Usually a two-day meeting at one location, this year the REACH Evangelism event features a one-day format in four locations. At each site, although speakers may vary, the key word remains the same: be intentional.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” said Todd Gray of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Evangelism and Church Planting team. “If you have an evangelistic preacher you’ll have an evangelistic church,” he added. “Our prayer is that each of us will be encouraged to be used by the Lord to use our place, our influence, our platform to share the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
REACH conferences were held last week at Union Baptist Church near Florence and at Rose Hill Baptist Church in Ashland. Two more are taking place this week: Tuesday, at Edgewood Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, and Thursday, at Main Street Baptist Church in Williamsburg. Those who attend, Gray hopes, are inspired to be more intentional about sharing the gospel
In Florence, Timothy Beougher, Billy Graham professor of evangelism at Southern Seminary, brought a scholarly approach to understanding barriers and overcoming common fears and excuses, while Steve Ayers, pastor of Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green, issued a passionate appeal for sharing Christ with others.
“God is not looking for perfect witnesses!” Beougher said, reminding us that a person who is struggling in an area can be a powerful witness. But “if you know your life is out of line (with God’s word), then do what it takes to get back in line,” he added. While some may claim they don’t have “the gift of evangelism,” Beougher said he isn’t sure evangelism is a fruit of the Spirit. “Even if evangelism is a ‘gift,’ it is also clearly a command!”
Ayers suggested that a reason some aren’t sharing Christ more often is because “we’ve told people to do evangelism, (when) we’re supposed to be evangelists.” Observing that “the devil has us distracted with doing things because he fears the day we become evangelists,” Ayers urged, “Lift up your eyes!” Holding up a cell phone, as if to take a selfie, he asserted, “Our eyes are in the wrong place. We need to get our heads up … (to see) God’s got a ministry right in front of us.”
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., closed out the Ashland meeting by spotlighting the conscience as a “divine alarm system.” Comparing the conscience to a window that lets in light, Hunt explained, “God’s Law is the light, and the cleaner the window is, the more the light shines in.” In addition to good and weak consciences, Hunt noted that the Bible speaks of convicting, defiled and seared consciences. “When God speaks, we ought to act,” he said, for if one keeps pushing the Spirit away, the conscience dies and “you won’t be able to receive the light that God sends.”
While early numbers may have been somewhat less than what planners hoped for, the smaller crowds allowed opportunity for personal interaction with the program leaders and for exploring practical applications in church settings. Attenders find the “university” component and panel discussions beneficial in strengthening local outreach ministries and discovering state, national and international missions ventures. And, they are certain to come away with some new tools for reaching people with the gospel.