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: Well, thanks for joining us. I’m Kevin Ezell, and here with me is Pastor Johnny Hunt. Pastor, do you realize that Sunday mornings are one of the greatest opportunities you have each week to share the gospel with someone who does not know Jesus? On today’s episode, we want to discuss how you can best leverage Sunday mornings for evangelism. Brother Johnny, Pastor Steven Kyle, a very good friend of yours there at Highland Park Baptist Church in Florida says, “Every Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday.” How does this mindset help pastors frame the importance of making Sunday mornings evangelistic?
Johnny Hunt: That’s a great question, and it immediately takes my mind back to one day sitting down and just writing out what I considered the greatest platforms that God has given me. Number one is literally the church I pastor, because every single week the people assemble together and I have opportunity to preach the gospel and teach the Scriptures, to minister to the people before the service and to hang out with them afterwards. Then to always include the gospel in every message. Always give a strong gospel invitation for people to receive Christ.
Johnny Hunt: But I just remembered the other morning, at the close of the invitation, a person had come forward to profess faith in Christ. I looked at the church and here’s what I said. I said, “Before you leave, I want you to know, God answered prayer in my life this morning.” I said, “Do you know that I was on my knees early this morning, praying that God would save someone today?” So there again is showing the importance, the emphasis. I’m getting ready to go lead a service where someone’s life could be changed forever, so I definitely agree with Steven Kyle. Every Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. What an opportunity to see God do a work, not just this year, but break it down into 52 weeks. Those opportunities to make Christ known.
Kevin Ezell: Brother Johnny, what are some practical ways pastors can make every component of the Sunday morning worship service evangelistic?
Johnny Hunt: Well, oftentimes I’m preaching through a series or I’m actually preaching through a book, but you will just find those golden nuggets week by week that just magnifies who Jesus is or why Jesus came or what the gospel is, so those are real teaching moments that can happen in every sermon. Charles Spurgeon used to say that people said of him that all of his sermons seemed to sound alike. He said, “Well the truth is, I preach a text and then make a beeline for the cross.” What he was saying was every week he made much of the cross of Jesus Christ in the place where people meet the Lord.
Johnny Hunt: So, in our sermons, in our time of worship, I find myself on the front row when we’re singing a song, and I look at the lyrics and they are so gospel oriented, and I’ll make myself a note in a bulletin in my hand, and when I stand up where there’s often time my preaching time, I’ll say, “Did you catch those words?” Then I’ll take those words back to the congregation and say, “That’s really who we are here. It’s what we’re all about, is really make Jesus known.”
Johnny Hunt: Then certainly when we come to the invitation, and I know we’ve talked about it before. People have different ways of doing the invitation. But when you’ve been influenced like I have, and so many others, and that is I went somewhere and heard the gospel, and then the pastor at the end gave an invite for people to respond publicly or to watch a Billy Graham crusade and watch people respond publicly, I publicly responded to the invitation, and gave my life to Jesus. I just know God changed my life in that atmosphere, in that context. And I don’t know what would have happened had the preacher not given me an opportunity to respond to the gospel that night, but nonetheless, has it influenced me? Of course it has.
Johnny Hunt: So, I’m going to do that, but if a pastor says, “I’m just going to pray with the people because they certainly don’t have to walk up the aisle to give their life to Jesus. They could be saved right there where they sit, right there where they stand.” He may invite them to a connect center after the service. There are people at a certain place, if you’d like to meet. But the main thing is you let them know that the gospel you shared is for them, and Jesus stands ready, willing, and able to change their life right now. I think that needs to be a part of every single sermon we deliver.
Kevin Ezell: It was interesting. Last night as I was going home, I listened to a radio station, and they had an ad on there for a sales video curriculum. It was a secular sales curriculum. He said, “The problem with companies, you lose out on 90% of your sales because your people just do not know how to make that ask. They don’t know how to make the ask. They talk about the product, but they never make the ask.” Don’t you think that’s a big part of the issue in churches today, that is pastors often don’t know how to make the ask, and then they don’t even teach their people how to make the ask?
Johnny Hunt: It is exactly right. You know, sometimes I make my mind up that today I’m going to shorten a sermon. I’ve got to. Then I’m going to look at the people, and I say, “Okay no one needs to be in a hurry. As you notice, look with me at your watches. I’m 15 minutes earlier than I normally am. Let me tell you why. I want to make sure I am really being clear on what I’m inviting, pleading, and asking you to do. So, we’re going to give you plenty of time to respond, plenty of time to go get your children, plenty of time to get off his campus, but I’m asking you have you come to the place in your life you know for certain you have eternal life and you go to heaven when you die?” Then just make the gospel as clear as I can in those closing moments, and then invite them to come, have men and women at the front to receive them.
Johnny Hunt: If you’re with a friend, why don’t you just look to them right now and say, “Hey if God’s dealing with you and you want to respond, I’ll go with you.” And just make it real clear and real easy. I’ve noticed when I do that, the response is even greater than normal. So, sometimes I think I’ve rushed through it, and I almost just tack an invite on the end, but there are times that you want to make it the major part of it. I think of Junior [Heel 00:06:38]. Someone may say, “How was Junior’s sermon?” And in a way, he almost starts with an invitation and just preaches the invitation all the way through. I’ll just be honest, a great host to the people at Woodstock. Their life was changed in the different days that he came as a harvester, as an evangelist that has outlined in Ephesians 4 to just make the gospel known, to travel around and do it.
