If you haven’t yet experienced a Sharing Hope evangelism conference, you have two more chances.
The annual statewide conference, sponsored by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, encourages and equips pastors, lay leaders and church members in the work of evangelism. This year’s plan has been to bring the conferences closer to Alabama Baptists by hosting four regional events.
Jarman Leatherwood, Lee Strobel and Daven Watkins are scheduled to speak in Pelham. That event also will feature gatherings of Hispanic and Korean Baptists. Ronnie Hill, Ed Litton, Tim Beougher and Tom Richter are set for Cullman.
The second of four Sharing Hope evangelism events was held Feb. 6–7 at Taylor Road Baptist Church in Montgomery. Featured pastors and evangelism leaders for the Montgomery session were Daniel Atkins, Sammy Gilbreath, Dean Inserra, Lawrence Phipps and Ted Traylor.
Daniel Atkins, senior pastor, Taylor Road Baptist Church
Atkins preached from Mark 1, noting most Bible scholars believe Mark is the most evangelistic gospel.
He said it can be boiled down to three basic questions — and those three have not changed for 2,000 years.
- Who is Jesus?
- What did Jesus do?
- What does it mean to follow Jesus?
“These questions are timeless because they matter more than any other question any human can ever answer,” Atkins asserted.
He said the way the gospel is presented has changed, but the core message has not.
“If the answers to these questions are true, then it changes absolutely everything,” Atkins declared. “If what [Mark] tells us is true, it changes the way we see the world. If the gospel is true, then it changes the way we understand reality and the future.” Watch Atkins’ message here.
Sammy Gilbreath, event evangelism strategist, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions
“Evangelism and discipleship are two wings on the same airplane,” Gilbreath said. “There does not even need to be a concept of one without the other.
“I believe that the only thing worse than evangelism today is discipleship,” he asserted. “Because if we were discipling the people that we had led to the Lord, they would then be leading people to the Lord.”
Gilbreath noted that in Philippians 2 the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Philippi — and us — about the signs that should be evident in their lives as disciples.
“Growth is evidence of a healthy birth,” Gilbreath said. “And so, as pastors, teachers and staff members, it is our responsibility to teach our disciples that there ought to be evidence of growth in their life. If there’s no growth going on, then there is reason to say, ‘Has there been a healthy birth?’”
Pastors must teach their people how to stop complaining, Gilbreath continued.
“Change your vocabulary from ‘got’ to ‘get.’ I think if we will take our believers and teach them to remove the word got out of their vocabulary and replace it with the word get, it’ll change everything.
“For example, I have never heard an Auburn or Alabama fan say, ‘I got to go to the ballgame Saturday.’ No, it’s, ‘I get to go to a ballgame Saturday.’ Why do we get to go to the ballgame, but we’ve got to go to church? Why do we get to go to the ballgame, but we got to go to discipleship training? Or got to go to the evangelism conference?
“I get to go to work in the morning! I get to preach here this afternoon!” Watch Gilbreath’s message here.
Dean Inserra, founding and lead pastor, City Church, Tallahassee, Florida
Inserra said he believes the most underrated mission field in America today is the Bible Belt and the unsaved Christian.
“We live in a place where you can be a Christian without Jesus,” he asserted. “Think about that for a minute. If your reason for believing you’re a Christian is anything other than the name of Jesus Christ and His work on your behalf, dying in your place for your sins to make you right with God, you might not be [a Christian].”
Inserra noted most of the evangelism strategies in Southern Baptist churches are geared toward atheists and skeptics.
“Are we training [our people] to share their faith with people they’re never actually going to encounter?” he asked, insisting that believers need to understand the barriers to reaching someone for Christ in the Bible Belt.
The first barrier — belief — is surprising, Inserra said.
“[Most] people aren’t atheists and agnostics. They believe in god. And that’s the problem. They believe in a ‘lowercase g’ god. Very vague, very generic. Anywhere from a divine Santa Claus to a Yoda-type figure from ‘Star Wars’ to a good luck charm to a grandfather kind of figure; maybe sometimes a scary judge in the sky; maybe a distant kind of fairy you appeal to when something bad happens.”
The second barrier, which Jesus notes in Luke 18 — the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector — is morals.
“Morals are a good thing,” Inserra acknowledged. “But morals can be a barrier, a speed bump on that wide road of Bible Belt religion.
“Here’s what I worry about: That we’re too often more concerned with convincing someone they are saved than making sure someone actually is.”
The third barrier Inserra noted is “inherited faith.”
“Can faith be passed down? Absolutely. Can faith be inherited? Absolutely not,” he said. “People have to have a faith of their own. You’d be surprised how many people think they’re Christians because they come from a Christian family. They treat it like an ethnicity … part of our family makeup.” Watch Inserra’s message here.
Lawrence Phipps, founder, It’s Life Ministry
You have to “help people to understand the lostness of your community, of your county, of your state, of our country and of this world,” Phipps told the audience. “That’s where you have to start because there are a lot of people that just don’t understand how lost everybody is. And they think they’ve got to go overseas to find lost people.
“We need to be going overseas,” Phipps acknowledged. “Acts 1:8 was not a consecutive command; it was a simultaneous command. But we’ve got to also realize that there are a lot of people in our backyards who’ve never heard this good news.”
If prospects aren’t coming in to the church, are you “going out? Does your church have an outreach ministry?” Phipps asked
“God knows we’re going to go get them,” Phipps said. “He’s still in charge of this, but I don’t think we’ve figured that out yet. God knows what He’s doing. And if we’re willing to go, He’s going to bring them in.” Watch Phipps’ message here.
Ted Traylor, pastor, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Florida
Traylor closed Sharing Hope with a message from Acts 28 where Paul is in jail.
“He’s in jail and the gospel is unhindered,” Traylor said. “You can put the preacher in jail, but you can’t put the gospel in jail. The gospel is unhindered, and we need to advance that gospel.
“Paul’s in jail and the gospel is unhindered. What’s your excuse?”
Traylor noted six things to help advance the gospel:
- Faithful stewardship
- Kingdom preaching
- Inspirational writing
- Developing disciples
- Spiritual friendships
- Personal evangelism
Watch Traylor’s message here.