Announcer: 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: You’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt podcast. I’m Kevin Ezell, and here with me is Johnny Hunt. The North American Mission Board exists to connect churches with their next missional opportunity. Well, then, Johnny, we got tools and resources available to help pastors mobilize their church to share the hope of the gospel, but as you talk about evangelism, I heard you mention a missing ingredient, which is the passion or a burden for the lost.
Johnny Hunt: That’s exactly right, Kevin. You know, one of my favorite passages in the Psalms is Psalms 126, and the scripture says that they really had a passion and tears when they were sowing the seed of the gospel: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” It seems like we’re in a place in our denomination where a lot of people want tools, but the problem is, they really don’t have a burden for the lost.
Johnny Hunt: In my journey, it was just the opposite. When I was converted to Christ, realizing, and it’s probably true of so many others, everyone I knew was outside the church and were lost and on their way to hell. God gave me a real burden for them, but I felt so, so insufficient in being able to effectively share. But I did the best I could and saw so many of them come to Christ, but I was so thrilled when the day came when I could be equipped to be more proficient, more effective in the way I made the gospel known. So, the main ingredient that’s missing is the burden for the lost.
Kevin Ezell: Well, tell me, how many years you’ve been in the ministry, you’ve been pastoring?
Johnny Hunt: I’ve been pastoring 42 years now.
Kevin Ezell: 42 years. Well, what’s amazing to me is it seems like you’re more, I started to say lit, but that’s not … You’re more excited, and excited about the gospel and the burden you have for the lost now, than you seem like I’ve ever seen you. What did you do to sustain that burden and even increase it for the lost over the years?
Johnny Hunt: I’ve often literally, and I give God the glory, been a little amazed to say, “You know, God, you give me such a passion for the Word, for people, for the lost, for the sharing of the gospel.” But a fellow was in a prayer meeting one day, and afterwards we were all having breakfast, and he said, “Do you have any idea what you prayed this morning?” And I went, “Well, are you referring to something in particular?” He said, “You actually prayed that God would give you a greater passion for souls.” And I said, “Well?” And he said, “I don’t know of anybody more passionate.” I said, “Well, maybe God answered my prayer.” But I really do pray that God would keep me zealous, that God would keep me on fire for lost people.
Johnny Hunt: Simple things, that I’d never get over being saved, I’d never forget what it was like to be lost, never know what it was like to not have peace, and view people through those lens. And I think too, there’s no other way to think through this without saying, “One way I’ve sustained my burden for the lost is I’ve never stopped sharing the gospel with the lost.”
Kevin Ezell: Right. In that, what warnings would you have to pastors, or share to pastors, about the danger of being equipped and not having a burden to share?
Johnny Hunt: Well, I think we pastors see it. Regardless of what we’re training our people in, oftentimes we’re so excited, “Hey, I’m taking two people,” or, “three people through this witness training.” And the people seem so excited. But many times it’s more of excitement to know what they should do instead of obeying what they know to do.
Johnny Hunt: Ezra, when he was talking about the law, he said they were to know it and they were to teach it. But I love this part: they were to do it. Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “The things you’ve seen in me, the things you’ve learned from me, do it.” And so my favorite book in the Bible is the Book of James. He’s a practical theologian. Don’t be hearers of the Word. First chapter, verse 25, says, “Don’t just be hearers of the Word. Be doers of the work.”
Johnny Hunt: And so there’s a work to do in sharing the gospel. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t just educate the people and equip the people, but don’t pray and encourage to people to pray themselves that God burden them with the lost people that are around them.
Kevin Ezell: Absolutely. In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul tells Timothy to, “Fan into flame the gift of God which is in him.” When it comes to our burden for the lost, what would you suggest are a few ways that a pastor can, if you will, rekindle their burden for the lost while also fueling the flame of evangelism among their church members?
Johnny Hunt: You know, it’s a simple prayer, and I pray so often, “Lord, lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me.” I ask God to make me sensitive to the opportunities he’s giving me each day. And so, as I pray that way, I got to confess, many times I miss it and I think, “Oh, my God, that was a perfect opportunity and I just blew it. God, give me another opportunity.”
Johnny Hunt: I believe the best way to fan the flame is to really exercise the gift, and that is, share the gospel with others. And as you share, and many times you hear a person give push back, they’re not ready, they’re not there yet, they’re not willing to say, “Yes,” and it just burdens you for them. So what do you do? You add them to your prayer list. In my prayer journal, write in there, “God, remind me of the need to have a burden for the lost. Break my heart.”
Johnny Hunt: I love those words that Mark Hall gave us, with Casting Crowns, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” Undoubtedly the New Testament records the places where God wept over Israel’s lostness. Paul was willing to be separated from God Himself if it were possible, and it was not possible in his life.
Johnny Hunt: But in Romans chapter 9, they say that he’s actually become so emotionally burdened over those that are lost that it’s almost like he checks out mentally and begins to ask questions that if we didn’t have Romans chapter 8 and realize, nothing can separate us from the love of God, he’s saying, “I could wish myself separated for my brother.” It really says, “My family, my kin people, that they may come to faith in Christ.”
Johnny Hunt: I think we have to pray like Paul prayed. We need to pray like Jesus prayed. We need to ask him to break our hearts like his heart was broken. And I believe that God can fan the flame that is almost gone out in the life of a believer.
Kevin Ezell: Exactly. It’s not like there’s not a harvest, you know? He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” He said, “There are more people who want to hear than there are, I think, even pastors willing to share,” and-
Johnny Hunt: I’ve often said that to our people that if people are more hopeful that you will share with them. So it has a lot to do with our approach to it. If I’m with someone and I’m thinking, “They really want to know what makes me different, why I came out of the lifestyle that they’ve heard me refer to, and what made the difference in my life? Was it just a change of mind, change of direction, or did something happen in my heart from heaven to change me?”
Johnny Hunt: I found that most people find it very engaging to go in that direction, and hopeful that we will give them some of the answers-
Kevin Ezell: Sure.
Johnny Hunt: … whether they’re ready to receive it or not.
Kevin Ezell: Well, it’s all about having a burden and a passion, but Johnny, what are some things that you think would distract pastors from making evangelism a priority?
Johnny Hunt: Well, we always deal with the good and the great, or the good and the best, and busyness. This is factual. Research has just recently shown that the busyness of the church or the busyness of the pastor is a distraction, because now we place evangelism on the back burner. As a result, other things become more important. We may not even intend for that to happen, but it has happened.
Johnny Hunt: I used to hear one of my favorite preachers say that you can take your hands off the helm of the church and most things will sail right along on course. He said, “But evangelism will always go south unless you keep your hands on the helm.” So you can never for a moment place evangelism anywhere other than a priority, and that is, making the gospel known, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Johnny Hunt: As we preach each week, and really, I do pray and I ask people to pray with me. I’m praying, “God, save someone in this service. Please draw someone to Yourself. I’m sharing but it’s all dependent on You. No one can respond unless You draw them.” So it takes the pressure off us, but it also places a pressure in our heart to pray that God would do that which only He can do in changing people.
Kevin Ezell: Right. It’s got to be very intentional. Well, thank you, Brother Johnny, and thank you for joining us on this episode of Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. If you have any questions at all on evangelism, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try to answer them on a future podcast.
Kevin Ezell: Know that we are praying for you as you have opportunities to share the hope of the gospel and as you equip your church members to do the same.