Welcome to the first episode of the Evangelism podcast with pastor Johnny Hunt! In this special episode, you’ll hear about pastor Johnny Hunt’s desire to not only teach the gospel with his heart but to model what the gospel says. In this first episode, you’ll be encouraged by Johnny’s wisdom and experience evangelizing, and be given practical takeaways to start evangelizing in your context today.
Curious about evangelism? Visit https://www.namb.net/.
Kevin Ezell: Hey there! You’re listening to the Evangelism with Johnny Hunt podcast. I’m Kevin Ezell, and with me is my great friend and co-host, Johnny Hunt. I’ve been president of the North American Mission Board for just over eight years now, and it is a privilege to partner with you, brother Johnny, as you lead. Not only have you left your church in an effort to send the hope of the gospel to those in your community, but now, as you join us on the NAM team, to help encourage other pastors to do exactly the same.
Johnny Hunt: That’s undoubtedly what fires my heart the most, and that is that we trust the lord that we will become exponential in influence in trying to help our 45,000 plus Southern Baptist pastors be encouraged and hopefully fan the flame of evangelism.
Kevin Ezell: Well, the only concern I got, brother Johnny, is just a lack of experience on your part, because it looks like you’ve only been pastor, like what, 42 years?
Johnny Hunt: Yeah, but I’ve got one more year. I’m hoping this last year it’ll all come together.
Kevin Ezell: Well, I’ll just try to stay away from any member of First Baptist Woodstock. I think I’m on their watch list, but we are so grateful for you being willing to take on this new role. We’ve got to do something to paddle shock the emphasis and the concern, and the passion that pastors need. We have resources. It’s just so often the passion is just not there.
Johnny Hunt: Exactly. Really one of my favorite passages, and people know it, they sing songs about it, but Psalms 126 when the Bible talks about David, “So in tears shall reap in joy.” You can’t get around tears without thinking of passion. It’s really a matter of the heart. So, when God begins to stir our heart for evangelism, give us tears for those who don’t know him, I just think when we emulate and model that before our people, it is definitely gonna make a difference.
Kevin Ezell: Absolutely. Wouldn’t you agree that the pastor’s the leader in that? They’re gonna follow your lead. The key to your church being so focused on evangelism was the passion that you presented to them every Sunday.
Johnny Hunt: I heard John Maxwell say it first, but you can teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are. If I’m an evangelist at heart and I’m modeling it, I am confident others are gonna catch it.
Kevin Ezell: Right. Well, reflecting back on your years of being a pastor and your passion for evangelism, what are some of the experiences in the era of evangelism as a pastor that you remember that are most clear in your memory?
Johnny Hunt: Clear is when it really does become part of your DNA. It really is organic, that I’m just teaching our people, but in the teaching I think, that reminds me, this week I was on a plane, or this week I was in my neighborhood. And I begin to tell the stories of some that we influence to come to Christ or maybe some that’s not there yet, but the joy and the privilege to make the gospel known, and then to remind them that I really do nothing more important than helping a man or woman or a young person come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. So, as I begin to talk about it, others begin to say, “Man, I’d love to be with you sometime, to see you model that type witnessing,” and that’s where it all starts.
Johnny Hunt: Basically when a pastor says, “I hate to go to that church. They really aren’t very evangelistic.” That’s why they need a pastor that is. If he goes in and models it, it’s been said that normally within the first five years, a church will take on the personality of the pastor. I think that’s part of it, his character traits, whatever’s important to him becomes important to them. So, evangelism must be on the front burner of the pastor’s heart.
Kevin Ezell: It’s because of who he is. Some people want to judge how evangelistic a church is by what happens on Sunday. So often the real tell tale sign is what happens Monday through Saturday because it’s not something you flip on and flip off.
Johnny Hunt: We even talked about how it gives the pastor an expectancy. If I’ve been working the field all week, and I can really anticipate something of a harvest on Sunday. And especially when I’m asking people, “Hey pray.” I’ve got two neighbors, and they’ve promised to be here at 11 o’clock, and you know they haven’t encountered Christ yet. It just puts more fervency in your preaching, a spirit of expectancy. Instead of just knowing that I’m preaching to the same people every week, and just hoping they will continue to make decisions.
Kevin Ezell: You know one thing, if pastors would do exactly what you just said, if they would preach every Sunday like their lost neighbor is in the pew, it would change the way they communicate. I mean, sometimes we speak with such “church language” that we’re not really communicating to a person that knows very little about the gospel. And like you said, you can’t wait until you’re done because you know if you’ve led somebody to Christ, you can’t wait to see them walk the hour.
Johnny Hunt: The other side is maybe that’s why a lot of times it’s easy to not be evangelistic and just be a teaching pastor that is wanting to go deeper just with the understanding of the scripture, as opposed to knowing that we’re sewing that knowledge in hopes that we will see fruit from our labor, but if we know that there’s no unbeliever there, it steals your fire or passion to even go that direction.
Kevin Ezell: Well, evangelism is the heartbeat of everything we do here at the North American Mission Board. Whether it’s church planning with the Send Network or compassion ministries within Send Relief. Our goal is to see every church living on mission in an effort to send the hope of the gospel. Every member on mission, every church on mission. Everything we do is evangelism. Now we’ve created this new evangelism and leadership team, for which you are the vice president of, obviously, but it’s not a one-man show. We brought on Tonto, or better known as Jim Law.
