by Dan Nelson
For 28 years, Dan Nelson has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Camarillo, Calif. Pastor Nelson will submit a series of posts to SBCToday about people who influenced him for the sake of evangelism.
When I arrived at William Carey College in the fall of 1971, I was anxious to know who my roommate would be, who I discovered upon arrival was another ministerial student who came from more of a country place that I had in Agricola, Miss. Dexter Truesdale, hailed from Bogia, Fla., which was east of Pensacola, near Century. Dexter was engaged and later married the next year. That year was a memorable year for me because God had given me a fellow ministerial student who was a soul winner as a roommate.
Our first mission field was the athletic dorm at Carey called Polk Hall. Most of the athletes there were not Christians, and were recruited for their athletic ability. And although we didn’t see much results among the athletes, at least they knew that to preachers were available to talk with them about Jesus.
Before the year was over, both of us would pastor small country churches in Perry County Mississippi. However, we started sharing our faith on and off campus before we became pastor at these locations. We would speak at the Hattiesburg City Jail every Monday, and then on Friday nights go to the laundromats and at The University of Southern Mississippi University and share Christ with whomever was there. In the jail, I would take one Monday while Dexter took the other and preached to the guys there. Some started flushing toilets and turned the TV up. But others listened, and we prayed with some to receive Christ. As to the other places we shared the Lord, we had many interesting conversations that resulted in a few coming to Christ.
After we became pastors of our respective churches, we would visit on each other’s church field. We also preached a revival meeting together in Dexter’s home church. Later, Dexter and I went to other churches as pastor. We graduated from seminary and had families. We always maintained contact throughout the years. Dexter is one of the most aggressive soul-winning pastors I know. He schedules time to go visiting, and will even go door-to-door, seeking to share Christ with as many people as possible.
Dexter has preached in India and the Philippines in various evangelistic crusades. He has conducted evangelistic tent meetings and crusades now for the last decade or more while still serving as pastor of Flag Chapel Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. He has conducted two evangelistic services with our church in California in 1990 and this last summer. Each meeting has featured people trusting Christ as Savior in their homes as we visited during the week. Several weeks after his meetings with us, we have seen an upswing in baptisms.
I learned two important methods from watching Dexter share the gospel with people. He is a very dynamic preacher, who really preaches the Word and gives a tremendous invitation to come to Christ in his preaching. He preaches with urgency and evangelistic fervor. Yet, in his soul-winning efforts he very gracious with people, listening to them and patiently sharing the gospel with them. You can sense his compassion and commitment to share the gospel.
He turns it down a notch and is very effective when people see he is listening to them and seeking to find out where they are spiritually.
Another important method Dexter uses is to stay in one book of the Bible in sharing Christ with people. He led someone to Christ in a home in our visitation by asking, “Do you know if you would go to heaven if you were to die?” The lady was unsure, and then he asked, “Could I show you how you could know that?” He goes on to say, “There is a book in the Bible that tells how we go to heaven when we die: It is the book of Romans.” He then shares the Roman Road scriptures in Rom. 3:10, 23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-13. He patiently listens to people and then says, “Do you understand what I have been sharing?” If they understand, he will ask them to pray and accept Christ. He then thoroughly follows up on people, seeking to immediately ground them in what they should do next. It is a concise but effective witness.
The combination of a caring, listening ear plus a concise witness has resulted in Dexter leading many to Christ in his ministry. I thank the Lord I had a roommate like him for a year and learned how to be bold, but caring in sharing my faith. He taught how to just keep going and going so that one day there will be a breakthrough in sharing our faith with someone or someone else we deliberately do not try to evangelize. The evangelistic zeal I saw in Dexter influenced me so much that I have sought to find a witnessing partner always when I go share my faith. We target people in special meetings and we continue to pray for them regardless of their response to our gospel witness.
God, give us more pastors like Dexter, who will keep to the business at hand and never be diverted from sharing his witness for Christ. We will never fail to reap some sort of harvest with that type of focus.