LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--I am the dean of a school that focuses on missions and evangelism, but evangelism does not always come easy to me. That is surprising to me now, as sharing my faith was quite easy when I was a young believer. In fact, evangelism was never difficult until I became a pastor -- when the multiple tasks of ministry seemed to get in the way of evangelism. The more involved I was in leading my church, the less involved I seemed to become in evangelism.
I since have realized that I must intentionally plan evangelism into my life. I have also learned that I am not the only pastor who has to work to keep evangelism at the forefront of his ministry. For me, doing so includes setting personal goals about evangelism.
I am well aware that setting goals for evangelism makes some people nervous. Some will fear that I am suggesting manipulating others into a "decision" for Christ simply to increase numbers. Others may be concerned that I am reducing non-believers to a project to be completed. Some will think that my approach is too man-centered.
None of these concerns is legitimate, in my opinion. I know that God alone saves, and I agree that we must be careful not to manipulate others into a false sense of spiritual security. I also realize that setting goals can lead to impersonal evangelism and a man-centered focus, but I am not convinced that establishing goals automatically leads there.
What I am suggesting is that we must so love God, so believe the Gospel, and so grieve over a lost world that we do whatever it takes to be obedient to the Great Commission. Perhaps the goals I am recommending here will prove helpful to others, particularly as the North American Mission Board calls us to emphasize God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS).
First, set a goal for developing relationships with non-believers. In most cases, we get so isolated in our Christian bubble that we seldom have strong friendships with non-believers. Countering this tendency is not easy unless we intentionally strive to develop relationships with people outside of the church. Consider setting a goal to be in a growing relationship with at least three non-believers at any time -- while always watching for opportunities to share the Gospel.
Second, set a goal for praying for non-believers. Pray for the three relationships mentioned above, and then pray for at least two more non-believers. Determine to pray at least weekly that God will open their blinded minds (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and transfer them from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13). Pray as well that you will share the Gospel boldly and clearly when an open door is apparent (Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 2:3-4).
Third, set a goal for simply speaking about God's goodness. Many of us are out of the habit of speaking about God to anyone unless the other person raises the subject. One way to move toward sharing the Gospel is to start by speaking of God's goodness to someone each day. Speak about God to your spouse, a staff member, the convenience store clerk or the bank teller. Tell somebody about God's work in your life each day, and sharing the Gospel may well become easier.
Fourth, set a goal for sharing the Gospel. Develop relationships, pray for
others, begin to speak about God -- and then trust Him to empower you to speak the Gospel to someone. If you are not evangelizing now, consider a goal to share Christ at least twice a month. If you are already doing evangelism, ask God to move you toward sharing Christ at least weekly, if not daily.
Fifth, set a goal for mentoring new believers. The Great Commission is not complete when a non-believer has chosen to follow Christ. If you are not mentoring young believers, you are missing a critical component of the disciple-making process. Take the initiative -- set a goal to mentor one or two believers, and then go enlist them!
My prayer is that all Southern Baptists will so walk with God that evangelism is a natural outflow of our lives. We are a long way from there, however. We are weak disciple-makers, and our statistics make us painfully aware that we are doing far too little evangelism. All of our evangelism programs will be ineffective unless individual Southern Baptists reaffirm our commitment to the Great Commission. I pray that we will set some personal goals to move in that direction.
Charles E. Lawless Jr. is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.