By Brandon Elrod
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (BP) — Mark Hoover, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hayti, Mo., is looking for a new “one.”
Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, has not shied away from sharing the truth about the declining number of baptisms among Southern Baptist churches. He has not, however, allowed the negative trend line to breed negativity in his message to Southern Baptists. Who’s Your One is about encouraging believers to reach their friends and family with the gospel.
After witnessing long distance to his brother, Dusty, who lives in their home state of Mississippi, Hoover saw him come to Christ. Inspired by what God had done in his life, Dusty drove several hours to Hayti where Hoover baptized him on Baptism Sunday (Sept. 8).
All across the United States, the evangelism team at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has heard similar stories during the Who’s Your One? Tour of how the movement has led to life change.
Those stories can serve as a hopeful sign for Southern Baptist churches that are working to reverse a decades-long decline.
Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, shared the reality facing the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention during a Sunday night (Sept. 29) Who’s Your One rally at Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch, Ga.: baptism numbers hit a seven-decade low in 2018.
“You go back, we had half the number of churches, we had one-eighteenth the amount of money then that we invest now,” Hunt shared with the crowd of more than 750. “So, we’re doing less with so very much more.”
Though Hunt does not shy away from reality, he refuses to allow the negative trend line to breed negativity in his message to Southern Baptists. Who’s Your One, an evangelism effort that encourages believers to focus on reaching one lost friend or family member, provides an attainable approach.
“If indeed one in 10 that attend our churches on Sunday morning were to win their one to Christ,” Hunt said, “we would not only double baptisms, we’d have the single greatest year in the history of our denomination.”
Catherine Renfro, a marketing consultant in evangelism at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), shares practical evangelism experience at Who’s Your One Tour locations. Here, she addresses the audience during the stop at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas.
Every Who’s Your One Tour stop includes a Sunday evening rally followed by Monday morning training sessions with practitioners who are seeing success in evangelism in their contexts. They have made progress despite the cultural challenges affecting North America.
“The largest growing ‘religion’ now is the ‘nones,'” said Jeff Crook, pastor of Christ Place Church. “They’re nothing. They don’t claim to be a Southern Baptist, a Protestant or anything.”
Crook shared with more than 200 church leaders gathered Monday morning (Sept. 30) how his church revolutionized its approach to evangelism. They removed obstacles and created opportunities for church members by preaching practical sermons on evangelism and finding ways to serve the community.
“Don’t make it complicated,” Crook said. “Isn’t it crazy how we make evangelism complicated? Jesus never did…. When He ascended into Heaven, He did not make it complicated. He said, ‘Go into the world and preach the Gospel.'”
The value of small groups
While casting a large vision is the place to start, Allan Taylor, executive pastor of ministries at First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., shared about the strategic importance and value small groups have in evangelism.
“I want to challenge you that your strategy should be your small group ministry,” Taylor said. “Mission is best accomplished in the context of small groups.”
Taylor, former director of Sunday school and church education ministry at LifeWay, cited a LifeWay study that illustrated the important role small groups played in evangelistically effective churches. Most churches have small groups, Taylor said, but few churches use them to reach their communities.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and immediate past president of the SBC, concluded the Monday morning (Sept. 30) training time during the Who’s Your One Tour stop at Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch, Ga. Gaines shared a message about how Bellevue has used a multi-faceted approach to share the gospel in their community.
“It’s time we turned our small groups into mission teams,” he said. “The mission is everything.”
Taylor and Catherine Renfro, a marketing consultant in evangelism at NAMB, have been regular speakers during the tour while other regional pastors and leaders provide useful evangelism instruction at the various locations.
Renfro shared her story of overcoming spiritual and emotional hurdles that arise when sharing the Gospel. Christians often fear rejection or feel that the only success in evangelism is when someone comes to Christ, she said.
“Success isn’t seeing someone saved. Success is simply sharing the Gospel,” Renfro said. “Anytime we’re faithful to share Jesus with someone, we are successful and make Him proud.”
When someone rejects the Gospel, they reject Jesus and not those who share their faith, Renfro said, referencing Luke 10:16.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church and past president of the SBC, concluded the morning’s training session by walking through the steps Bellevue takes to reach their city.
While the church can and should do a lot of good things, Gaines said, the goal of everything Bellevue does centers on sharing the Gospel with their community.
“We at Bellevue want to make disciples,” Gaines said. “Making disciples is not just getting some existing Christians and having a Bible study. If ‘make disciples’ does not include winning people to Jesus, sharing the Gospel with lost people, then there is no evangelism in the Great Commission…. It is ‘make disciples’ then baptize disciples then teach disciples all that Christ has given us.”
The Who’s Your One Tour has traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., Orlando, Dallas, Memphis and Flowery Branch, Ga., with three more stops slated for 2019 in Pensacola, Fla., Fayetteville, Ark., and Denver. Twelve more tour stops are on the Spring 2020 calendar with more to come across North America.
For more information, visit whosyourone.com.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.