Evangelism with Johnny Hunt

#21 – Evangelism: The Point of the Spear


The increased emphasis on evangelism may have some of us wondering where discipleship fits into the equation. Join Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell as they talk with Steve Gaines, lead pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, about how “evangelism is the point of the spear of discipleship.” Gaines also discusses the motive behind our evangelism and how pastors can mobilize their people to share their faith.


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Speaker 1: You’re 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 listening to this episode of Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. I’m Kevin Ezell, and with me is Johnny Hunt and a very special guest.

Johnny Hunt: Steve Gaines, delighted to have you with us. Most of you know pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. And we’re delighted, Steve, that you’ve agreed to talk to us about the correlations of evangelism and discipleship, and just how we, as a Southern Baptist convention, can engage our culture with the gospel. So thank you for joining us on the podcast today.

Steve Gaines: Thank you so much. Honored to be here. Yes, sir.

Kevin Ezell: Hey, Steve. How long have you been at Bellevue now?

Steve Gaines: Been here almost 14 years. That’s hard to believe. I was at Gardendale for 14 years. Almost the same here now.

Kevin Ezell: I’ll tell you what was a great. I saw on your social feed the other day, the picture of Grant, your son, when he made his decision to accept Christ at West Jackson years ago.

Steve Gaines: Right, right. Back in 1989, 30 years ago.

Kevin Ezell: That’s incredible. Well, ever since I’ve known you, evangelism has been your focus. Obviously you’re one of the most godly pastors that I’ve ever known. But this is just something … what started that passion of evangelism in you? Because I don’t remember a time where you didn’t have it.

Steve Gaines: Well, I think, yeah, if I’ve got any evangelism in me, it just comes from the Lord. I think when I was at UT Martin playing football and I was not living for Christ, as some guys on the FCA there, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and they really witnessed to me, and I turned my life around to the Lord. And that’s when I really started evangelizing. I was on a campus where it was not a Christian school. I later transferred to Union, where a lot of people who are Christians were there.

Steve Gaines: But at UT Martin it was pretty clear cut. You’re either saved or lost. And so we got to witness to a lot of people on campus. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just knew what God had done in my life, and I was just sharing this story. And I think that’s the key. I honestly think that … I don’t want to over-complicate evangelism because I believe brand new Christians can witness to people just like the guy said, “Once I was blind, now I can see.” I mean, that’s a pretty good outline right there.

Steve Gaines: I think that it’s a love relationship, and I think that if we miss that key element, we miss the whole thing. And I’ve often said, and I’m sure I heard somebody say this somewhere, but if you love someone, you talk with them and you talk about them, and if you really love Jesus, you’re going to talk with Him in prayer. You’re going to just love to talk with Him, but then you’re going to love to talk about Him.

Steve Gaines: I mean, I love my wife, I’ve been married a long time with her, and I love to talk with her still. I mean, I’d rather talk with Donna than anybody I know, except the Lord. But then I like to talk about her. I mean, it’s not something that’s contrived. It’s not something that’s scripted. It’s just something that I love to do because I love her. And so, if you love Jesus, you’re going to love to talk with Him in prayer, but you’re also going to love to talk about Him.

Steve Gaines: And it’s going to be natural. It’s going to flow. It’s not going to be contrived. It’s not going to be, again, scripted. It’s just going to be a love relationship. And I believe that reading the Bible, spending time in prayer and all that, but when that fire is in there, it’s just going to come out. Jesus, if He’s in your heart, He’s going to come out of your mouth. And I think it’s a love relationship, first of all.

Steve Gaines: But then I do think that it’s good over time to try to learn some sort of evangelism plan or method that you use to share the gospel. And so, I’ve done that for a long time, and I’ve used various things. We had Jimmy Scroggins in Bellevue, he knocked the ball out of the park when it comes to the Three Circles. And the reason I love that is because just like he said, he is the Cadillac. Evangelism Explosion is the Cadillac where you learn all the things, but it takes a long time to learn. This Three Circles thing can be learned in a day or two by new believers, and it’s very effective in our culture. So I’m really excited about that.

