This could be you and your church in this New Year. Read on and catch the excitement. Then determine to try something new this year (if you are not already doing it). Teach your people to be evangelistic — to love people — not just the ones they sit beside each week but those out there struggling to make life work. The young, the old, the poor, and the rich, they all need Jesus. Pastor Jason Dunlap from Sharon Heights Baptist Church in Brookside, Alabama, knows this, and he has taught his people to know it as well.
I am Jason Dunlap, and I was called to be pastor of the church where I was introduced to Jesus Christ as a young man. The moment I was called to be the pastor, I realized that the heartbeat of Jesus Christ is evangelism and missions. We had the typical Baptist church at that time — the pastor's job (as most thought) was to do all the witnessing and soul-winning. I knew this was wrong, so I prayed, asking the Lord to show us some process we could use to train our people in evangelism. At that time I knew nothing about available programs.
Then I heard about FAITH evangelism and decided to take a few people to the training. After the training, I thought to myself, "This will never work at our place — the people will not commit to this." But I stopped and thought to myself, "The church has invested this money, and we are going to try this."
I had always thought and stated many times that God will honor your efforts because "any program will work, if it gets worked in evangelism." I also learned that true evangelism training is not a program, but a process. Here we are as a church going into our ninth semester of training, and we have trained over a hundred people. We have also seen hundreds of people saved and plugged into our church and other churches across town.
I could write a book about all the lives that have been changed, but I want to share with you about the most important thing I've seen happen in the life of our church. It's always great to see people pray to receive Christ and get plugged into the church, but what has really impressed me is the difference FAITH has made in the lives of those who go through the training. Being devoted to the Bible and the study of the Bible makes all the difference in the world in our lives.
I see our people growing as they pray with their prayer partners and as they share with other people what God is doing in their lives. Also, every semester it is a joy to hear the testimonies of the people who allowed the devil to tell them they couldn't witness, then hear them share that they know they can do it now in the power of the Holy Spirit. The learners and leaders continue to be excited about Sunday School and the importance of small groups.
Over these last four years of evangelism training we have had the blessing of seeing God triple our attendance in Sunday School. I was told that knocking on doors does not work anymore, but I've learned that knocking on doors doesn't work because most churches aren't doing it anymore. This is not the case at Sharon Heights Baptist Church. We've learned that knocking on doors does work.
Pastor and church member, it may be time for a new beginning in your life. This may be the year that revival breaks out in your church or you experience a new excitement for things of the Lord. Trust me, when you start visiting the people on your church rolls, you will get excited. You don't have to be a large church with lots of visitors — you already have visits that need to be made. Most churches have a roll of non-attendees that could "choke a goat," as my grandmother used to say.
This year, go out looking for the one sheep that is lost. You have the ninety-nine in church, but that one needs to be found and cared for. And this is not just the job of the pastor! It's the job of every Sunday School class, small group, and church member. Why would you want just your pastor to have all the blessings? This will renew your excitement for things of the Lord. Try it for a month (visit one family every week that visits your church or one family on your rolls who is not attending), and if it doesn't work and you don't receive a blessing, write me and I'll ask the Lord to give you all your time back!
Just remember, it's not just the FAITH Evangelism program that will work — but use an effective tool in sharing the Gospel and asking for a commitment.
Bobby H. Welch is Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the SBC Executive Committee, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and originator of the FAITH evangelism strategy.