If you’re looking for magic church growth elixirs or the silver bullet to fast numeric increase, Pastor Mac Brunson probably isn’t your guy. But if you want an example of what long term dedication to cultivating a passionate culture for evangelism can do to bolster the local church, look no further.
In this episode of the Evangelism podcast, Brunson, pastor of Valleydale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, joins Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell to discuss how a no-nonsense, no-shortcut evangelism strategy opens up amazing opportunities for local churches to impact their cities with the gospel.
Visit https://www.namb.net/evangelism/ for more resources that help mobilize your church into evangelism.
Speaker 1: 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.
Johnny Hunt: Hey, I’m Johnny Hunt. Kevin, you’ve said this numerous times, but everything we do here at North American Mission Board is about sharing the hope of the Gospel, and we want to see churches doing whatever it takes to reach the community with the Gospel and it all begins with the pastor. So today we are greatly blessed to have my dear friend, Mac Brunson, pastor of Valleydale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, to join us on the podcast. Mac is one of the best when it comes to leading the church in evangelism and reaching lost people in the community. Mac, thanks for joining us this morning.
Mac Brunson: I’m honored to be here.
Johnny Hunt: Hey Mac. We want to talk a little bit about evangelism. So let’s just be basic. How do you do it? How do you lead a church to become so evangelistic? I’m following your podcast and it’s blessed me. It seems like, whether it’s Sunday after service or Wednesday night, we see you praying with people to receive Christ, and I’m rejoicing with you. So how do you do that?
Mac Brunson: Well, you know, I think, Johnny, that a man has to lead himself first before he can lead anybody else. I just think one of the things that a pastor has to do is just get off somewhere in a place by himself and get on his face before God and be honest with what is it that God has called me to do. And above everything else, I have been called to share the Gospel, and that doesn’t just mean from a pulpit. That means personal evangelism. That’s what we call it, but just personally sharing Christ with other people. And I think we have to be honest about that with ourselves first. That’s a call on my life as a believer, and that’s a commitment that I made to Christ.
So, I think (a pastor) has to share…I think he has to get to the place to where that’s the burden of his heart and then personally I think he must see to it that his staff understands that’s his burden, and in doing that they began to catch that burden as well. I think he has to lead himself, he has to lead his staff and when you get to the leaders of the church, there has to be an intentional leading of those leaders to become evangelistic.
Johnny Hunt: That’s a good word. I’ve been saying for years, and trying to say it even more in recent days, that whatever’s important to the pastor will become important to people, and I like the fact whatever’s important to you then next becomes important to the staff, and I pray even our staff wives or spouses, and then it becomes part of the culture of the church.
Mac Brunson: Right.
Kevin Ezell: Brother Mac, you have pastored obviously very prominent churches in the SBC, but it seems like right now in your church, you’re seeing more people come to faith in Christ than you ever have. I mean, what would you say is the reason for that?
Mac Brunson: Well, you know, I wonder about that too, Kevin. God in His grace and His goodness has placed me in a church where now I get to come back to minister, and I love it. That’s my heart, that’s where I should be. That’s where I need to be, and I don’t know, but since the first day that I got to Valleydale, it’s like there is a fire that has just been ignited by a touch of God. The people sense how passionate I am for this and they’re beginning to catch it. They’ve acknowledged it, they see it. There’s a sense of it.
But I would say right now these are the most productive days of my ministry and I’m 61 years old. Listen, I’ll be 62 next month. These are the most productive days of my ministry, and I’m seeing a fresh touch of God on my life personally, on the church that I pastor and on the ministry that God’s given to me. I wish I knew the formula, but I don’t. I can give you a lot of things that, you know, oh man, I spend hours in prayer and… well, I’ll have to repent when I hang up. I can’t explain… You can’t explain any of this apart from the Holy Spirit.
Kevin Ezell: Right. Well if you ever do come up with the exact formula, let us know. We’d be glad to bottle it and reproduce it.
Johnny Hunt: You know, one thing that’s encouraging, Mac, is we’re observing that. Bottom line is it was a significant move all across our convention. There’s the grapevine thinking, here’s a guy walking away from a church of 6000 weekly attendance to a church of around 1000, and I know y’all have grown probably beyond that, but the bottom line is all were watching. So how encouraging it is to see how God has just used you in such a way to make a difference.
You talk about your age and I’m going to ask you to be careful there because I’m a little bit older than you, and yet that’s encouraging too, though, to know that our best days really can be ahead of us. That it’s not just something we say to keep ourselves energized. So here you are at this juncture in your life in a different setting, different city, and one of the things we’re hearing all across our denomination is what it takes to reach a city. I love that I’m hearing more and more say that, “I don’t necessarily feel just called to the church, I feel called to the city. So, talk to us a minute about what it takes to reach a city with the gospel.”
