JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Maj. James Howard called St. Louis home and became a Flying Tiger ace in China. He went on to become a P-51B fighter pilot in World War II.
During one mission, he was separated from his squadron but found the lead B-17 Flying Fortress bomber group. Each bomber had 10 men on board and there were 10 planes in the air when he joined up; 100 souls were at stake.
Kenneth Martin, a fellow Missourian from Kansas City, led the bomber group that day. The Luftwaffe soon dove toward the bombers. Howard gunned his fighter's engine and climbed straight toward them. He put his training and experience to use as he shot down three planes on several passes.
After each engagement, Howard returned to escort the lead bomber. He did this several times, officially downing six planes and damaging many others, and he even chased off the enemy when he didn't have any more bullets.
Howard stayed with the lead bomber group until they were back safely where he could head to his own airbase. No bombers in that group were lost that day.
When confronted with lostness in your community, what do you do? Are you ready to engage people with the Gospel? Do you back away -- or do you pray a quick prayer, trust the Holy Spirit to empower you as an Acts 1:8 witness, and warmly meet a new opportunity to share your faith in Christ?
The best training I have come across is preparing saved people to give their own personal testimonies. When they tell how they got saved, people catch it.
It is important for pastors to tell their own personal testimony and how they have been used of the Lord to lead people to Jesus. Take on lostness as a lifestyle and kick up some dust.
Get people in your church used to hearing and giving testimonies. Invite people with a variety of testimonies to stand up and speak up each Sunday. Coach them on how to give their testimony in three minutes or so, focusing on what Jesus did to save them.
You want to help other church members hear examples of what they need to do. And make sure those who testify talk about repenting of their sins. Those who were recently baptized are great people to use, but don't forget about the most influential people in your church. And don't be shy about videotaping a shut-in's testimony and playing it.
My counsel to pastors is to lead from the front. What you do, your church members will see and copy. Invite a highly relational guy in your church to go with you as your wingman to follow up on every visitor in the past year. After three months, switch and you be his wingman.
After another three months, suggest to this guy that he needs to get his own wing man and you get someone new. You can tell your Sunday School teachers to follow your lead and get their own wingmen. You can't get this from any book other than the Bible. Check out Matthew 10 and Luke 10. Those passages contain great sermon fodder and discipleship lessons.
Howard left the airfield day after day with a mission. For his courage, on Jan. 11, 1944, Howard received the only Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to an airman in the European Theater.
When you leave your own personal hanger, are you on the lookout for ways to meet those without Christ? Are you staying on mission day after day?
A neighbor once complained to me that when he came to faith in Christ, he quickly learned that he was just another notch on some guy's spiritual gun belt. We have a bigger purpose in mind.
Are you leading people to Jesus with disciple-making in mind? It's a target-rich environment when you're "flying" for the Lord.
Mark Snowden is the evangelism/discipleship strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention. This article first appeared at The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.