Evangelism with Johnny Hunt

#4 – Choosing to celebrate


Join co-hosts Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell as they discuss the importance of celebrating the good things in the Church and how that relates to evangelism. Inspired by Johnny’s latest mission to Vietnam, you’ll learn how America’s critical spirit can cripple pastors and people from sharing the gospel.

Hear Johnny’s simple practices that put evangelism first in his life and in his church, and discover the steps you can take towards making evangelism the number one priority in yours.

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Announcer: You are listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from the North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the Gospel. Now, here are your hosts.

Kevin Ezell: Well, thanks for joining us. I’m Kevin Ezell here with Pastor Johnny Hunt. He’s the Vice President of Evangelism at the North American Mission Board, and everything we do here at NAMB is about the Gospel, everything. Pastor Johnny, I know you just returned from Vietnam preaching and having some incredible opportunities there. I’d be curious, could you compare when it comes to Evangelism how they approach it internationally as opposed to how we do church in the Southern Baptist Convention in North America?

Pastor Johnny: Thanks, Kevin, for asking that question because it’s really hot in my heart. I just landed late last night. But the bottom line is they are doing everything they can to just simply make Jesus known. It was so neat to meet with the pastors and honestly, the church there is like 32 years old is the average age. Almost every congregation I spoke in, all my leadership training, were just with such young men and young women. I even took moments to say how encouraged I was and all of them were just sharing how their … sharing the Gospel with family. Even one of the nights, one of the young pastors said, “Would you mind if I bring a friend to dinner?” And I said, “That’d be awesome.” He said, “I want him to be around you. He’s an unbeliever and he’s bringing his daughter with him.” Then he actually went to church with us and by the way, I don’t care what anyone says, when you know for a fact that there’s an unbeliever listening to you preach, it is going to change the temperature.

Kevin Ezell: Right.

Pastor Johnny: It is going to rise in that room when you begin to make the gospel known. This fellow is listening, he’s not had nowhere near the opportunity to hear the gospel with clarity that the average American does, but it really excited me to see this young guy. By the way, that pastor that invited him, he’s only known the Lord a couple years himself and he’s trying to learn the best he can with so little available to them there in Vietnam.

Kevin Ezell: Right.

Pastor Johnny: There was just a passion to make Jesus known, share your testimony, give them a verse of scripture, invite them to a service, really everything we’re trying to get the American church to do.

Kevin Ezell: Exactly. What would you say about the fact that it seems like sometimes internationally, they know how to celebrate the good things about the church or about the gospel and I hate to sound negative but in North America often we look for more of the critical things. We don’t celebrate as they do internationally.

Pastor Johnny: You’re exactly right. Thrilled that you bring it up for this simple reason, every time we hear about the number of baptisms or a movement of God, whether it be in India or China or even Cuba, God is doing such magnificent work, we immediately applaud, we embrace it, we celebrate it. However, turn that around a little and talk about a church, a city, a movement in America, and for some reason we just become critical. Well, do they really understand the gospel? [inaudible 00:03:26] so man centered instead of God centered?

Pastor Johnny: That critical spirit has really crippled a lot of our people and a lot of our preachers from even making the gospel known as they would like to in their own heart. I pray that in this new year may God so capture our heart from making the gospel known that we would celebrate with others. Even if it’s a little different than the way we do it, could we still get on our knees and pray God, help them. Could we be like the Aquila and Priscilla that when they heard Apollos and he was mighty in the scriptures, instead of being critical when they heard him say something that was not exactly right, the Bible says they pulled him aside and instructed him in a better way, but they never tried to break his spirit from making that powerful gospel and preaching the mighty scriptures.

Pastor Johnny: We have got to learn to encourage one another and celebrate with one another and realize that we’re all about the gospel and that it’s of first importance and if the gospel is of first importance, let’s choose to just have a spirit of camaraderie in making Jesus known to a nation that’s in desperate need of hearing it.

