Evangelism should be the priority of every Christian, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said at the March 5 West Tennessee Evangelism Rally.
"Heaven and hell are looming in the balance, and that's a lot more important than anything else," Gaines, pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, told those gathered at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Gaines was the featured preacher at the rally, sponsored by Union and the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He spoke to pastors and church members from churches across the West Tennessee area.
Gaines' sermon came from Acts 1, where Jesus gave His final command to His disciples to be His witnesses. He said Jesus shifted everything and charged His followers with the priority of evangelism.
"God's kingdom became spiritual, not physical," Gaines said. "It was no longer focusing on the nation of Israel. It was international, not national. It was for all people."
He said every Christian's first thought when entering a room should be, "I wonder if these people know Jesus." He said Christians should be ready and willing to talk about Jesus at all times because they love Him. If Jesus is in the hearts of believers, He will come out of their mouths.
"If you love somebody, you talk to them and you talk about them," Gaines said. "That's just the way it is. If you don't talk to them and you don't talk about them, you don't love them."
Gaines said Acts 1 teaches that followers of Jesus have power through the Holy Spirit. Christians should not be afraid to share the Gospel and be witnesses because the Holy Spirit gives power to do just that.
"The Holy Spirit of God is in you," Gaines said. "And He didn't come there just to give you a little feeling, just to give you a little high. He came for you to be a powerful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ."
Gaines said believers should have a plan for witnessing. He said some decide to do evangelism, and others decide to love people, but one cannot be done without the other.
"When you love on people, they'll listen to you talk to them about Jesus Christ," Gaines said. "It's not either -- or. It's both."
He said every evangelistic believer should know the names of lost people and pray specifically about them for three things: conviction, conversion and a contact. He said each Christian should be willing to be that contact.
Gaines said winning people for Jesus should take priority over everything, even good things like racial reconciliation, social justice and defending the unborn. He said Christians are alive on the earth to be witnesses for Jesus, and this should be evident in everything that the church and church members do.
"God didn't give you breath to go around and complain," Gaines said. "He gave you breath to praise the Lord and to tell people about Jesus Christ."
The West Tennessee Evangelism Rally also included several breakout sessions on various aspects of evangelism. The topics included evangelism in the workplace, leading children to Christ, getting the Gospel to Muslims and building evangelistic church ministries.
David Evans, evangelism specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Convention, led a session, entitled "Creating a Culture of Missions and Evangelism in Your Church." He said culture has changed drastically in the last 30 to 40 years, and evangelism has changed as well. He said the largest gap in churches is between ages 18 and 25, and people that age want to be part of a passion and a vision that's helping somebody else.
"People no longer say, 'Hey, I want to go to church because it's going to help me,'" Evans said. "No. I want to go to church because it's going to help somebody else."
Evans encouraged church members to be evangelists where they are and use their gifts and passions to share the Gospel, rather than scheduling time for evangelism. He said evangelism in the New Testament is organic and irregular.
"Evangelism is irregular because it happens 24/7," Evans said. "All the time we've got to be evangelistic. We've always got to be Gospel-sharing."