Evangelism: Our First Priority

Barrett DukeAll Enews

Above all else, Gospel ministry should be first and foremost about telling lost people that Jesus died for their sins and that they can have peace with God and eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, many things are called Gospel work. That raises concerns for me, because if everything is about the Gospel, then we have no way of discerning if some of those things are more important than others.

The church of our Lord Jesus does many good things, and rightly so. We should care about the whole person and the whole culture. I’m grateful for every ministry our churches have that helps to bring the love and light of God in Christ into this world. While we are engaged in these various important ministries, however, we must never lose sight of the fact that our most important calling from Jesus is to share the good news that people can saved through faith in Him. Of all the things that churches can, and should, do this is the most important thing.

In fact, sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus is the one thing that only the church can do. There are government programs and private programs designed to meet human needs. Many businesses give some of their profits to helping meet human needs. Many millions of people with no relationship with God are involved in helping to alleviate human suffering. The thing they don’t do is share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the church, God’s people, have been given that task.

Jesus gave us that task when he told His disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20a). The first thing you must do in order to make disciples is share the gospel of salvation through Jesus with them and help them place their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior. A lost person is not a disciple. A lost person living a good life is not a disciple.

Evangelism is the unspoken foundation of our Lord’s Great Commission to His church. Sadly, too many churches and Christians seem to be losing sight of this bedrock of disciple-making. Fewer and fewer churches across Southern Baptist life are even training their members in evangelism. It’s as though they’re saying, “We’ve been there and done that,” and they’ve moved on to other things. As a result, much of an entire new generation is growing up in the church without ever being challenged to share their faith or being intentionally equipped to do it.

I’m grateful for the many Southern Baptist churches in Montana and across the country that still prioritize evangelism, but our baptism statistics tell us that too many are not. Too many churches are doing very little of any kind of evangelistic outreach. Others are immersed principally in human needs ministry. We are feeding lost people, counseling lost people, training lost people, clothing lost people, and loving on lost people, but we are seldom winning them to faith in Jesus. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad for all these other ministries to people in need. I agree that we must meet the needs people know they have before they will let us talk to them about the needs they don’t know they have. Oftentimes, we must earn the right to tell people about Jesus.

My concern is that too often those who are immersed in these very important, humanitarian ministries are not trained to share their faith in an effective way when the opportunity arises in response to these ministries. I’m concerned that we are making lost people more comfortable and more secure in this life while neglecting to address the greater need of their eternal security.

Let me ask you, when is the last time you held a witness training event in your church? How many members in your church are ready to share the gospel with the lost people you are reaching out to every week with your helping ministries?

I hope you can answer that a high percentage of the members of your church have been trained to effectively share their faith with the lost. If not, I hope you’ll agree that this needs to change. It isn’t only the pastor’s job to win people to faith in Jesus. Jesus gave that task to all His disciples. Pastors, you must multiply yourselves in the work of evangelism.

The MTSBC is committed to assist our churches with that. On our website, you can find numerous tools that you can use to help people in your church learn to effectively share their faith. Go to the Resources tab under the Church Strategies section on our website and you’ll find evangelism resources that you can use to help train people in your church to share their faith. One new resource is called Every Believer a Witness. It offers a couple different ways for you to begin to train people in your church to share their faith effectively. Your MTSBC staff is available to come offer witnessing clinics, too. Ask one of us. We’ll be overjoyed to spend time with your church members to help them become better witnesses for the Lord.

Maybe you’re concerned that there isn’t much interest in your church for such a training opportunity. First, I think you’d be surprised how many people in your church wish they were better equipped to share their faith. Second, it may be that they need you to start talking more about your own witnessing experiences so they can begin to catch a vision for what could be. Third, I encourage you to find someone in your church to take under your wing and let that person join you when you talk to people about faith in Jesus. Fourth, just begin with the folks who are interested. Even if it’s one or two to start with, you will still have more ready witnesses in your church.

The key to your church’s growth is evangelism, not transfer membership or humanitarian ministry. The church rises or falls on its determination to share the saving message of Jesus in as many ways as possible, and that includes through the personal witnessing of its members. The MTSBC is committed to redoubling our efforts to assist our churches in this crucial ministry. One way we will do this is by offering a witness training breakout session every time our convention gets together. At the very least, that will be at MPACT in the Spring and at our annual meeting in the Fall. Maybe we’ll only have 3 or 4 people attend. We’ll take that and begin there.

I pray that all Southern Baptist churches will reclaim our first priority. Let’s all get back to our basics and tell everyone in our communities how they can know the God we have come to know and love through faith in Jesus. I applaud those of you who are already prioritizing evangelism. I pray many others will join you. If we will do that, we will see a great outpouring of God’s Spirit all across Montana, and our churches, your church, will find a new energy and excitement for the Lord. I’m looking forward to what God will do as we reclaim our unique purpose of telling the lost about the Savior.

About the Author

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke is the Executive Director and Treasurer for the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.