Johnny Hunt: Steve, I’ve always believed that if evangelism is important to the pastor, the leader, it’s going to be important to people. And one thing I’ve been encouraged by is to see how you mobilized Bellevue for evangelism. I’ve followed you on social media and just seen where really very large numbers of people have turned out to engage the neighborhood and all. Talk to us a moment about how you did that, and a lot of pastors from home are wondering, how can I mobilize my people? I’ve got a heart, now how can I share that with my people?

Steve Gaines: Well, and I can’t take credit for all of that, that’s certain. This is not false humility. I mean, we have a team that worked on all that, so I mean, I emphasized it, but our team put it together and all of our guys jumped in there and we just decided, we need to witness right around our church, within the two or three mile radius. And so, we encouraged our people, I preached a whole month on evangelism (and we did it last August), and we had two different nights that we went out. We dedicated the evening …We still have Sunday night services. So we dedicated to evening services to evangelism and going door-to-door.

Steve Gaines: And the way we did it is we had a gift bag and the gift bag contained the Jesus movie that has been seen by a billion people. And it’s in all these languages on this disc that you can give out. It’s very cost effective. It’s less than 50 cents per copy. And then we have that in the bag, and we have actually some popcorn, some microwave popcorn in there, they can eat too, and then we have some stuff about the church. And we walk up with these bags, and we knock on the door, and they open the door. We say, “Hi, I’m Steve Gaines from Bellevue Baptist Church. We’re in the neighborhood, we’re praying for people. We’d like to give you this gift. And we wondered, is there any way that we can pray for you?”

Steve Gaines: Well, nine out of 10, if not 19 out of 20, people will say yes to that. And as Dr. Fish used to teach us, we knock on the door, and then we back up. You don’t want to be right in their face when they open the door. But so we do that and as we pray, a lot of times, when they open up and you’re just right there on the doorstep, then you just say, “Do you have a church home or something like that?” And then you start transitioning into hopefully a gospel presentation.

Steve Gaines: We’ve got to see a lot of people get saved. It was between 1,200 and 1,300 people go out two different Sunday nights, and we saw over 8,000 people, and we had about a hundred people get saved. But another thing that happened was though, and we’re still reaping benefits out of that, we still have people come to church and say, “You guys came to my house, and nobody’s ever done that.” And a lot of people said, “I’ve always wanted to go to that church, but nobody ever invited me.”

Steve Gaines: I think that we’re intimidated by the enemy. I’m talking about the Devil who just wants to keep us with zipped lips and Jesus doesn’t want us to serve with zipped lips. I think people out there are hungry, and we’ve got the bread of life. And I think if we’ll go to them, it works. A lot of people think that door-to-door doesn’t work, but I’m telling you, it does.

Steve Gaines: My son in Jackson, and I don’t know if you guys have been following him or not, but I’m telling you, he started doing this about a year ago, and they have baptized more in the last year than they have in the first six or seven years he was at the church altogether. And just Grant are just leading people to the Lord like crazy, just going door-to-door within one mile of their church. And they’re seeing all people of different ethnicities come to their church and get saved. And it’s really refreshing.

Steve Gaines: And you know, Johnny, and you do too, Kevin, what happens when you lead somebody to Christ, and it affects your pulpit ministry. You start getting excited. I’m getting excited and talking about it right now, but I mean, it affects the tone and just the atmosphere of your whole church. When there are new believers, and you’re celebrating baptisms, and you’re celebrating salvation and you’re helping those new people grow in grace and they don’t know what they’re doing. And even in all of their learning and everything, it’s just fun. And there’s newness in the house, and it just lights the whole church on fire.

Johnny Hunt: Yeah. It’s apparent that you guys are really getting it done in evangelism. And I think that all those that will listen to us will be inspired and then move into the direction of really being instructed to make a difference. Steve, how would you say evangelism and discipleship go hand-in-hand in your ministry?

