Originally published in Western Recorder – www.westernrecorder.org
By Myriah Snyder and Todd Deaton
Elizabethtown—Christians encourage others by “stirring up the right action,” “showing up at the right places,” and “speaking up the right words,” Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s evangelism, church planting, and collegiate ministry team leader, told attenders during Reach Evangelism Conference 2017.
Focusing on the theme based on 2 Timothy 4:5, “Do the work of an evangelist,” Gray was among 10 speakers to address approximately 400 Kentucky Baptists gathered at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown March 27-28.
Speaking from Hebrews 10:24-25, Gray encouraged attenders to “rely on Christ” as their source of encouragement in ministry.
Gray also emphasized the importance of not simply preaching evangelism to a congregation, but also being the example for evangelism. He encouraged pastors to “be intentional in your personal evangelism. Find a way to be around lost people.”
“As you are waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, make sure you are about the business of strengthening and encouraging others who are involved and engaged in the same fight you’re in,” he said.
Gray continued, “It’s easy to be critical. It’s not as easy to come alongside a brother who also believes the gospel, who also wants people to be saved, but might not be coming at it the same way you’re going at it, and might be having more success than you’re having.”
“But that’s a calling to get in there and help each other out and speak out,” he added.
Frank Page, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke on evangelism “to the disillusioned and desperate.”
Jesus “refused to be impatient with sinners,” and He “refused to discourage those who were weary.” Christians should do the same, Page said.
“Our Lord Jesus refused to break those who were disillusioned and desperate, whether it was the woman at the well, whether it was the person with the withered arm, whether it was the widow who had lost her son, Jesus refused to put down the desperate and disillusioned,” Page said.
Breaking into song, he sang, “‘Jesus sought me, when a stranger wondering from the fold of God. He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood,’ Is that you?”
Page continued, “Let me tell you, there are people in your community who are wondering from the fold of God, and he to rescue us interposed his precious blood, and he wants to reach out to those who are discouraged.”
“Oh my friends, Jesus cares, and we should too,” he added.
Ron Edmondson, pastor of Immanuel Baptist in Lexington, spoke on reaching “the angry and the antagonistic,” pointing out that those who are hostile and prone to agitation are some of the most difficult people to try to minister to.
Edmondson presented three things that must be done to reach those who are angry and antagonistic. “We have to love people,” “we have to treat people we love like people we love,” and “we need to speak truth in love when presented the opportunity,” he said.
“The truth is there’s a world outside the church who has been injured in some way by the church,” Edmondson continued. “You see, a lot of those who are angry and antagonistic have never known a Christian who would truly love them, truly act like they do, and when the moment comes, share truth in love.”
Referencing 1 Peter 4:8, he added, “May you and I be those who cover over sins with our love.”
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, encouraged churches to also show an interest in reaching those who are often unseen, overlooked and marginalized.
“Are you passionate for those who can do nothing for you?” Smith asked.
Telling about watching a fishing show with his wife in which fishermen wanted a certain kind of fish, of a certain size, weight and quality, Smith contended, “If we are fishers of men for Jesus Christ, we don’t just notice the fat salmon. … Are the fish over here fatter, or are the fish over here fatter? No, we’re just fishing.”
Smith said he would sometimes sarcastically quipped to the seminary students whom he taught, “It’s amazing how God is so uncreative,” because they all said God wanted them to plant churches in suburban neighborhoods.
“We’ve got to get a mindset for something other than what we perceive to be the fat fish,” he said. “You can tell that you might be overlooking the marginalized when you don’t really think about souls or people,” but instead think of them as “giving units.”
“Please don’t over look people as you seek to press toward sustainability, church planter,” Smith pleaded. “Don’t overlook people as you seek to expand your staff and facility, medium-size church pastor,” he continued. “Don’t over look people as you seek to meet your budget, larger churches.”
Ricky Chelette, director of Living Hope Ministries in Arlington, Texas, reminded Kentucky pastors, “You don’t need a PhD or MRE or a degree of any kind to talk to somebody who is in need.
“What you need is a heart that has been given to Jesus and a willingness to reach out” to those who are confused and hurting, he said, adding, “I think you have that.”
Referencing 2 Corinthians 5:3, Chelette highlighted three Christlike attitudes that will help churches in reaching those who are confused and hurting: 1) look past the problem to embrace the person, 2) see past the sin to point someone to the Savior, and 3) see past the immediate to the eternal.
“Can you see the saint in the sinner?” he asked. “We’ve got to have a vision for what people can be, not just for what that are at this moment.”
Alex Himaya, senior pastor of theCHURCHat in Tulsa, Okla., challenged, “Christianity is a story for those who have a past, and in your city, there are people who have one.”
In retelling the story of Rahab the harlot in Joshua 2, whom Matthew included in Jesus’ blood line, Himaya observed, “Your people probably wouldn’t invite her to a Bible study. They probably wouldn’t sit with her at a Starbucks. And yet, your Heavenly Father wove her into your faith story and into my faith story.”
Speaking of those whom some might view as disgraceful or undesirable, he said, “We don’t view them as reachable by God all the time, and that’s a sin. Because God loves them and He wants us to go after them.
“Here’s the good news: Their sin, in their mind, might distance them from God, but their sin does not distance God from them,” Himaya asserted.
“He is pursing them and He loves them,” he said. “And the invitation of Christianity is to sinners like you and me,” he added, declaring that God saves people while they are still sinners.
According to Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, “We are living in the greatest days of Christianity to be alive.”
“There are more people coming to faith in Christ today on a daily basis around the world than at any other single time in human history,” he emphasized
And, in spite of the world’s astronomical numbers of lostness that it would take more than a lifetime to count, Pitman maintained, “Yet God is on the move, penetrating the darkness.” He challenged churches to “rise up and join in what God is doing in ushering in the harvest.”
Observing that this generation increasingly is becoming “urbanites,” he urged, “God’s call on our lives must not simply be to a church, but to a city.”
The question pastors often ask themselves is, “Is God calling me to this church?” But the better question is, “Is God calling me to this city?” Pitman said. “I find it interesting that the world is moving to the cities, while the church is moving (away) from the cities,” he added.
“What if we got radical, and instead of having meetings on how to grow churches, we start talking about how do we penetrate this city with the gospel?” Pitman proposed.
Declaring the need for a ‘pronoun awakening’ in the church today, he urged, “It’s time to stop talking about how to grow our church, and start talking about how to build His kingdom.”
Others on the REACH program included Kevin Ezell, president of North American Mission Board; Adam Greenway, dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Micah Fries, pastor of Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. (WR)