Tony Jones is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rich Hill, MO. This post first appeared on his blog.
Thom Rainer at www.evangelismrenewal.com is encouraging its churches to have more gospel conversations this year. They have set a goal of one million gospel conversations this year. There are, as of 2016, 47,272 Southern Baptist Churches in the United States. If every SBC church participated in the one million gospel conversations goal, they would have to average 22 gospel conversations for the year. If we take the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 as an example of effectiveness, that would mean 1 out of every four gospel conversations should land on fertile soil. That would mean an average of 5 conversions per church. Can you imagine what would happen if all our churches had 5 conversions this year. That would give the Southern Baptist Convention 236,360 conversions this year, and that would just be the base number because we know there would be more churches who would not stop at 5 conversions or 22 gospel conversations. I believe some church is going to explode in growth because their members started having more gospel conversations.
Our church has set a goal of 100 gospel conversations this year.
With this in mind, in this post I want to focus on attitudes towards evangelism in this post.
We come to all our experiences with preconceptions. We are trained in seminary to not read our preconceptions into our interpretation of scripture, but that’s easier said than done. We also come to the task of evangelism with preexisting attitudes. I’ve seen four such attitudes.
1) I don’t care. This attitude needs very little explanation. If you don’t care that there are people lost, dying, and going to spend an eternity separated from God, then you are not saved. We do not get to decide who’s lost and who’s saved, but I cannot fathom a Christian who does not care that his friends are facing spiritual death. If we have members of our churches who have this attitude, we can only pray for them.
2) Nothing can be done. This is a fatalistic attitude. Some of our church members look at the statistics and the state of the country and surmise that nothing can be done. They are like doubting Thomas in John chapter 11. Jesus tells His disciples that they must go to Bethany to wake up Lazarus. Thomas responds, “let’s go die with him”. The people who have this attitude cared at one time, but life and circumstances have beaten them down to the point that they are just hanging on till the end. They do not understand, or have not been taught that we serve a great big God who wants to do great big things with a bunch of sinners. We should pray for these church members as well, and pray that God will change their attitude and allow them to see conversions.
3) They know where to get it. There are those in our churches who will say, “They know what we have, and if they want Jesus, they can come here and get Him.” This approach used to work in the 50’s and 60’s, although I question how many true disciples were actually made through this approach. This approach worked when everyone had at least a passing knowledge of Christ. That just is not the case anymore. There are more people in our communities who know next to nothing about Christ and the Bible. There are people in some of our mainline denominations who know nothing about the true gospel. This is a different world than the one we all grew up in. We cannot have the attitude that says, “come and get it if you want it”. Paul writes in Romans 10, “But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” We have to adjust our attitudes and accept the reality that there are many people in our communities who have never heard the gospel. I’d rather be talking to someone who has never heard the gospel than to someone who has heard false gospels.
4) I want to be taught. This is the best attitude. This attitude is willing to have gospel conversations. This attitude recognizes the problem and wants to do something about it. We have these people in our churches. We should focus our efforts on training and encouraging them. My wife and I realized a few months ago that our conversations about church centered on those with the other three attitudes. We were not talking about training those with this last attitude. If we spent more time training the willing, the unwilling and the unsaved in our churches would feel less and less comfortable, and maybe God would surprise us by changing hearts and attitudes.
I hope to keep an update going on my blog about our church’s experiences with gospel conversations. Please pray for us as we try to penetrate the darkness in Rich Hill.