Evangelism kept at the forefront of SBTC church planting efforts

ROCKWALL—Cross-cultural church planting, countering the postmodern mindset and overcoming evangelistic apathy among church members are among the greatest obstacles and opportunities related to harvesting souls for Christ in the 21st century, according to a panel discussion at the SBTC Church Planter Retreat earlier this year.

“Your church will really be successful when all of your members are looking for opportunities to share the Lord with people,” SBTC church planter Damon Halliday said. When members are active witnesses for Christ, “you can give an invitation in church and people have already been led to the Lord throughout the week. They’re just waiting for the invitation to walk down the aisle.”

Joining Halliday on the panel were Sam Douglass, a church planter master coach for SBTC; Richard Taylor, SBTC church planting associate; Nathan Lorick, SBTC director of evangelism; and John Massey, associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The discussion was moderated by SBTC Director of Missions Terry Coy.

Massey noted that by 2040 the Texas population is projected to be 77 percent Hispanic and only 4 percent Anglo. This demographic shift will require Texas Southern Baptists to plant increasing numbers of ethnic churches and rethink what population segments they are trying to reach, he said.

“We all know of the experience of traditional churches that are in a neighborhood that is transitioning and the church decides not to do evangelism among the groups of people who are coming into that neighborhood. And what happens? They decline,” Massey said.

“I think we can take that and put it on a state level and say that if as a state convention … we don’t see that our country and our state is transitioning, this is going to be a great hindrance to following what we see God doing in the world and in our community and in our state.”

Lorick said church planting should be a byproduct of evangelism more than a means of evangelism. Ideally, new churches should be established because people are getting saved and need a congregation in which to be discipled, he said.

Lorick also said church planters should instill a love for the lost in their churches’ DNA and teach their members practical steps to fulfilling the Great Commission.

“Everybody in your church wants to be a part of the Great Commission so desperately. They just don’t really know how,” he said. So planters must “inform, train, teach our people to do that.”

Douglass cautioned church planters against growing their churches by drawing members away from other congregations. He added that church leaders make a mistake when they build relationships and share the gospel but don’t call the lost to respond to Jesus.

With the plethora of evangelism tools believers have, there is no excuse for failing to tell non-Christians that they must trust Christ for salvation, he said.

Douglass said “people are looking for an answer, and the answer is Jesus Christ. And we’ve got to get the word out.”

Halliday agreed, saying every church planter should either have the spiritual gift of evangelism or have someone on his leadership team who does. Evangelism “should be the primary purpose of planting a church,” he said.

“The purpose of church planting is to build the kingdom of God,” Halliday said. “If you’re trying to plant a church and that’s not the goal, then what are you building? You’re building your own kingdom.”

“Evangelism is the most intimidating thing you will ever do,” Halliday said. “I don’t know why it is. I’m an evangelist. I feel like I’m gifted as an evangelist, but it’s still scary and challenging for me all the time. I’m always threatened with the opportunity. I don’t know what it is about that dynamic, but we just have to trust the Lord and we have to do it. It brings the greatest joy of anything we will ever do to lead somebody into eternity.”

In a final charge to church planters, Taylor said the greatest barrier to evangelism is believers who lack a burden for the lost.

“Burden keeps you up at night. Burden makes you shed tears when you don’t really know why you’re crying. Burden is what Jesus had when he looked out over Jerusalem and the Bible says he wept.” Taylor said.

“I want to suggest to you that we really don’t. And until we do, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, getting what we’ve been getting.”

Most Read

Bradford appointed dean of Texas Baptist College

FORT WORTH—Carl J. Bradford, assistant professor of evangelism and occupant of the Malcolm R. and Melba L. McDow Chair of Evangelism, has been appointed dean of Texas Baptist College, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological …

Stay informed on the news that matters most.

Stay connected to quality news affecting the lives of southern baptists in Texas and worldwide. Get Texan news delivered straight to your home and digital device.