed. God help us if we, as Southern Baptists, do not do a better job of soul winning and baptizing. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Like I said above, First Baptist Church of Panama City is a great example of a church doing all it can, where it is, for the cause of Christ and the lost. You can too … because everyone can, if they will! God bless all of you that have made up your mind to do just that … GO!