Johnny Hunt: Yeah, we did. We need Jim Law. We need all the help we can get. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about us speaking into the life of the pastors, the leaders of our churches and then hoping that they will take that same message back to their church, and that we’ll just see a movement of God across our denomination. But one thing’s for sure, if the pastors don’t get it, our churches will never get it.
Kevin Ezell: Exactly.
Johnny Hunt: A lot rests on the leadership of the pastor.
Kevin Ezell: Exactly. Well, I’m so grateful for not only your example, but your willingness to invest in the thousands and thousands of pastors we have out there, southern Baptist and otherwise. We just want to see people come to know Christ, but we have to have pastors who are focused on evangelism to do that.
Johnny Hunt: Yeah. One of the things that we really want to do is we want to instruct pastors. I’m not saying that they need much more, but I think part of it, and could be sometimes a missing ingredient, is inspire pastors. I can be greatly inspired as well as instructed when we hear of the stories of recent converts, or even many times ask a new convert to travel with me when I’m speaking and challenging pastors. Sort of like I read in Acts chapter three this morning, where when the person at the temple gate was converted, it basically said that the naysayers pretty much didn’t have much to say because of the proof of the man that was there that had been changed that can now walk. So, they say the greatest evidence of the resurrection is a changed life. That’s gonna happen as we share the gospel and make Christ known.
Kevin Ezell: Well, we certainly want to see the decline in baptisms reversed. We do believe that it begins with evangelism, and with the pastor. Brother Johnny, what are a few words of encouragement that you would want to give a pastor today, as they lead in evangelism? I mean, you deal with pastors every day, but what are just some things you would do to encourage them?
Johnny Hunt: I would ask him to begin with his own heart, even as I want to begin with my own heart. Maybe you’ve heard it, maybe you haven’t, but for years I’ve prayed, “Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me.” In our prayer journals, our devotions, there should be the names of men and women that we encounter that we’re praying for, and then we’re praying for an opportunity to share. I think it is so easy and I want to model it every chance I can of how easy it is to turn any conversation into a gospel conversation. I mean, you can do it without changing the temperature of the room. I mean, you don’t feel somebody getting uneasy. It is just a natural flow of your conversation, just as much as prayer is. Prayer doesn’t have to be so formal. You can just go right into the presence of Christ and begin to have a conversation, or praying with your spouse or whatever.
Johnny Hunt: So, I really want to just hopefully heighten the awareness of how can we as pastors anticipate or expect our people to be doing what we’re not modeling ourselves. So, I want to model that. I want to tell the people that I’m praying that the lord will bring more of them to join me in the work of the harvest. And even to begin with, if I were pastor of a church and I’m just getting started, I would begin to pray that the lord would give me some pardoners in the harvest. Then I would tell the church. I would say, “Hey, just want you to know you can pray for me. I’ve been praying that God would speak into your life and that a couple of you men would join me in the harvest.” He may give you more than two. Then you’ve got a real issue. But there’s people that are willing to join us.
Johnny Hunt: Then once we get them to join us, if they don’t have the tools, I certainly feel like the average pastor has the tools, but maybe their people don’t feel efficient. That’s where the tools become invaluable to help in the process. But I know it can happen. It’s happened in our past as southern Baptists. Now we’re stronger financially in numbers than ever before, but the one thing we need to turn around is the sharing of the gospel with the intent of by the grace of God asking for a decision and seeing our baptisms and its trend reversed.
Kevin Ezell: Right. You brought up a good point. Sometimes people talk about gospel conversations, and they’re just talking about things that are sprinkled with the gospel, but they never lead it to a point of some type of decision.
Johnny Hunt: Exactly. I’m often reminded, especially after my 11 o’clock service, people will just come down to greet you. I’m one of the last to leave. I’m lingering. Somewhere in the conversation, there’ll be a young person or a couple or a man or a lady, and they’ll just say to me, “Boy, I was really touched through the ministry of your teaching this morning.” And we’ll just carry on a light conversation. I’ll just turn it real quick and just say, “So now, have you guys been coming to church here very long?” “No, just a couple weeks.” “Before us, what’s your religious background?” They’ll just sprinkle it with, “You know we used to go here. I haven’t been in a long time.” Just right in the midst of that simple encouraging conversation, I may just say, “Hey, well let me ask you. Has there ever been a time in your life that you’ve turned from your sins and placed your faith in Christ?” It’s almost like they’re waiting for me to ask it.
Johnny Hunt: So, either we’re able to set on the front row and share the gospel with clarity there, or I’m able to say, “Hey, you know what. Let me share a number or email with you, and we can connect. I can meet you halfway. Come to where you work. You can come to me. But I want us to follow-up on this conversation.” You can just tell. More times than not, they’re ready to talk. Then many times I’m actually able to lead them to Christ there, right there in the conversation. It was just, it was such a simple transition.
Kevin Ezell: Just a natural flow.
Johnny Hunt: Natural.
Kevin Ezell: Well pastor, we are grateful for all you do. Our hope is that this podcast will be a valuable resource for you as you continue to lead your church to be on mission. So, I just want to say thank you for listening today, and join us for our next episode of Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. If you have any questions on evangelism, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try to answer them on the next podcast. Brother Johnny, thank you so much for your insight, and look forward to doing this on a regular basis.
Johnny Hunt: Thank you, Kevin. We’re really trusting and praying that God’s gonna turn it all around.
Kevin Ezell: Absolutely.