Category Archives for Evangelism

‘Tis the season for soul-winning for SBC president

January 11, 2017

By Will Hall, Editor
Louisiana Baptist Message

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Baptist Message and is used by permission.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – While Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention sees it as an opportunity to put the exclamation point in “Jesus is the reason for the season!” by soul-winning, and this year that means 400 new believers are professing “Jesus is Lord!” because of a Christmas program.

Steve Gaines, pastor of the historic Bellevue Baptist Church in the Cordova area of Memphis, Tenn., is quick to credit others, with special praise for the tradition of soul-winning at his congregation to the leadership of former long-time pastor Adrian Rogers, as well as the vision for the presentation of the “Singing Christmas Tree” to former music minister James Whitmire.

Still, under Gaines’ leadership this flagship congregation continues to use every opportunity, especially Christmas, to reach others for Christ, and the evidence is in the results.

During 2015, the church averaged more than 7,000 in worship attendance and witnessed almost 600 baptisms – that is a per capita average of one baptism resulting for every 12 people who are active attenders (or 12:1). For the Southern Baptist Convention, the ratio is about 19:1 for established churches and even SBC church plants only achieve a 14:1 relationship (The smaller the proportion, the better. It means it takes fewer members to reach more lost people).

Moreover, Gaines is adamant about engaging the new believer for discipleship.

“We really try to ‘conserve the fruit,’” Gaines told the Baptist Message.

He used the “Singing Christmas Tree” outreach as an example.

“I share the Gospel at the end and lead them in a time of prayer and decision making. Then I tell them we have two gifts for them, a new Bible and a booklet, ‘Now That You’re Saved.’”

In the picture atop this article, Steve Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., prepares to baptize a young girl on Jan. 1. She is one of 50 new believers he baptized that day. Gaines hopes to re-invigorate soul-winning as “the main thing” among Southern Baptists.

“It tells them the main things they need to do, now that they’ve given their hearts to Christ,” Gaines said, describing the resource as an outline of the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship and such.

The gifts are distributed at several tents where spiritual counselors engage the new believers and begin the process of involving them in discipleship, which results in many of the converts being baptized.

Mark Blair, the minister of music who now directs the “Singing Christmas Tree” evangelism event, said the effort is very thorough.

“We have a team of people who follow up with every person who made any kind of decision,” he said. “The information is shared with Life Group leaders and ministers, and every contact is followed up on in the next week.”

Gaines said they now use this same system at Easter with great results, saying the unusual circumstances of these special services drives the process.

He said in both cases “most lost people come with family or with friends. So they don’t really have the ability or the luxury of staying behind and talking a long time that particular time.”

“We’ll have 200 or 300 people get saved every Easter,” he continued, “where before we were seeing three or four, maybe 10 at the most get saved.”

Blair said one of the special aspects of the “Singing Christmas Tree” effort is that it involves nearly 500 students from 4th grade through college – a signature feature of Whitmire’s former leadership.

Blair said what is special about these young people is the spiritual focus they embrace, starting with rehearsals which begin as early as August.

“We talk about it every rehearsal,” Blair said. “In some way, in every rehearsal from Labor Day forward, we’re talking about the ‘why’ and not the ‘what.’ We talk about inviting unchurched people.”

Gaines said that is the DNA of Bellevue Baptist.

“I don’t care what it is – funeral or wedding – we are reaching out to the lost,” he said. “We don’t do anything without sharing the Gospel. It is just part of who we are.

He wants the same thing for the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I can’t make anybody do anything,” he said. “But, I can lead by example and inspire people.

“People are going to Hell and we don’t have time not to make sharing the Gospel the main thing.”

Gaines closed his conversation with the Baptist Message by giving an example of the results of Bellevue’s emphasis on soul-winning at Christmas.

“A family came up to me this year and shared they were from somewhere in New Jersey,” he recalled.

“The wife told me, ‘We came down here two years ago and my husband prayed and asked Christ to come into his life, and I want you to know he’s a brand new man.’”

The best part, Gaines said is that now the wife is saved, too.

“‘We both were baptized,’ she told me, ‘and now we are in church.’”

‘Tis the season for soul-winning!

 

Why I Practice Cold-Call Evangelism and Why You Should Too!

December 14, 2016


By: Brandon Kiesling,
Instructor in Evangelism in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions,
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This article originally appeared at Theological Matters and is used by permission.

