Seminarians & churches forge evangelism partnerships
As they interacted with the lost and even saw people profess faith in Christ, they realized that follow-up was difficult. Though they tried to connect those who made decisions to nearby churches, the students were often unable to determine if new believers were being properly discipled.
In addition, the students realized that several churches in close proximity to the seminary, for one reason or another, lacked strong evangelism programs yet would likely accept assistance should it be offered.
With these factors in mind, the students prayed for direction, sensing God's answer: partnering with these local churches to evangelize the communities around them and connect those whom they evangelize directly to the church body so they are properly discipled.
"We, as a group, partner with the local churches because we have a burden for the lost," master of divinity student Joy Arulogun said. "And we believe that partnering with churches by training church members in intentional personal evangelism is a great way for us and the churches to fulfill the Great Commission as we work together reaching the lost in the neighborhood for Christ."
Throughout the fall semester, the students prayed, sought counsel from Southwestern professors and contacted local churches about joining with them in evangelism. Professors Mike Morris, Matt Queen and Steve Lee each provided input for the students' vision.
"A lot of the professors have their hands in this," M.Div. student Daniel Moon said. "They gave us some directions and told us that we are on the right track. They encouraged us to go forward."
Emmanuel Escareno, another M.Div. student, added that the professors have been "a huge asset … because we want to do everything to spread His Kingdom. That's why we are doing this -- because we have a passion to see the lost reached."
Following the advice of the professors, bachelor of arts student Jong Lee reached out to local pastors and inquired if she and her fellow Southwesterners could evangelize with the members of their churches. Stadium Drive Baptist Church and Eagle's Nest Missionary Baptist Church were the first to respond. So, every Friday since late January beginning at 3:30 in the afternoon, the Southwesterners have evangelized alongside the members of these churches in their respective neighborhoods.
"By partnering with the church, we can see the church discipling those who accept Christ," said Chan Young Lee, a fellow bachelor of arts student. "We go door-to-door, and then we connect them right away to that church, and the church members will be there as well.
"People are actually in a place where they want to go to church," Lee noted of those who make decisions for Christ, "but they're kind of afraid to go to church because when they go to church, they feel like they have no one they know there and they think they'll be left out. So we are in the process of getting the church involved and bringing people together."
Moon added, "Whenever we go out, we always meet someone who really needs to meet us." One day, for example, they knocked on the door of an accountant who said she was busy and didn't have time to talk, but before the evangelists left, they asked how they could pray for her.
"That question really just changed her," Moon said. "She just unloaded all these different prayer requests -- all these things like her friend's cancer and work and everything. She invited [the evangelists] into her house, and they started praying and she was crying and they shared the Gospel.
"Every time, there are people who are waiting for someone to ask them about their life," Moon said. "They are waiting to unload things in their heart; all we have to do is just go and ask."
On a separate occasion, Arulogun and Jong Lee met a Hispanic couple in the neighborhood surrounding Eagle's Nest. As they tried to witness to them, the Spanish-speaking couple could only respond with, "No English."
"We felt sad and helpless," Arulogun said, "but as we turned to leave, the wife waved to us to wait, and she ran inside the house. So we waited and wondered what she was going to bring for us. She appeared at the door with her teenage son, who happens to be bilingual. We almost screamed for joy!
"He became our interpreter," Arulogun continued, "and God did a wondrous thing that day that blew our minds. At the end of the Gospel presentation, they all received Christ! What an awesome God we serve!"
The group also rejoiced when a member of Stadium Drive Baptist Church had a conversation -- also in Spanish -- with a neighbor, Ava, that resulted in Ava accepting Christ as her Lord and Savior.
"That's what we want to see: the church taking ownership and evangelizing, because we're not always going to be there," Escareno said. "We want them to take ownership and say, 'This is our community; we want to share the Gospel.' Because the power is in the Gospel, and so that's how we want to encourage the church: to reach their community with the powerful message of Jesus Christ."
Associate professor of missions Mike Morris said of the students' work with local churches, "It's a great development. We didn't require them to do this; it was all voluntary on their part -- they took the initiative. That's exactly what we want to see. They're kind of thinking outside the box. They saw a need and they responded to it. So I think it's a very healthy thing."
More churches have since reached out to the Southwesterners for assistance with their evangelism programs, and so the students are inviting their fellow Southwesterners to join them in meeting the need. Beyond fulfilling the Great Commission, assisting local churches, and reaching and discipling new believers, the students cite a key motivation: "We love God," Jong Lee said. "That's why we do what He wants us to do."