In the weeks preceding this year’s John 3.16 Conference (see ad to right), SBCToday will post interviews with each person scheduled to speak at the Conference. The following interview is with Dr. Steve Gaines — pastor of the famed Bellevue Baptist Church outside of Memphis, Tenn., — who succeeded Dr. Adrian Rogers in 2005. To learn more about Dr. Gaines and Bellevue, go to www.bellevue.org.
1. How has the invitation to speak at the conference impacted you?
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at the conference. Regardless of where a person lines up concerning Calvinism, we should all seek to be biblical in our convictions. I am hopeful that the popular inclination on the part of some within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to recoil from the concept of praying a “sinner’s prayer” can be alleviated as we analyze and understand what Scriptures say about: 1) God’s desire to transform the sinful heart of man, 2) God’s desire to indwell our bodies with the Holy Spirit, and 3) man’s need to repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior by calling on His name in prayer.
Norm Miller is the director of communications and marketing at Truett-McConnell College.
“In recent years, the effectiveness of our evangelistic outreach hasn’t made great strides in turning people to Christ — and in fact, we’re falling behind the rate of the population growth.”
The sentence above comes from the back of a 60-page book titled “Evangelistic Effectiveness: Difference Makers in Mindsets and Methods.” The easily read paperback was written by Dr. Steve R. Parr and Dr. Thomas Crites, and is published by Baxter Press, Friendswood, Texas.
Both Parr and Crites are state missionaries serving the Georgia Baptist Convention, whose research report is the basis of the co-authored book under review. In hopes of impacting the lostness of Georgia, the authors ask and answer the question: “What makes a difference when it comes to evangelistic effectiveness?”
How would you answer that question?
Does wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops while preaching in a public school cafetorium on Saturday night ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms?
Does dimming the house lights while singing repetitive praise choruses to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars and bongos ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms?
Does wearing a three-piece suit and a power tie while preaching three points and a poem inside a white-columned, brick-red sanctuary on Sunday morning at 11.30 ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms?
How about wearing a polo shirt under a sport coat while preaching from an iPad a topical talk about getting along with jerks at work — after having sung 7.5 minutes of “blended” hymns and choruses — does that ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms?
What about emphasizing the sovereignty of God, or the moral responsibility of man, or the extent of the atonement, or the perseverance of the Savior, or a regenerate church membership — do these emphases ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms?
Parr and Crites provide the answer. Are you ready? Got your seatbelt on? Ready to be wowed? Prepared to hear the “secret” that WILL ensure increased numbers of conversions and subsequent baptisms in your church?
Here it is in one word: Intentionality.
Despite all the emphases noted above, they were all for near naught unless intentional evangelism was prominent in said formats. Styles of clothes, styles of worship, church location, age of pastor, etc., make no difference. Intentional evangelism does. No style (sans intentionality) guarantees effectiveness, nor prevents decline.
Reading “Evangelistic Effectiveness: Difference Makers in Mindsets and Methods” will provide details of the authors’ research, which the reader will find interesting, informative and inspiring. But most of all, the reader will discover the “mindsets that make a difference” in terms of conversions and baptisms in some of Georgia’s most successful, disciple-making churches.
According to the authors’ research:
Churches recording more conversions and baptisms are led by those willing to take risks, to face failure, and to try new methods outside the usual Southern Baptist box.
Churches recording more conversions and baptisms set goals, strive to meet them, and evaluate their efforts. “Ministry may keep one busy but may not produce the fruit God expects of his children. The congregation that aims at nothing will hit it every time,” write the authors. Such churches are “not satisfied with the status quo.”
(Personal note: I heard the late Dr. Adrian Rogers say that we are too satisfied with the status quo. And then he said, “I’ve seen the status, and it ain’t much to quo about.”)
Churches recording more conversions and baptisms engage their communities through a reputation of doctrinal conviction, biblical living, and tangible ministries such as food pantries, clothes closets, counseling and more.
The authors’ research also identified “methods that make a difference” which come from a sampling of more than 2,000 GBC churches, 55 percent of which responded affirmatively to the statement, “We have an intentional evangelism strategy.”
Based on the ratio of worship attendees to baptisms, churches with intentional evangelism strategies baptize 20 percent more people than churches not intentional about evangelism. And in raw numbers, total baptisms increase to three times as many.
As one comedian said, “You don’t hafta be a rocket surgeon to figure this out.”
What about weekly visitation programs — think they’re outdated, passé, unworkable? Think again. Pages 31-32 are eye-openers in this regard. The stats are astounding.
Churches recording more conversions and baptisms believe that, the more seeds sown, the more plants will grow (ala parable of the sower). Such churches also provide evangelism training for members.
Regarding revival meetings — the stats for conversions and baptisms strongly favor such churches that hold revival meetings as opposed to those that don’t.
Part 3 of the book — “Perceptions Versus Reality” — turns the calendar back, validating numerous methods of yesteryear that are thought outdated today. Statistical data prove the tried-and-true methodologies still work after lo, these many years.
Quoting from page 47, “The irony is that while pundits suggest that certain things do not work in evangelism, the data show that effective churches are often utilizing that which is supposed to be no longer relevant.”
The most effective evangelistic methodologies require “that the congregation get off the property and engage the unchurched in the community.”
What you have read thus far is but a small sampling of the gems ready to be mined from “Evangelistic Effectiveness: Difference Makers in Mindsets and Methods.” We owe a debt of gratitude to Parr and Crites for the years of work involved in their research. We owe it to our churches to read and implement the knowledge Parr and Crites relate. We owe it to our Lord and the lost to be busily about the work of an evangelist. Reading said book would help satisfy those debts.
Copies of “Evangelistic Effectiveness: Difference Makers in Mindsets and Methods” may be downloaded from Amazon.com. Or, one also may go to www.gabaptist.org.
In the weeks preceding this year’s John 3.16 Conference (see ad to right), SBCToday will post interviews with each person scheduled to speak at the Conference. The following interview is with Dr. Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. Dr. Caner remains in demand across the SBC as conference leader/speaker and preacher. The author of numerous books, Dr. Caner also travels internationally for academic purposes and for the sake of the Gospel. To learn more about Dr. Caner, go to www.emircaner.com.
1. How has the invitation to speak at the Conference impacted you?
As some know, my passion is the history of the Baptist and Free Church movements, a subject I have taught at three different SBC institutions over the course of 15 years; and, as such, I am thrilled to contribute to the ongoing conversation regarding our rich heritage.
Like Paul imploring the church in Corinth to “acknowledge such men” for they “refreshed my spirit and yours” (1 Cor. 16.18), so must we do likewise because we stand on the shoulders of giants, men and women who have invested their lives into sharing the Gospel, and it is imperative that we gain a deep appreciation of our forefathers.