During my 40-plus years as a Missouri Baptist, I cannot remember a convention with this week’s theme: DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST! I know of evangelism conferences where this was the theme, but not a state convention.
DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST was the charge given by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his son in the ministry. (2 Tim. 4:5). There is much we can learn from Paul’s injunction that can send us home from this Convention better equipped to see our state come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
For instance, Timothy was a pastor, not an evangelist. At first glance, we would assume this was a charge to an evangelist. Not so. Even a pastor is exhorted to be an evangelist! Looking up “Evangelism” and “Evangelist” in the Concordance, I find those terms are only used three times in the English New Testament (Ephesians 4:11, Acts 21:8 and here in 2 Timothy 4:5). However, Tom Johnston, evangelism professor at Midwestern, gave me a paper he has written which clarifies that “Evangelism” is found in the Greek New Testament more than fifty times! Most of the time, “Evangelism” is translated “preach” (Luke 4:43, I Cor. 1:17, Rom. 1:15, etc.). I wonder how the spiritual landscape of Missouri would be changed by the next Convention if every pastor took this charge personally and went home to “evangelize”?
Again, our Convention theme reminds us that Evangelism is something we “DO”. It’s easy to read about Evangelism, and even easier to talk about Evangelism. However, our record of Evangelism as Missouri Baptists shows we do not do a lot of Evangelism. Consider this, during 2008 (the 2009 records aren’t completed yet), Missouri Baptists reported 11, 413 baptisms. Thankfully, that figure is 3 percent over the previous year. However, when you do the math, it took 47 Missouri Baptists to baptize one that year! Consider this possibility: What if every Pastor would win and baptize one person a month in this next year, it would mean Missouri Baptist Churches would baptize almost 24,000 by this time next year!! Let’s pray this week that Pastor’s will return home committed to DO the work of an Evangelist!
Finally, our Scriptural Convention theme reminds us that effort will be involved. Evangelism is WORK. I remember John Bisagno speaking at one of our conferences 30 years ago while he was pastor of the fast-growing, First Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He related that the Sunday School Board invited him to come and tell them how and why FBC was winning and baptizing so many. He began by turning to a chalk board and writing on it a word of four letters: W O R K. It is not an easy task. To do the Work of an Evangelist entails blood, sweat and tears. You will become weary. You will lose sleep. Priorities must be rearranged. Schedules will be upset. Fishermen know they go fishing when the fish are ready, not necessarily when they are. The fish must be found. They don’t just show up and jump in the boat!
What if we took the viewpoint of the veteran rescue diver, played by Kevin Costner, in the movie The Guardian. At the end of the movie, an up-and-coming hot-shot diver asks the retiring legendary diver, “What’s your number?” He wants to know how many rescues the record holder carries. The young and competitive diver is assuming he’ll hear 200 or 300 rescues. Instead, Costner’s character replies, “What’s my number? My number is 22.” The young guy is shocked. “Twenty-two,” he says with great disappointment. “I thought you’d saved many more than that.” The veteran looks back over his shoulder and says, “Twenty-two is the number of people that I lost. That’s the only number I ever counted.”
What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST!
By Gary Taylor
MBC Director of Evangelism