How to reach those ‘far from God’ but ‘near to us’

September 11, 2020

The missionary task propels the global church from everywhere to everywhere to share the gospel in the darkest corners of the world. That same gospel-driven intentionality leads local churches to be relevant in engaging the lost around them.

Our state is changing as long-term North Carolinians drift further from God while many who are far from God move here and live closer to us. With a bit of understanding fueled by love and compassion, we can learn to connect with the lost around us.

However, understanding people and overcoming barriers is not actually the first problem in evangelism. Most Christians simply don’t share the gospel. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” But increasingly, more churches are taking a shot.

Don Evans, a lay leader at First Baptist Church of Shallotte, has a burden to challenge and lead other church members to engage their community. A fast-growing town near the coast, Shallotte has numerous retirees moving in from all over.

Evans leads a team of lay people who have gone through Gospel Conversations training and ongoing coaching from Josh Reed, senior consultant for Adult Evangelism and Discipleship at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. These lay people are learning to listen well as they welcome new neighbors to their community, offering to help them move in and get settled, handing out welcome kits and praying with them.

Pastor Bob Weathers has also cast a vision for the church to minister to a hurting community during the pandemic. Members have distributed many “Bags of Hope” to those in need in other communities of Shallotte, loving them and praying with them. Many members are understanding how God has uniquely equipped them with gifts, talents and personalities to engage others. They are growing in confidence to share the gospel, and learning to follow up to build relationships and continue sharing truth.

As we engage those around us, we see their brokenness and are moved by the compassion of Jesus for them. As we listen well to their stories, the Holy Spirit helps us share the story of redemption with love.

Steve King, associate pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, also emphasizes the importance of training church members to proclaim the truth. Rather than focusing on events and programs to draw the lost to the church, he is training church members to be Christ’s ambassadors in their own neighborhoods and circles of influence.

King encourages members to get to know their neighbors or coworkers, to listen for things that matter to them, to celebrate with them — like attending a child’s band concert with neighbor parents — and to bless and serve them. He also encourages efforts to engage Sudanese Muslims through English as a second language (ESL) classes and other ministries to demonstrate and proclaim the love of Christ.

King likens the church to an aircraft carrier in a strategic location, positioned for the gospel.

“We seek to train and mobilize our church members to see themselves dispersed for God’s purposes,” King said. “We also do events, but that’s not nearly as important or fruitful as being dispersed to spread the gospel.”

In our changing culture, many people are far from God. As we engage those around us, we see their brokenness and are moved by the compassion of Jesus for them. As we listen well to their stories, the Holy Spirit helps us share the story of redemption with love. God’s deep love for us fills our hearts and flows out through us onto those around us.

God alone is powerful enough to save them. This gives us confidence to expect fruit even among those who seem resistant and humbly keeps us on our knees to pray for the lost. It’s God’s job to save those far from Him, but it’s our job to share His truth with those He has brought near to us.

 by John Davenport  /  Strategic Focus Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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