Many of us have received a phone call from an unknown number and, upon answering, found out that the person calling is a random salesperson from a different state attempting to sell the next revolutionary product on the market. When these calls come to our cell phones, many people get annoyed and simply hang up the phone. I, personally, have received several of these calls over the years and have responded in a number of ways. Sometimes, I politely tell the salesperson that I am not interested and hang up the phone. Other times, I ask them to please put me on the “do not call” list. However, if the salesperson calls at the right time and offers a deal that simply cannot be refused, I have “taken the bait” and purchased the item or service. Continue reading

Do Spirituality and Universal Moral Consciousness Point to God?

November 30, 2016

keith-eitelBy: Keith Eitel, Dean
Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

This article originally appeared at TheologicalMatters.com  and is used by permission.

Arriving in Cameroon, West Africa, to teach at a Baptist seminary for six years beginning in 1976 was quite a journey. This was true physically because of the long travel, emotionally due to cultural adjustments, and spiritually because of an awakening as to how Africans generally see spirits replete in every person and thing—living or dead.

One incident illustrates this well. Once, I and two other missionaries were summoned to our local chief’s fish farming pond. Despite warnings, two of his sons had gone swimming; only one returned. The chief’s workers were tasked to get us to retrieve the body of the drowned son. We foreign missionaries were not afraid of the pond or the spirits that the Africans thought inhabited the dangerous waters, especially its water witches.

Eventually, the whole compound erupted in mourning because it turned out the boy had died. We lifted his limp body out, and soon they buried him. My wife, a registered nurse, was there to provide assistance if she could resuscitate the boy. However, they did not let her out of the Land Rover. As a female, they feared the water witch (a.k.a. Mommy Water) could inhabit her and cause those of us swimming around for the body to drown also.

This worldview spiritually charges natural realities with non-material meanings. Traditional religious beliefs abound and fill lives with the fear of spirits, both personal and impersonal.

Universally every culture is charged with these types of spirituality and moral consciousness to form expectations for right and wrong actions. Some individual people deviate from this pattern, but their cultures have mores.

Immanuel Kant (1704-1824) argued that the universal reality of moral conscience demonstrates the existence of God, or at least a god. Kant proposed that a sense of inherent duty was the end of practical reason. Simply stated, since every culture or people group exhibits morality (though variously defined by specific belief systems), then there must be an “all-powerful will … that we hope to attain the highest good.”[1]  According to Oxford philosopher Samuel Enoch Stumpf (1918-1998), “The moral universe also compels us to postulate the existence of God as the grounds for the necessary connection between virtue and happiness.”[2]

Because all cultures have a traditional spirituality or religion, could this imply that both moral conscience (à la Kant) and consequential religious systems point to divinity and original religious impulse, perhaps even original monotheism?[3] The process seems as old as the Garden of Eden. After God instructed Adam and Eve to care for the Garden, they were told to eat freely of every tree except the one God designated to avoid; the serpent then came and tempted them.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:4-7)

Herein lies the essence of homemade or designer religion, a humanly constructed alternative to God’s expressed will. It constitutes sin. The Fall was human modification of the basis for relationship and communion with God. Alternative proposals to God’s design degenerate into the worship of creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18) and distort moral conscience and communion with God. Nakedness was real before the Fall, but moral consciousness and actual sensation of guilt came once Adam and Eve chose to embrace the serpent’s design for their human ways and “the eyes of both of them were opened.”

African Traditional Religions presume a personal, high god that created the world and left it to run in place. Animistic tendencies appear layered in and through all of the world’s major religions, even Christianity in some traditions. The universality of such spiritual impulse points us to the self-revealing one true God of the Bible. In a time when pluralism and ideological chaos swirls, it is encouraging to recognize the truths all around us and to have an anchor in the storm. Search for meaning and purpose builds off of a centered life settled in God’s will, not our designer religions.

 


 

[1]Samuel Enoch Stumpf, Philosophy: History and Problems New York : McGraw-Hill, 1971) 326, cites Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956).
[2]Stumpf, Philosophy: History and Problems, 326.
[3]Articulation of the theory and implications of original monotheism are convincingly rendered by Wilhelm Schmidt, The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories, New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1972; Winfried Corduan, A Tapestry of Faiths: The Common Threads between Christianity & World Religions, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002); Winfried Corduan, In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

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