What it means to engage lostness

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

Today, we will launch a short but much-needed conversation. It is a conversation about the need for evangelism within our roles as ministry leaders.

Usually we write on topics we love, are fluent in or have had a measure of success in. None of those things will be the case for me nor for the other contributors in this series. We are writing to sound an alarm. We are writing to look within the area of our personal involvements and practices of evangelism and witnessing.

This is critical for all our churches and for the tribe which most of us belong to in the Southern Baptist Convention. We must face current realities by looking briefly at the following disturbing, undeniable trends: 

  • Ed Stetzer provides us with discouraging facts. “We have experienced a decline in baptisms, down 3.3 percent to 295,212 (for 2016). Reported baptisms have fallen eight of the last 10 years.”
  • From Thom Rainer as posted on Dr. Jason Allen’s blog. “In 2014, Southern Baptist Convention congregations baptized one person a year for every 51 members. In other words, it took 51 of us to see one baptism. In 1950—one of our best years for baptismal effectiveness—it took only 18 Southern Baptists to reach one person for Christ a year. According to these metrics, our denomination was three times more effective at reaching people for Christ 60 years ago than it is today.”

Since most of us are heavily involved in local churches, this insightful list from Thom Rainer probably won’t shock us. He gives us some main reasons why Christians do not evangelize in his list Obstacles to Evangelism in the Local Church:

  • Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  • Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  • Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  • We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  • Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  • Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  • Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  • Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  • Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  • Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  • Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  • Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  • Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  • Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do things that really matter.

Most of us are aware of the realities of Thom’s list. We increasingly see the results of what happens when believers do not engage lostness. Communities are not transformed. Lives are not set free. Churches are dying at a frighteningly rapid pace.

Let’s consider the word “engage” as it has two unique definitions that apply to our concept of “engaging lostness.”

Look at two word forms of engage from Collins Dictionary:

“Transitive verb: If something engages you or your attention or interestit keeps you interested in it and thinking about it.

“Intransitive verb: If you engage with something or with a group of people, you get involved with that thing or group and feel that you are connected with it or have real contact with it.”

We must ask ourselves these three hard questions:

  1. Do lost people have my interest, my thoughts or my prayers?
  2. Am I doing what I can to connect, be involved with or have meaningful contact with those who don’t know Jesus or His gospel?
  3. What responsibility do I have as spiritual leader to engage the lost around me?

I had to ask myself this several time. What keeps me from engaging the lost more than I do? Is it because lost people do not have my interest enough to cause me to act? Or am I not connected with or engaged meaningfully with the lost because of the busyness of my life as pastor’s wife and a full-time employee in ministry setting?

There. I said it in print. I am often “too busy” in the kingdom of God and in the local church, plus I just don’t care enough. What about you? We have a responsibility before the Lord to take a long look at our heartbeat for those without Christ and our commitment and practice to engage them with love and gospel conversations.

Stay tuned for our next few blogs to hear from other ministry wives as they discuss taking the gospel to places they call home.

Published November 13, 2017

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Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.