By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
WEST MONROE, La. (LBM) – Five months ahead of evangelistic events tied to the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans, participants at the recent Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference were challenged to share the hope found in Christ each day.
Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn told the ECON crowd that they can change the state if they would commit to pray for and share Christ with others “daily.”
ECON was held in the facilities of the First Baptist Church, West Monroe, Jan. 23-24.
“Would it be said of us that we could be known as a group of churches, a people, that are known to have a culture of evangelism,” Horn said. “What does that look like? When I read the book of Acts, I see ‘daily.’
“The Bible says in a variety of places in the book of Acts that ‘daily’ the Lord was adding to His church. I know that you as Louisiana Baptists believe every word of God’s Word. Would you believe that word with me – ‘daily’?”
Horn previously said he has prayed for 2,023 people to be saved through two evangelistic events tied to the SBC Annual Meeting: “Crossover,” a large-scale evangelistic effort held before the SBC Annual Meeting, and the North American Mission Board “Serve Tour,” an effort that seeks to involve participants in service projects as the foundation for evangelism the weekend before the SBC Annual Meeting.
The LBC state missions center is helping to coordinate sign up for both initiatives, he said, and he hopes to have a team from each association to participate in each of “Crossover” and “Serve Tour.”
ECON featured Louisiana Baptist pastors, seminary professors, an apologetics professional and evangelism associates from the North American Mission Board. The event also included times of worship led by the Jason Lovins Band and Michael W. Smith, an award-winning Christian contemporary artist, as well as breakout sessions.
Louisiana Baptist Evangelism and Church Growth Director Keith Manuel charged the crowd to share their faith.
“You will be a blessing to those you share with, but you will reap the rewards of Heaven you will not believe,” he said. “Someone is waiting on you. Find a way. Share the Gospel!”
John Fream, pastor of Cypress Baptist Church, Benton, said too many Christ followers have lost their passion for soul winning.
“It works and sometimes we lose sight of what we really are supposed to be doing,” he said. “We’ve lost what really, really matters. “We’ve got to remind our people Hell is hot and time is short,” he continued. “We have a mandate to go out there and get things done.”
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told the crowd not to “overthink” sharing the Gospel.
Referencing Matthew 10, Dew said baptisms have decreased in churches because Southern Baptists are less evangelistic than they were 20 years ago. He challenged Louisiana Baptists not to focus on a specific style of evangelism, but rather just be intentional about sharing Christ.
“Don’t overthink it,” he said. “Get every bit of training you can get. Train your people as much as they can possibly get. But at the end of the day, preach the Word and share the Gospel!”
“Whatever you do, do it for Jesus,” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Professor of Evangelism and Pastoral Leadership Jake Roudkovski said. “Do it for Jesus because Jesus alone is worthy.”
Drawing from Revelation 5, Roudkovski said Jesus is worthy because He is the Lord of history, victory and glory. Roudkovski urged the crowd not to forget what Jesus has done for them.
“Our problem is we have gotten over what Jesus Christ has done for us when He shed His precious blood for our sin,” he said. “A reason we have seen a decline in evangelism is we have gotten over Jesus. In eternity we will be praising Jesus who will be the theme of our worship. May we never get over Jesus in this life.”
J.J. Washington, NAMB national director of personal evangelism, said that simplicity, humility and the right motive – not eloquence – are needed to share the Gospel.
Summarizing 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Washington said the Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth not to glorify Himself but rather to give praise to the Creator.
“He had come to Corinth to glorify the Lord,” he said. “We need to do it and we need to do it for Jesus’ name, not ours. You don’t need eloquence, friend. Just open your mouth and let the Gospel out.”
What America needs today is a holy boldness, according to Tim Dowdy, NAMB vice president of evangelism.
“What’s going to make the biggest difference in the life of the people you and I know is to start telling ‘the story,’” Dowdy said. “With all the bad news, there is good news. “There is hope. God is at work.”
Basing his message on Acts 4:31, Dowdy said the early church had a boldness to share Christ despite the opposition.
“The hope that we need is only found in Jesus,” he said. “And He gives it to us, one heart at time.”
Mark Mittelberg, executive director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University, closed ECON by reminding the crowd that Christ has given each believer a mission to lead others to join His family. He shared that each Christ follower has at least one of the five contagious faith-sharing styles to use in evangelism: friendship-building, selfless-serving, story-sharing, reason-giving and truth telling.
“We are all called to share the Good news with other people,” he said. “But we all don’t have to do it the same way.”