JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptists should tear down barriers to evangelism by focusing on Christ Jesus while steadily engaging in gospel conversations, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Brad Bennett told The Pathway in a recent interview.
According to a 2019 survey published by LifeWay Research, more than half of those who attend church at least monthly say they engaged in no evangelistic activity during a six month period.
“Sharing the good news that Jesus paid for our sins through His death on the cross and rose again to bring us new life is the mission of the church,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “but it does not appear to be the priority of churchgoers.”
Likewise, Southern Baptists have often struggled with barriers preventing gospel conversations. But, in 2021, they have the opportunity renew their evangelistic efforts.
Brad Bennett, Director of Making Disciples with the Missouri Baptist Convention, identifies evangelism’s greatest obstacle as prayerlessness. Bennett notes, “we do not pray for pre-Christians as we should [and] we have not asked the Lord to break our hearts for the lost.”
While it’s important for churches to provide evangelism training, Bennet believes Gospel conversations start with the Christian’s heart towards the Lord. Instead of focusing on specific methodologies or strategies, evangelism is born out of faithful prayer.
“If we are not praying, being intentional and broken for the people without Christ, chances are we will never share the good news of Christ.”
For some Southern Baptists, the old adage “preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary” is attractive since it removes the barrier of engaging in Gospel conversations. However, Bennett said the Bible is clear that the Gospel is the verbal message of good news regarding Jesus Christ. Yet gospel conversations naturally flow from an observable godly lifestyle.
“Our lifestyles should reflect Christ in all we do, but the Lord definitely intends us to use words as well when it comes to evangelism (See Romans 10:14-15),” Bennett said. “You see all throughout Acts many intentional Gospel conversations taking place (See, for example, Acts 17:16-34; 22:1-21; 26:1-29).”
Though God has chosen believers to communicate the Gospel, Christians also must recognize Gospel conversations depend upon God’s work rather than man’s efforts, he said. Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), but God is the one who determines the effectiveness of evangelism. Salvation only occurs when God’s saving grace softens a sinner’s heart.
At the heart of evangelism, Bennett said, is this: “The Lord has chosen to use ordinary people to do the extraordinary. … The best way to view evangelism is that we have an opportunity to be a part of life transformation, an invitation by an almighty God to be a tool for a mission that is greater than ourselves with an eternal impact.”
Though Gospel conversations might have awkward moments and take time to build personal relationships, Bennett affirmed that the work is worth the effort. Starting with those closest to you, Bennett recommends spending intentional time in prayer, asking the Lord to soften your heart to the lost. Rather than presume evangelism only occurs in formal settings, embrace that “your largest mission field is right where you live.”
Ultimately, having the right perspective is essential to evangelism. The Gospel is all about Jesus. Christ calls his followers to faithfully serve Him, not to save the lost. Rather than worrying about people’s opinions, Christians ought to care only of Christ’s opinion. Instead of shouldering the burden of an unbeliever’s salvation, entrust their soul to a faithful Savior.
And rather than worrying about perfecting a foolproof evangelism strategy, Bennett said, “Remember this is not about you, it’s all about Jesus! It’s not our responsibility to save anyone but the Lord’s alone. The main thing the Lord wants is our willingness, sensitivity and availability.”
The MBC’s Making Disciples team is currently booking opportunities for training in evangelism and discipleship. To receive this training at their churches, Missouri Baptists can contact Bennett at BBennett@mobaptist.org.