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Creating evangelism culture focus of Engage 24 event at Highview


LOUISVILLE—Four Southern Baptist church leaders and a national evangelism director shared stories of how real-life churches are doing things to reach the lost to hopefully spark ideas for others during the Engage 24 event in Louisville last week.

Engage 24 was hosted by Highview Baptist Church's East Campus in Louisville Oct. 9-10. The two-day event, sponsored by the North American Mission Board, focused on encouraging pastors and church leaders and highlighted practical ways to create a culture of evangelism in their churches.

Ken Whitten offers several "checkpoints" for improving guest relations.

"What a unique opportunity to have Southern Baptist leaders like Johnny Hunt, Ken Whitten, John Meador, Jimmy Scroggins, and Joel Sutherland to speak to Kentucky Baptist pastors and leaders," said Todd Gray, leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention's Evangelism and Church Planting team. "Those in attendance went away equipped, encouraged, and inspired to be more intentionally evangelistic," he said.

More than 150 people attended the workshop, which along with its sessions included a question-and-answer panel discussion that covered topics such as making time for family, keeping a balance within pastors' lives, and ways even small churches can go about reaching their communities.

Four keynote speakers provided pastors and church leaders with principles, best practices, and transferable concepts so other churches can become more evangelistic in their outreach.

Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of the Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., and former dean of Boyce College, focused specifically on creating an evangelistic culture in a church. He also taught his "Three Circles" technique for turning everyday conversations into Gospel conversations.

In addition to engaging in focused prayer, engaging a good tool to help people share the Gospel, and engaging in training people, Scroggins urged the pastors to "engage with far-from-God people."

Jim Law, executive director of the North American Mission Board's new evangelism and leadership group; and pastors Ken Whitten and John Meador participate on a panel, which Joe Southerland moderated.

Christians tend to gravitate toward other Christians socially, he noted, reminding pastors of the need to "constantly remind people how important far-from-God people are."

Another way that Scroggins suggested to create an evangelistic culture is collecting and celebrating stories. "Get the stories out there, make it fun, that's how you make a culture contagious. … It's done by sharing stories."

"It's not about (gaining) attention, but our attentiveness to the word of God," Ken Whitten said about being overly concerned with church size and attendance numbers. Rather, he said, "It's about 'Have I led them to be on mission?'

"I'm not telling you to cancel any programs, but to take what your doing and turn it into ministry," advised Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.

Whitten also offered some "checkpoints" for guest relations to help build a culture "where sinners are welcome."

"You've got to ask, what does my church look like (to visitors), and who are we trying to reach?" he said.

Southerland provided church leaders with some "evergreen principles," which he defined as being true regardless of time, technology, place or culture.

The pastor has to lead the church to be evangelistic, Southerland said. "There is not such a thing as an evangelistic church, that on its own will gravitate toward doing evangelism," he said.

"You, as pastor, set the culture," he said. "You build it one brick at a time."

Southerland advised pastors to find a simple strategy, "a three, four of five step process," that moves people into doing evangelistic ministry.

What's the best evangelism tool for churches to use? "The one that you will teach them," he said. "Turn people into missionaries right where the live," he urged.

"Everything rises and falls on leadership, it's got to begin with me," agreed Johnny Hunt, who was pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Ga, for 32 years. Hunt recently join the North American Mission Board as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership.

"It's not the truth you know that makes the difference; it's the truth you obey," Hunt said.

"We're giving training to people who don't have a burden," he said. "They're not broken" over their lost family members and friends.

Encouraging pastors to instruct, inspire and model evangelism, Hunt said, "You may just win one, but the one you win may win thousands."

Aside from practical advice, the speakers and panelists offered encouragement and support for other pastors. 

"Every one of them had something to say that we can take away and apply," said Casey McCall, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in LaGrange.

"I got a ton of ideas that you can implement right away," agreed Seth Carter, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paintsville. "It was very encouraging."

Mike Stacy, pastor of Sulphur Spring Baptist Church in Franklin, summed up what he took from the workshop: "Change the mentality and you will see the culture of your church change." (WR)

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