Southern Baptist pastors participate in evangelism workshop

Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., was among Southern Baptist leaders who shared insights, experience and best ideas for mobilizing church members during the Engage 24 workshop hosted by the North American Mission Board. (NAMB)An Engage 24 workshop was exactly what Pastor Bruce Smith Sr. apparently needed. Some could say it is what he was searching for.

"I'm just so excited I came," Smith said of the evangelism forum hosted at the North American Mission Board building in Alpharetta, Ga., Oct. 4-5. "The speakers were funny, on point and validated what I am already doing in my church when it comes to evangelism. I needed that encouragement because church planting can be hard. And yes, there are many things I haven't started doing when it comes to evangelizing that I plan on doing when I get back."

Smith planted New Generation Baptist Church Fellowship four years ago in McDonough, Ga., and continues to serve as lead pastor.

"Church planting pastors face a lot of obstacles that come from inside the church, as well as outside the church," Smith said. "Yet, it's great to come to workshops like Engage 24 where you learn how to be more nonconventional—a church without walls that can touch a lot of people—through the power and understanding of evangelism."

Engage 24's theme, "Evangelism Leadership for the Pastor," featured speakers like Ronnie Floyd, Ted Traylor, Tim Dowdy, Hal Seed and James Merritt.

Merritt, senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., passionately professed during the final session, "The Gospel is exactly the power we need. It's what we believe in. We must be pastors who will share it." Other sessions the 110 attendees sat in on included topics on how to use campaigns to engage non-Christians in a community, evangelism versus fellowship and the seven imperatives for evangelism.

Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared the seven key imperatives of evangelism: understanding calling, defining vision, addressing warfare, staying in prayer, maintaining an evangelistic culture within lives and churches, being pastors and seeing the importance of people.

"Pastors, you need to return to understanding your role in a community," said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. "You're there to share and plant the seed of knowledge that anyone can have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He really did die for every person in your community so this much depends on you … you must reach them with the Gospel."

Floyd reiterated the importance of knowing that a pastor's No. 1 calling is to evangelize, which simply means "reaching the lost for Jesus Christ."

During a question-and-answer session, pastors Dowdy and Traylor shared how their pride and joy comes from hearing someone thank them for sharing the Gospel.

"When someone comes up to me and says, 'Thank you for telling me about Jesus,' I just respond by saying I hope to hear that more each day," said Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. "We're Gospel preachers. We've got to make sharing His Word a priority."

Engage 24 attendee and youth outreach pastor Lee Taylor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., noted that "evangelism can be so misunderstood."

"Sometimes, it's seen as getting the de-churched to church when it should be more about getting them to Jesus," he said.

Though Taylor's youth program already boasts a "live, work and play on mission" approach to evangelism, Taylor thought Engage 24's definition of evangelism was spot on.

"In our program at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, we explain how to be positive witnesses and reach neighbors for Christ where you live, work and play," Taylor said. "But now, I have some time-tested methods to expand our evangelism from pastors who have been successfully sharing the Gospel for years—outside the church."

Seed, who planted and pastors New Song Community Church in Oceanside, Ca., shared Taylor's perspective on evangelism when Seed spoke the second day of Engage 24 about evangelism through campaigns.

"There are roughly 52 days where people can hear the Gospel at a church," Seed said. "Our goal is to come up with more ways to reach people, outside the church and outside of Sunday service with the Gospel. That's where we get creative and consistent and come up with campaigns that involve books people can read every day. People are curious about what Christians believe, so we've got to build on that and be ready to share the Gospel when they ask."

Joel Southerland, NAMB evangelism executive director, reinforced the importance of resources like Engage 24, where pastors can be encouraged and learn more about improving as a pastor.

"We'll definitely have another one with a different flavor to helping pastors pastor well," Southerland said. "It's good to be a resource that pastors can use to receive the nuts and bolts of their ministry. Engage 24 exists to encourage pastors to stay on mission and evangelism is a large part of that."

To discover more about how you and your church can incorporate great ideas for evangelism strategy, visit www.namb.net/your-church-on-mission-blog.

Josie Rabbitt is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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