Kevin Ezell: What would you say to a pastor out there that’s a little bit too wound or tense about certain things? We sometimes find ourselves at NAMB in the middle. We say we need more emphasis on evangelism some would say and then when you emphasize evangelism then you have someone on the discipleship side say, “Well, hey you know, it’s all about making disciples. You’re talking about evangelism, what about disciples?” You get hit from both sides when it’s really both and, not either or.

Pastor Johnny: It is exactly right and we’re hearing that more and more, even as we’re trying to put evangelism back as we say on the front burner or it becoming more of a priority among Southern Baptist. In that context, someone says, “Well, don’t forget discipleship,” and so I really just tried to coin a phrase and I’ve simply been saying this, “Discipleship that does not share the gospel is not New Testament discipleship,” so if we want to make disciples that make disciples, the only way a person can become a disciple is by embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ and how shall they hear unless we send or how shall they hear unless we tell?”

Pastor Johnny: What we’ve got to do is share the gospel of Jesus Christ and there’s no two ways around it. You cannot remove the word evangelism because evangelism literally means the making known of good news and so as a disciple of Jesus Christ someone made known to me the good news of Jesus and then what I’ve tried to do is be a fateful steward of what Jesus has entrusted to me, namely the gospel, and investing that gospel in others, sharing that gospel with others, and desiring to see them come to faith in Christ. If they do, I want to help develop them into a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Johnny: Here’s how it all started in my life and I pray God renew this passion like never before in 2019. I used to simply say number one, I want to take as many people to Heaven with me as I can. That is evangelism pure and simple. Number two, I want to help others become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That is discipleship at its truest meaning and I do that in my office every Sunday morning. I have for years, where I take five men and we study the word of God, memorize the word of God, hold each other accountable, pray for one another, but at the same time I talk to them about who are you sharing the gospel with.

Pastor Johnny: They are married. Someone said it’s a coin and one side is heads and the other side is tails. It’s kind of like a battery, we think of the positive terminal but it will not crank without the negative, so neither one is negative, both are positive, but the truth is if the car is going to crank so it can run, it is going to be evangelism and discipleship. There are some people in our churches that love to take new believers and help develop them, but there’s too few of our members that are actually out on the trails in this world making the gospel known.

Kevin Ezell: Exactly. What would you suggest … In the SBC in particular, what are some of the very first steps that we can do to change the DNA, to change the sense of focus of pastors? Sometimes we get so caught up in someone’s theological background, if they’re a Calvinist or not a Calvinist, all this, and we get off target of really focusing on the gospel and celebrating those things that are positive. What would be some of the very first steps of changing the DNA?

Pastor Johnny: Boy, one of my heart’s passions would be that al of us would have our own personal stories of the people we’re praying for, that we’re asking God to give us intentionality in using us in particular to see our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, our work associates come to faith in Jesus Christ. I believe when the focus becomes the lost person, the person that needs to be plucked as a brand from the fire, the person who Jesus said he came to seek and to save, that which was lost.

Pastor Johnny: I believe when we begin to think about the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son, our focus becomes lostness. I don’t think we will make it a major focus of how we disagree often times on secondary issues in scripture and while we’re spending so much time debating with one another, a world is perishing. We’re trying to go deeper and deeper into theology, which is not a bad thing, but while we’re going deeper, the broadness of lostness just continues to get broader and broader and broader.

Pastor Johnny: The only thing I know can happen is that God sets my soul on fire for the lostness of those around me, those I’ll come in contact with, as Jesus referred to them as our neighbor, and we spend more time in the ditch trying to bring others to Christ instead of out on the highway trying to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

Kevin Ezell: Right.

Pastor Johnny: And missing really the whole mission.

Kevin Ezell: Well, that’s the beauty I think of who’s your one, regardless of a theological background, regardless of these small or secondary issues they want to focus on, if we just go back to who is your one? It’s all about the gospel, taking what you know and what you’ve experienced and sharing it with someone else. That’ll help us … That’s the one common denominator it seems like every person can agree on. We all need to have someone that we’re focused on to reach.

