Evangelism & counseling empower church's impact
All five of her tenants happened to be home when they heard a knock at the door on a Saturday in September 2017. The homeowner answered the door to be greeted by a door-to-door evangelism team from Great Commission Baptist Church who had partnered with several students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The woman recognized one of the church members and asked that they share the Gospel. After the five tenants agreed to a conversation, everyone crowded into the living room.
In sharing their testimonies and presenting the Gospel, the team conveyed a message of hope to individuals who often had felt hope was lost. That afternoon, all five residents responded to this Good News and prayed to receive Christ.
Dale Allen, minister of evangelism at Great Commission Baptist Church (GCBC), noted, "One of the things people want to know about intentional evangelism is whether it is fruitful. Of course it is! We at Great Commission see it all the time."
Allen, a current Ph.D. student at Southwestern who previously earned two master's degrees from the seminary, said he is implementing what he has learned about evangelism and counseling during his studies. Allen said he has seen tremendous growth at GCBC in the areas of evangelism, soul care and outreach as he and the church staff equip and mobilize members to engage their families and communities with the truth of Scripture.
Lead pastor Douglas Brown said Allen's work in evangelism as well as counseling has upheld the church's vision to "reach the sinner, teach the saint, and strengthen the family." Brown said he has have seen spiritual growth in those who have gone out to witness, noting, "They have become more bold in sharing their faith and the difference that Christ has made in their lives."
Allen leads evangelism teams each month in the church's surrounding neighborhoods, often meeting beforehand to discuss best practices and how to engage people from different religious backgrounds. The team has grown from a handful of participants to a core group of about 25 members.
While evangelizing, the teams sometimes use Gospel tracts, but most often they focus on Scripture. "We have found the most success pointing to Scripture and watching what God does in the life of that person," Allen said. "We have seen people come to Christ that way."
Trent Walters, who has served with the church's evangelism team during most of his eight years at GCBC, said he has found a new confidence for evangelism and has learned how to deal with rejection.
Many of the individuals they meet have a similar story to his own, Walters said. When presented with the Gospel, a common response is, "I don't feel ready." Many believe they need to "get their act together" before attending church.
Walters recalls feeling the same way before professing faith in Jesus, but he explains to people that "God doesn't want you to come as a finished product. He doesn't want you to wait until you clean yourself up, because we can't clean ourselves up without His help. You just have to have a willing heart and have faith in Him."
In order to strengthen its evangelism program, GCBC has partnered with Southwestern students and other nearby churches including Wedgwood Baptist Church and Hallmark Baptist Church. These partnerships, Allen said, provide an opportunity to encourage and learn from other believers.
Frances Loftis, another regular evangelism participant, noted that they welcome anyone and everyone to their congregation, but their priority is to see the Gospel impact lives, to get the Word into their hands, and to connect them with a Bible-believing church. "We just need you in a body of believers where the church is actually teaching the Bible correctly and a place you can grow," she tells those to whom she witnesses.
In the area of biblical counseling under Allen's lead, the church serves as a satellite location for Southwestern's biblical counseling certification program. The program started in the spring 2017 semester and began its third seven-month course in June.
More than 50 people have earned certifications and are using what they have learned with those in their church and in their workplaces. In addition, many use the tools they obtained to share the Gospel with unbelievers in ways they never had before.
"It has been really amazing to see what happens when they start to understand that we do have answers in the Bible," said Allen, who completed a master of arts in biblical counseling at Southwestern in 2015.
One of the graduates, Kevin Green, has utilized his certification studies in the church's new members and marriage ministries, and it has given him more confidence in his approach to studying Scripture and how he shares that knowledge with others.
"The biggest thing I learned is that the Bible is sufficient for all things," Green said. "It was meaningful to experience spiritual growth and to be able to apply those things from the class."
Blondie Webb, a social worker who also graduated from the certification program, said she has seen a change in her approach to the care of clients who have a background in the church but are experiencing the hardships of life and sinful choices. "For many of the families that I serve, I know for a fact that if they could get some Jesus in their lives, things would be a little better and a little different," she said.
Webb's primary focus in her job is to reunite families and give them the help and practical tools to succeed. She is limited in what she can share with clients, but if they initiate the topic of faith and church, she can engage them with the Gospel and with applicable Scripture passages that she learned in the counseling program. "Scripture is powerful by itself," she said.
Additionally, Webb has found new opportunities to reach unbelievers in her workplace and in daily life. Colleagues and other professionals, for example, have asked her, "What is it about your passion for children, youth, and families?"
To this, Webb responds, "It is the Jesus in me. I have to forget about me, and I have to do what God would do. What would He do? He would find a way to save that soul and bring healing."
Allen, reflecting on all that God has done through the ministry of his church, said he is eager to see how God will work in the future. "My prayer is that, in every opportunity that is made available, they will seize every moment, and I pray that God will open that door," he said. "We may just be planting a seed for somebody else to come along, but it is God who ultimately adds the increase."