God calls preachers to “tell the gospel story,” according to a Birmingham-based Southern Baptist evangelist.
Citing Jesus’ words prior to His crucifixion that the rocks would cry out in praise if the people’s voices were stilled, Scott Dawson told a group of pastors, “If they could speak, rocks would testify to the majesty of God’s creation, but they couldn’t speak to the power of God’s salvation.
“God changes people. For this task, He calls preachers to … urge people to come to Christ.”
Dawson, founder of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association, was featured speaker at a Pastor’s Preaching Forum April 21, sponsored by Shelby Baptist Association and held at Indian Springs First Baptist Church.
‘We mustn’t fail’
Dawson noted statistics that reveal the waning of evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“What I found is the 2020 reporting shows the lowest number of baptisms since 1918,” he related. “And 60,000 churches baptized no one.
“I believe sharing the gospel represents our faithfulness to God, and we mustn’t fail at this task.”
The gospel message must be faithful to scripture, Dawson added.
“I studied with Lewis Drummond at Beeson Divinity School [who] talked a lot about C.H. Dodd’s book [‘The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments’]. Dodd argued that the kerygma is the preached message Paul identified in 1 Corinthians 1 as the message God used to save the lost. The message has to do with the person of Christ, His death on the cross, His exaltation, His call to repentance and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Dawson admitted he used to think gospel preaching included preaching against culture and sin.
“The gospel Paul outlined is the fundamental truth, and this is what we share,” Dawson asserted. “But evangelistic preaching isn’t just teaching the truth. It demands passion because we believe people are lost without Christ. Evangelistic preaching centers on Christ and presses for a decision.”
Develop your style
Dawson said though others may serve as good examples, the preacher must develop his own style rather than imitating those he admires.
“Our styles of preaching are unique to each of us, but we must be natural, simple and urgent,” he said. “I want to preach with passion every time I’m in the pulpit as though my own son and daughter were in the audience and it was the last time they’d ever hear from me.”
Acknowledging it can be easy for pastors to get discouraged when they see no visible response week by week, Dawson insisted “something always happens” when the gospel is preached.
“People are saved, seeds are planted or people reject the message,” he explained. “It’s our job to proclaim and then to trust God for the results. It’s not up to you or me.”
Dawson noted that whereas the preacher speaks to the masses, God speaks to individuals during the time of invitation.
“Billy Graham never spoke to crowds during the invitation,” Dawson said. “He spoke to individuals. He was personal, direct and clear. I think we need to do the same and tell people exactly what we want them to do and what will happen during an invitation. We can never assume they know.”
COVID-19 presented some real challenges to gospel invitations, Dawson noted, adding he often relied on response cards.
“My staff drug me kicking and screaming into using text responses, but this has been effective,” he admitted. “Since people are glued to their phones now, we’ve made all our decision materials downloadable by phone.”
During an afternoon question-and-answer time Dawson responded to a question about what he’d do differently if he was able to begin again, saying, “I’ve learned the difference between a full schedule and an effective schedule. Most pastors have full schedules, but we must learn to shut off things at night, take a weekly sabbath and an annual vacation.”
Dawson said he’s always been accountable to his family and his board, but has expanded his accountability group in light of recent moral and ministry failures.
“I have 25 pastor friends around the country with access to my board, and I empowered them to contact us if they see or hear something that’s not right,” Dawson explained.
I want to stay focused on the fundamentals and be committed to the work of God, and I know you do too.”
Dawson’s website is scottdawson.org.