Pastor Johnny: I totally agree. This morning my time was not as long with the Lord for various reasons but nonetheless I had a quality time in the scriptures and then reflecting over what I was reading, and then simply to get on my knees and spend a few minutes with the Lord. I call God as my witness, one of my prayers this morning was, “Lord, thank you for bringing Percy into my life. I pray you use me to influence him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve had the opportunity to ask him some questions and share a little of the gospel with him, but I’m praying for greater opportunities.”

Pastor Johnny: I know where I’m going to have opportunities to see him again, and he’s my one right now. When he’s eliminated, I’ll put another on there. He’s in heaven now, his name was Freddy Gage, but Freddy Gage is an evangelist who used to simply say to me, “Eternity is too long to be wrong. Help people to get it right.” Freddy used to even encourage me to write ten names in my Bible and pray for them. For years I had ten names, and I got to be honest, this morning, it’s getting harder and harder to have ten names until I once again put it on the front burner.

Pastor Johnny: What I’m asking Southern Baptists to do in joining us in this who’s your one? It has to begin again in my heart just as much as it does when I pastor Woodstock and I have to lead by example in modeling it. We have to do the same thing in our denomination. At the end of the day, while we’re out deciding who’s right and who’s wrong on whether we understand the gospel, may we take what we do understand of the gospel and share it with those who have yet to hear if the church doesn’t even know what the great commission is, what could we say about the world knowing what the gospel is?

Kevin Ezell: Right.

Pastor Johnny: We’ve got to be bearers of that gospel. I even prayed last night flying in from Vietnam and while it was on my heart, but I was praying, “Lord, help us to be salt and light but help me to be the type of light that is on the hilltop that can be seen from a long ways and help me to influence those that see that light.”

Kevin Ezell: But Johnny you mentioned Freddy Gage is one of a kind, obviously in heaven, and another friend of ours is in heaven today, Bailey Smith, who had a passion for evangelism and he had something obviously in his life of passion, of fire, that we need today. I know you just want to respond perhaps and reflect on Bailey Smith and his influence.

Pastor Johnny: You know, I reached out to Sandy. I’ve been praying for the three boys and I can honestly go back to 1989 where Bailey Smith came and preached a revival at First Baptist Church Woodstock and we baptized around 200 people out of that. Someone may say, “Oh, you got to be careful of movements like that, so many unregenerate church members.” Well, first of all I cannot separate the weak from the [inaudible 00:13:38] as Bailey would preach, only Jesus knows that, but I know this, he preached a pure gospel, people responded … People would go to Facebook to my page, you would see the people when I honored Bailey Smith and some statements I made of him in a post yesterday, people were saying, “Pastor Johnny, I received Christ. I nailed down my salvation.”

Pastor Johnny: They all went back to that date and here’s what I’ve got to say at the end of the day, I don’t know if they were some that prayed a prayer that didn’t mean it, I don’t know how I can honestly know that, but I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to celebrate with those that date back now, 1989, you’re close to 30 years there. It is 30 years. Thirty years have passed and there are people at Woodstock that that’s their spiritual birthday, Jesus Christ changed their life.

Pastor Johnny: All I can tell you is on January 7, 1973, there may have been some people that didn’t mean it in that invitation that night at Long Leaf Baptist Church, but Johnny and Janet Hunt meant it and here we are now 46 years later serving the king of kings and making him known. May we celebrate the type of evangelism that brings the person to Christ that is even questioning somebody else’s approach to evangelism. Can every Christian today celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ did a real work in their life and that’s what we at the North American Mission Board are praying that God would do a real work again in millions of lives.

Kevin Ezell: Absolutely. It’s all about the gospel. Pastor, if we can help in any way, you have a question, please e-mail us at evangelism@NAMB.net. Thank you so much for listening.