Johnny Hunt: So yeah, we need to make it clear what we’re asking the people to do, and then give them an opportunity to respond once the clarity’s there.
Kevin Ezell: Exactly. You know, as a pastor often just knowing that there were guests there, when I knew for certain there was someone I was wanting to share with or I had invited and they’d come, it changed the way that I preached. And it also changed the excitement of having that opportunity. What do you think are some ways that we can leverage or encourage or mobilize our people to help get guests there or bring people to those services to have that sense of expectation?
Johnny Hunt: You know, a few weeks back, I had gone with Janet to get her nails done. So, I was sitting there, and I began to engage one of the young Vietnamese girls. Her name, the name she went by was Helen. So, I ask Helen if she would join Janet and I at church. She said, “Did you know I’ve never been to church?” I said, “Well you probably went to the Buddhist church in Vietnam.” She said, “No, I never went to the Buddhist Temple, so I’ve never really been in a house of worship.” So I said, “Will you come?” She said, “Well I’m kind of afraid to go by myself.” So the owner, he’s Vietnamese. His name’s Henry, and Janet had a good relationship with him. So we said, “Henry, will you come with Helen so she can come?”
Johnny Hunt: So when they came, I asked her before the service, I said, “Helen, this is really unusual that you’re here today. Janet and I are so honored. Do you mind if I introduce you, and then secondly maybe just tell about how you got here?” She said, “That would be fine, Pastor Johnny.” So I said, “There’s a young lady here.” Then I just simply asked a question. Any of you ladies ever go to a nail salon? And there was a chuckle in the church. I said, “Have you ever pleaded and invited the young person to come?” I said, “This lady, after 27 years, had made her way into the house of God. I think she deserves a round of applause.” Our people were standing and whistling, and how encouraging.
Kevin Ezell: That’s great.
Johnny Hunt: But then I thought, I invited her. You ladies sit there for 30 minutes to an hour every couple of weeks, or however often you get your nails done. Have you ever invited them? How about a person that does your hair? How about the person that does your laundry? You’ve got to invite them. It’s a missing link. I noticed the other day that LifeWay has put out new material. Thom Rainer said one of the major missing ingredients in evangelism that’s caused us to go backwards in the Southern Baptist Convention is we have done away with the invite. We have got to invite our friends. As a matter of fact, they say it’s the number one tool that we can use.
Kevin Ezell: So Brother Johnny, are you saying one of the most practical, or perhaps the most practical way a pastor could engage in evangelism is to go with his wife to get her nails done? Is that what you’re saying?
Johnny Hunt: Exactly. Exactly. If you do decide while you’re there to use their services, that will be one part you leave out of your sermon that following Sunday.
Kevin Ezell: That’s perhaps the most impressive thing you said all morning. I was like, man you’re taking one for the team doing that. Hey, what are some best practices for pastors to make sure that guests are welcomed in a service? You just have a natural ability to do that, but what would you say to pastors, how can they make sure guests feel welcomed?
Johnny Hunt: You know, I make it my business to really try to read and keep up with Bonner, Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer and others and what they’re saying. When I read many years ago that probably 90% of the people that visit your church make their decision as to whether they’re going to return before they ever make it inside the building. So, when you come to Woodstock, as soon as you get on our property, any entrance you come in, you’re going to see a sign that says, “If you’re a guest, turn your lights on.” Then they’re going to direct you to a guest parking lot. In that guest parking lot, without exception, even if it’s raining, I’ve got a team out there. The team’s going to greet you, and they’re going to walk you to the front door, and they’re going to make you feel welcome. They’re going to introduce you. They’re not going to send you off in a direction. They’re going to take you.
Johnny Hunt: So, here’s the bottom line. We’re expecting guests. We’re expecting guests. So, everything’s ready for the guests when they come. We have gifts for them. We try to be very kind. And I’ve got to be honest with you, we hand pick those people that do that. We don’t just let anybody. Some people would hurt you more than help you. You better get real about that. So, the kindest people in our church are the ones that are out there greeting others. So, we’re expecting them to come, and when they come, we’re ready for them.
Kevin Ezell: Right. Most people will decide whether or not that they’re going to visit a church again long before the first worship song is even played.
Johnny Hunt: Exactly.
Kevin Ezell: So that’s exactly what you’re saying. More than styles of music or quality of the sermon, people want to feel welcome and feel like they have a place they belong. And pastor, that’s your responsibility to set that tone, and we are so grateful for your ministry and all that you’re doing to reach people with the gospel, and we want to help in any way we possibly can. Brother Johnny, thank you for your time, your investment and the model that you are for pastors.
Johnny Hunt: Well, I pray the model will be extended to every local church in the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond in 2019.
Kevin Ezell: That’s right. And pastor, if you have any questions, please email us at Evangelism@NAM.net. If you have any complaints, feel free to email those to Evangelism@IMB.net. That’s just a joke. Thanks for listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt.