What happens when we prioritize evangelism? Consider this account from Stuart Bell, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Centerton, Arkansas.
We are sold on doing intentional evangelism.
This semester, a couple of my staff members challenged me with a new approach on Sunday nights asking, "If we really do 'exist to fulfill the Great Commission,' then:
1. What is our primary thing? To share the Gospel.
2. What is our primary way of doing this as a church, including discipling our people to be soul winners? Our evangelism strategy!
3. When is the best time to reach people? Sunday afternoons, so that visits can be done during the daylight hours and folks are home.
4. Why can't we make our evangelistic outreach the thing on Sunday nights for twelve weeks? We can!"
So we adjusted our evening schedule as follows:
5:00 p.m. – Team time
5:15 p.m. – Visitation time
6:30 p.m. – Teach It time
7:15 p.m. – Celebration time
7:30 p.m. – Done
During the "Teach It" time, I teach evangelism basics and my associate teaches advanced evangelism. Also during that time, I have asked three retired pastors in our church to each take four weeks to preach/teach to all other evangelism participants (including anyone else in the church who wants to attend evening Bible Study). This alleviates any questions that we were giving up on Sunday night church — we aren't! By the way, we have had record attendance on Sunday nights by our church members, and they know how to pray for us while we are visiting!
Our teenagers have their Sunday afternoon choir ministry, and all of them are in evangelism training (they will take their ministry to another inner city this summer; we had fifty students in evangelism recently; they also led the celebration time by singing a couple of songs and helping provide excitement to that important fifteen minutes). Also, the children's choirs meet from 6:30-7:30 p.m., and they have reported their largest attendance ever.
We have seen probably our largest attendance ever at the beginning of our twenty-third semester of intentional evangelism, more than 190 participants. Everyone is buzzing about the new schedule and is excited to see folks saved.
Consider this testimony: A new teenager was in student evangelism basic training recently and stated to the teacher that he didn't have that pre-conversion experience that he was assigned to prepare. Guess what — he did about ten minutes later as he gave his heart to Christ. He came forward the next Sunday to make his public profession of faith.
When the pastor and staff are excited and involved in evangelism, it just can't help but spread to the congregation. What a great group of Great Commission Christians I serve and work with here in Arkansas!
God is so good, and we give Him all praise.
What do you suppose would happen if all of our churches placed such a high priority on reaching our communities? Why don't we find out?