Mac Brunson: Well, I would say this. First of all, I tell pastors this, if you want to stay long, go slow. Don’t try to outrun everything. Don’t try to get so far out ahead of everybody that they get lost somewhere. The other thing I would say is this, is if you want to reach many, then disciple a few. Start with a few. And I have never been good at being patient, but boy God has just really worked on me in that area. We have taken the last year to move our church through a process, and we are now concentrating on our immediate community, which is going to be about a 10-mile area around the church, and then we’re going to move out beyond that.
Now, Valleydale was already doing a fabulous job in national and international missions, but you can do that and lose at home. So I’m trying to bring back that element of we’ve got to be faithful to do our witnessing right here as well as going nationally and internationally.
So, I think it’s just being intentional, setting out a plan, getting a plan and leading the staff and the church through it and the leadership through it, and just doing it.
Johnny Hunt: Yeah.
Mac Brunson: And listen, that takes a little bit of time. You know, I preached on Abraham last night out of Genesis 21. God didn’t give him Isaac immediately. It was 25 years. The man was 75 when God started discipling him and he was 100 when God gave him Isaac. So it took a 75-year-old man 25 years to get to the place to where God said, “Okay. Now I can give you this boy.” So don’t let going slow hinder you. Just do a good work, do a good job at planning that out and launching it.
Johnny Hunt: That’s a good word. It’s been said the light that shines the furthest shines the brightest at home, which is a great statement. And then secondly, churches that seem to be doing the best job in evangelism, it’s been said that their church really resembles the community. And then something that Homer Lindsay, before he went to Heaven, taught me is that it takes several years to become the pastor. There’s really no such thing as a great work that’s been built in just a couple of years.
Mac Brunson: Absolutely.
Johnny Hunt: So that’s a great word to just settle in, dig your heels in, and really begin to go after the community.
Mac Brunson: Persistence, persistence. Just stay persistent with the mission.
Kevin Ezell: Brother Mac, you, like Brother Johnny, have invested in young pastors all your ministry that I know of. What is the one thing that you would say to a young pastor or an encouragement to them about their role in evangelism and the role their church plays in the kingdom?
Mac Brunson: Well, I would say it’s critical and I would tell that pastor every time you get up and preach, preach the Gospel.
Kevin Ezell: Right.
Mac Brunson: Boy, I had Sumner Witt as a member of my church in Dallas, and I’m telling Sumner Witt, listen, he’d come up to me and catch me sometime and say, “You didn’t put the gospel in there.” And I’d say, “Yes I did,” and he’d say, “No, you didn’t.” He’d follow me to my office and we’d sit there and he would instruct me and listen, let me tell you, he was exactly right. Every time you preach, you put the gospel in that message. You put the gospel in that sermon. I think by doing that you have a tremendous impact on the life of your church. And I’ll say one other thing, and I’ll just throw this out – this is my personal opinion, I think giving an invitation says something to a congregation as well, just as not giving an invitation says something to a congregation. So to me, it’s very important in a service that you give, you extend that invitation.
Kevin Ezell: So brother Mac, you’re saying that even at First Dallas or First Jackson, you have people correct your sermons? I mean, that’s probably pretty encouraging to young pastors.
Mac Brunson: Yeah. Moving on.
Johnny Hunt: You know, I made a statement and you just brought it to memory and now I’m going to use it like you just used it. I said to people when we’d receive the offering, when you give on Sunday it matters and when you don’t give it matters. And you just said when you give an invitation it matters, and when you don’t give an invitation, it matters. That is a strong word. And one of the things we’ve got to wrestle with as a convention is why are we so far down in baptisms? And there’s a lot of just common denominators that we’re seeing over and over and over again, and even to the point of saying that have we really preached the gospel if we’ve not given an invite to receive that good news into our life personally?
As old Bill Bright used to say, “You must individually receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” and I feel like we’re given an opportunity to do that.
Mac, we’re grateful for how God’s using you. We’re all observing it. I mean, I look daily on Twitter in particular and other media outlets, but it’s always caught my eye how God was using you. So when we talked about interviewing, I thought, “Well, we got to interview Mac Brunson.” So we rejoice in what God is doing. We’re grateful that you’ve joined us on the podcast today. Thank you for the way you’re leading your church so well. I pray that others will listen. I think you’re one of the finest Biblical preachers that we have in our denomination, so we all can learn from you and we just appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
Mac Brunson: Well, I love you guys as well, and thank you for the opportunity.
Kevin Ezell: Thank you Brother Mac, and Pastor, if you have any questions about leading your church in evangelism, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will answer it on a future episode. Thank you for listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt.