I asked Sam Rainer, pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, what he perceives to be the biggest problem facing Southern Baptists right now and how we can solve it.
Without hesitation, he said a lack of evangelistic fervor in Southern Baptist churches is our biggest challenge.
I asked if he thought a relational approach or programmatic approach is the better way to get Southern Baptists focused once again on leading lost sinners to the throne of grace.
“As long as you’re sharing the Gospel, I’m more than likely going to be OK with you,” Pastor Sam said during our wide-ranging conversation that is part of our monthly “Behind the Pulpit” interview series.
In reference to some well-known evangelism-training programs, Pastor Sam said: “I’m not one to say, ‘A program is going to be a solution to the problem.’ But what has happened is there were a lot of churches that had those programs, and they were actually doing evangelism. Maybe they could have done it better. But they were actually getting out there and sharing their faith, and a lot of churches saw that for whatever reason at that particular church it wasn’t working as well as they wanted, so they canceled it. But they never replaced it with anything else.
“And I think that that’s what’s happened at a lot of our Southern Baptist churches,” he said. “There was a program. The program could have been run a little better; it could have worked a little better, certainly. And because it wasn’t working as leaders wanted it to they simply canceled the program and left off the fact they needed to replace it with something else.”
He concluded: “I’m all for incarnational ministry—building relationships. I don’t think programs are the answer at all. But we still have to train and equip our people. We still need something to help our people understand how to share their faith. And, hey, here’s a way to do it that’s not so aggressive and not so in-your-face.”
This is my final blog from my conversation with Pastor Sam. On April 5th, we talked about how pastors should be intentional in how they build their reputations: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1626. On April 10th, we talked about ways to control the narrative when it comes to your church’s perception: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1638. And, on April 11th, we talked about the looming shortage of pastors at established churches: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1644.
None of this content will be repeated in our May print edition, but that issue will include an edited version of Pastor Sam’s thoughts on a range of other topics as part of the “Behind the Pulpit” feature.
A video of our conversation also will appear on goFBW.com later this month. You can go now to the Witness’ YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/2nEDuy4 and watch videos of Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola; Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church outside of Tampa; and, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, and followed on Twitter @FBW_editor