Steve Gaines: Well, I believe that evangelism is the point of the spear of discipleship. I think it’s the initial aspect of making disciples. The whole concept of making disciples, I don’t believe making disciples begins with getting an existing Christian, necessarily, and getting them in a Bible study. I think that is a form of discipleship, but making disciples is the emphasis there.

Steve Gaines: If there’s no evangelism, Dr. Fish used to teach us at Southwestern. If there’s no evangelism, if there’s no soul winning in making disciples, then there’s no evangelism in the Great Commission. And so I believe that the initial thing is sharing the good news of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to lost people with the intent of winning them to Christ as Lord and Savior, that they in turn might share Him with others. That’s the definition that Dr. Fish used to give us, and I think that that’s the key.

Steve Gaines: Evangelism is sharing the gospel with lost people, and you have to do that and then win them to Christ and then help start making them grow in grace through discipleship process, which includes things like: teaching them how to read their Bible, teaching them how to pray, teaching them the importance of being with the other believers and fellowship, teaching them how to witness.

Steve Gaines: One of the things, again, I keep going back to the Grant, one of the cool things that they’re doing is they do an immediate follow-up thing, about an eight-week thing on the commands of Christ. And they take these new believers through that, and one of the first commands that they have, this is the third or fourth one, is to share your faith with other people. And these lost people have all these lost friends.

Steve Gaines: And so, Grant and them are winning all their lost friends to the Lord. I mean, Grant, he won five people to the Lord in one night just in family members of these people that are getting saved at his church. But it’s because they’re tapping into these fresh relationships of lost people who … They know lost people. I mean, I’ll be frank with you, I don’t have a lot of lost friends anymore because I’ve been saved so long. But man, when you first get saved, you’ve got a bunch of lost friends. And so those are some of the things that we’re doing.

Steve Gaines: And then discipleship, the whole process of helping people grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s a lot longer, a drawn out thing, and it takes time and you have to get involved … And I’ll be frank, it’s kind of messy because people’s lives are messed up. They might be messing with alcohol, sexual problems or whatever it might be, divorce, whatever. And they’re going through all that, and you’ve got to be willing not to just meet with them one hour a week. You’ve got be available to them on the phone. You’ve got to be talking with them and walk them through their mess. And that’s what God wants us to do.

Steve Gaines: Find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it. Get involved in people, wade out into hurting humanity, and help them. And that’s what God wants us to do. And so I see evangelism as the initial thing, sharing the gospel, and then discipleship as the whole process, but the main thing of when I think of discipleship is helping people that get saved. They grow in grace and become more like Jesus.

Johnny Hunt: That’s great. And Steve, I loved the statement, evangelism is the point of the spear. That says it clear. Hey, my prayer is that lots of guys that are listening and girls today, will really just catch the spirit of evangelism again. We see the beating of the drum, it’s causing many others to beat it as well. And we pray that will continue to happen and I even hope some will reach out to you and your staff at Bellevue and just say, “Hey, are you doing some training?” Many of those guys in your area or they’re even willing to crisscross the country, to once again, make evangelism a major priority.

Johnny Hunt: So thanks so much for helping us today, and I know it’s really out there, but Lord willing, I look forward to being with you on Sunday night, September the 22nd, when we have a major evangelism rally, and then turn around and train all those that come, all of the pastors that bring their key lay people from all over Tennessee. It’s going to make a difference. So thanks for joining us on the broadcast today, and we pray God continue to work he started there. And that God uses you to ignite the fire of evangelism on a whole lot of other people.

Steve Gaines: Well, thank you. I love you guys and appreciate your ministries and appreciate you all.

Johnny Hunt: We love you too, brother. So have a blessed day.

Steve Gaines: Thanks.

Kevin Ezell: Pastors, if you have any questions pertaining to evangelism, email us evangelism@namb.net and we will try to answer them on a later podcast. So Steve, again, thank you for listening and we’re grateful for the example you set, especially following such a slacker there at Bellevue. We’re so grateful that you stepped up evangelism, so-

Steve Gaines: Oh, man.

Kevin Ezell: Hey, listen, man. I appreciate you, brother. Take care.

Steve Gaines: Thank you, brother. I love you. Bye.