MBC Youth Evangelism Conference
trains students, transforms lives
By Allen Palmeri
August 31, 2004
ST. LOUIS – The life verses of Scott Brawner, student evangelism specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), were the foundation of the first annual MBC Youth Evangelism Conference Aug. 13-14 at the Millennium Hotel, which drew 562 registrants.
Brawner breathes Rom. 12:1-2 and 1 Cor. 15:10 as he continues to blend evangelism, discipleship and missions. The former Army Ranger does not hide his passion for teaching students how to better connect the first two ingredients — evangelism to discipleship. The third is FaithWorks!, the international missions organization he founded six years ago. Brawner is president of FaithWorks! in addition to his MBC duties.
“I believe God has given us all of our spiritual gifts, physical talents and our experiences to bring God glory,” Brawner said. “The mission work that I do, the places that I go, had I not had my upbringing, my military training and experiences, I would not be able to go into the places that I do.
“We are told that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may know what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect. Now at the same time, Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:10, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me did not prove vain.’ If that is true, and we’ve had all of these people who have prayed these (salvation) prayers and then the FBI can’t even find some of these people, how can you say that the grace of God does not prove vain towards people? They’re not involved in the body of the church, they’re not involved in evangelism and they’re not involved in passionately pursuing God. How can you say they’re saved?”
Brawner can say that at least 23 students were saved as a result of the Youth Evangelism Conference. That’s how many came forward Aug. 13 at the invitation of evangelist Tony Nolan. Brawner deliberately brought in challenging speakers like Nolan, from TNT Ministries, and Matt Kearns, campus evangelism associate from the North American Mission Board, to talk about hard concepts like godly sorrow leading sinners to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) and the history behind the flat baptism line of 400,000 for the Southern Baptist Convention from 1940-2004.
Brawner is specific with numbers. There were 80 “decisions for Christ” Aug. 13, but 56 of those were rededications, not salvations. In addition, one person surrendered to full-time ministry.
Kearns, who grew up in Festus, was brought in for one purpose—to train adults who work in youth ministry.
“He is there to invest in our leaders, and he’s not one of those guys who’s just going to take it to the first level of ‘Hey, guys, let’s just do better, let me pray for you,’” Brawner said. “He’s going into the nuts and bolts of ministry. He’s casting a vision for where we as kingdom builders need to be going.”
Brawner wants a richer blend of evangelism, discipleship and missions. Mike Cooper, MBC Sunday School youth specialist, listened intently with Brawner as Kearns spoke about why this is needed.
“What we’ve done in youth ministry over the last several years, while it’s been nice, it’s not doing anything,” Cooper said. “We’re losing the war in our culture. We’re just not really impacting our culture like we need to.”
Brawner and Cooper said that evangelism and discipleship should be viewed as two sides of a coin, not two separate coins.
“Biblical discipleship and biblical evangelism are not separate,” Brawner said. “They are related. In fact, I would say they are one and the same.
“In the Great Commission it says ‘go therefore into all the world and make disciples.’ The word ‘go’ is better translated ‘as you go.’ So it’s not just getting on the bus or getting on the plane and going somewhere, but it’s as you go to work, as you go to school, as you go to get your hair cut or you buy groceries, you make disciples. The word has to do with investing in people, and teaching them everything. The ‘and’ is not there as a separator. It’s a link. So there’s a place for large-event ministry, but if it doesn’t boil down to one-on-one, relationship evangelism, it’s never going to work. You’ve got to boil it down to assimilation into the church, exacting discipleship and discipline for the purpose of godliness in order to go and share your faith.”
Brawner said that many of the “baptisms” out of event evangelism in Southern Baptist life produce “disciples” who never go to Sunday School.
“If they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, it is all for nothing,” he said. “We have to move away from the thought that the big event is the end, because it’s not. It is the beginning.”
How might this blending of evangelism, discipleship and missions take place? Brawner said the key is Rom. 12:1-2.
“I can look at where I was before I was a Christian, and I can look at where I got saved, and I can look at the milestones and mile markers of my life as God has been transforming me,” Brawner said. “I can never go back to what I was before, because of the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“You unite with the body of the church, and then a process of discipleship and mentorship begins to take place. That way you are filled up with the Spirit and transformed by the renewing of your mind. That word ‘transform’ is a metamorphosis that takes place. Just as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, the butterfly can never go back to being a caterpillar. The problem is, a lot of folks in our churches aren’t being transformed by the renewing of their mind. That’s why they can compartmentalize the way they live.”
Nolan, who wore jeans, tennis shoes and a Mr. Bubble T-shirt as he spoke to the students on Friday night, said he is tired of hearing youth pastors say things like, “My kids are sinful, but that’s just teenagers.” Nolan’s Gospel presentation is aimed at producing sober-minded converts.
“There’s a marriage there with the faith and the repentance coming together in contriteness,” he said. “When we live in a postmodern culture, with everything telling kids, ‘It’s not your fault, it’s a disorder,’ they don’t see their personal responsibility, that they have violated the law of God. So there’s no repentance, and without it, it’s a fallacious attempt to gain God’s salvation.”
Brawner believes that it is better to hold a youth evangelism conference where 23 students are broken and converted than to hold a large event in a stadium somewhere where 230 students “decide” for Christ.
“What we get in a lot of these events is people who feel sorry for themselves but they have no godly sorrow where God brings about that repentant heart that says, ‘I have to go from this place changed.’” Brawner said.
The 56 students who re-dedicated their lives to Christ, as well as the one who was called into full-time ministry, are just as important as the 23 salvations, Brawner explained. These students and the friends who supported them are the Missouri Baptist missionaries who are commissioned to reach public school campuses and communities throughout the state.
Students were equipped with two evangelistic tools. The first, called “Connect,” is a strategy where students connect personally with God, then one non-Christian friend, who in turn connects to Christ, who then connects to a local church. The second tool is the FiSH Strategy, which helps students establish an evangelistic presence on a school campus and incorporate youth reached there into the local church. The websites for these strategies are www.connectwithgod.com and www.campusrevolution.net.
“I know that they’re facing a spiritual battle, so we have got to prepare them as much as we can for that battle,” Brawner said.
A total of 618 people attended the conference.