Great Commission demands evangelism focus

PLANO?Leading off with a videotape depicting the loneliness of man, Houston pastor Sal Sberna of Metropolitan Baptist Church delivered a convention address stressing the priority of evangelism.

“We believe people are going to spend somewhere in eternity in one of two places?heaven or hell. We want to do everything we can to be sure we have a plan that’s strategic and a heart that beats for people who are so lonely that they don’t have God,” he told the SBTC audience Oct. 26.

“We could not be in more of a time of ripe harvest than at any other time in the history of the world than today,” Sberna stressed. “People are desperately lonely, searching for something they’re never going to find in materialism or spirituality without Jesus Christ.”

Sberna challenged the audience by urging, “Boldly go where no man has ever gone before?next door to your neighbor. They are interested in spiritual things.” Reaching neighbors necessitates being part of their lives, he added, calling on Christians to become more than “garbage waving neighbors” who do little more than wave as they retrieve garbage cans. “It’s a lot easier to visit people who are visiting you. It is really difficult to go next door and ask people if you can be a part of their lives.”

While he often hears people say door-to-door evangelism is no longer effective, Sberna said, “Don’t tell my people that or you’ll ruin a good thing we’ve got going on down there,” referring to the Houston church.

“You can go door to door if you’ll link heart to heart. If all you have is a program of doing evangelism and not building relationships that let them look at your life and examine what you really believe, then we’ll just exchange fish in the aquarium.”

Noting that most churches begin with an evangelistic passion, Sberna said the focus often shifts over time.

“We get involved in all kinds of stuff, but still call ourselves a church,” doing little more than “just tagging people for the gospel.” Instead, he said, “The church was established to make disciples. We exist for people who are not members of what we’re doing, for the outsider, the lonely person who is looking for God and does not know where to look.”

In looking upon the fields that are ready for harvest, Sberna said churches must follow Jesus’ instruction to compel them to come in. “What’s the compelling reason for the people in our communities who are disconnected from God, drink too much, run around on spouses, their lives are falling apart, they’re in chat room to get into some kind of relationship. ? what’s the compelling reason for them to come to our churches to want to give their lives to Jesus Christ?”

Sberna said it is also easy to tell whether the Great Commission is a priority in a local church by looking at the calendar and budget it adopts.

“Show me the money and show me the time and I can tell you what your plan is, how much money is going to evangelism and missions and if you are trying to build relationships. Jesus Christ said he will show up when you go where he told you to go and do what he told you to do,” Sberna stated, citing the Matthew 28:20 promise to be with believers as they go out.

To stay true to the imperative to make disciples, Sberna encouraged pastors to ask their congregations, “Whatever you’re doing at the end of the year, always ask, ‘Are there more people following Jesus Christ this time, this year, than there were last year at this time?'”

Sberna also expressed thanks to the SBTC and member churches that give generously to the task of the Great Commission.

“That’s what I love about our convention, why I am in it and why we give so much to the Cooperative Program. I can’t get out there in Indonesia, but I know a lot of people who want to go out there and the least I can do is give.”

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