Ted Traylor raised his Bible and showed where he wrote three names of people he was praying would find Christ.
Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, preached during the “Who’s Your One?” Alabama Conference hosted by Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills Oct. 10-11. The event was part of a tour visiting cities across the United States, challenging believers to pray for one person with whom to have a gospel conversation, and to pray for God to open their hearts and minds of that person to Jesus.
“The purpose of the gospel is to save,” Traylor declared at an opening rally.
He told the audience the main reason he originally pursued preaching was lost souls. One of the names in Traylor’s Bible died without Jesus. One seems close to following Christ — he is attending church and asking questions. The other still doesn’t know Jesus, but Traylor has committed to keep sharing the gospel. He said his heart hurts over the one who is lost forever.
Traylor detailed four ways to lead: exposition, ethics, encounter and evangelism.
“Hear me, Church: we can never go and find ‘who’s our one?’ if He is not our first one,” Traylor asserted. “It’s the ‘Jesus life’ that we are to have.
“We are in the 10th month. Who have you shared the gospel with one-on-one this year?” Traylor asked, challenging the more than 100 in attendance, “If you ask God to use you, He’ll wear you out … doors are going to open — will you walk through?”
‘Confident in your Christ’
Referring to Malachi 2:6, Traylor noted “true instruction is to be in our mouth.”
“Folks, we’ve got to get bold about this thing. It’s not hard. You’ve just got to be confident in your Christ.”
He encouraged the audience to make sharing the gospel part of “your DNA … part of your life … that you begin to talk about Jesus as part of your daily conversations.”
He also encouraged pastors to give a gospel invitation.
In a later workshop, Traylor shared practical applications of advancing the gospel.
Reading from “The Unstuck Church” by Tony Morgan, Traylor said, “When you stick with your current customers, come hell or high water, you are cutting yourself off from new customers. Your product or service becomes so tailored to your current customers that you stop appealing to fresh blood. And that’s how your company starts to die.”
Traylor applied the idea to churches that focus only on their members, suggesting they won’t thrive, but must be outward focused. He provided seven ideas based on Acts 28 to help a church accomplish the task:
- Faithful Stewardship — “Your budget at your church will reflect your convictions and where you’re putting emphasis,” he declared. “If you’re spending all your money internally, rather than externally, you’ve made a statement that we’ve turned inward rather than outward. We’ve got to put our money where our mission is.”
- Kingdom Preaching — Give an invitation at the end of every service, though they don’t all have to be “going forward.”
“I found out that my people are a little frightened sometimes coming forward … and they feel a little more comfortable going [to the back]. You may use a card to turn in, or do it online or you may do it with a QR code,” Traylor said with a laugh, adding, “I don’t even know what that is!”
“Every generation does it different,” Traylor said. “When you preach the Kingdom, you must invite people to the King.”
- Inspirational Writing — Noting the power of written words, Traylor said according to Success Magazine, a personal, handwritten note is 100 times more powerful than a text. However, all types of writing, including texts, blogs and books, can be used to further the Kingdom.
- Developing Disciples — After a hurricane swept through his city, various disaster relief organizations arrived to help. Traylor saw a man who had been vocal about hating God, hating Traylor and hating Olive Baptist Church, waiting in a line for food. When Traylor confronted him about being at a church the man said, “You know, preacher, when you’re hungry, organized religion looks pretty good.”
God then convicted Traylor: “You don’t have to have a storm to do this kind of work,” which led to developing Olive’s social ministry. But Traylor found he had to be proactive in tying it to evangelism.
“You don’t help people just if they smell better and look better and go to Hell,” Traylor said. “It’s getting your hands dirty with people. Social ministry tied to the gospel will advance the gospel because there are some people who aren’t coming in here — many of them. Of course we have to go out there to where they are.”
- Spiritual Friendships — Spiritual friendships are very important, but not just with Christians. Believers need friends both lost and saved — people with whom they can honestly discuss spiritual issues, with whom they can bare their soul and who can bare their soul back.
- Personal Evangelism — While the Apostle Paul was under house arrest he was chained to praetorian guards, and every eight hours the guard was changed, Traylor said. “Can you imagine? The praetorian was hooked up for eight hours with the greatest preacher the world has ever seen. You reckon he got a lesson? You know he did! The word of God said in Philippians 1:13 that the gospel became well-known among the Praetorian.”
- Supernatural Favor — Though not related directly to the Acts 28 text, Traylor emphasized that Paul had the favor of God.
Traylor concluded with a summary of a sermon by C.T. Studd about “chocolate Christians.”
“Those that are chocolate Christians, when it gets hot in the kitchen, they just melt away. But those that know the favor of Almighty God will stand even with the world on fire.
“And that’s what I encourage you to be. Don’t be a chocolate Christian. Be one standing and letting God be your source of favor and supply,” Traylor said.
Reports from the breakout sessions
Testimonies of changed lives spur Catherine Renfro to continue sharing Christ with others. Director of evangelism at the North American Mission Board, she shared five steps to starting gospel conversations:
- Remember your purpose.
- Pray for opportunities.
- See people.
- Turn everyday conversations to gospel conversations.
- Remain faithful.
Renfro noted a teenage girl who began early this year with one name for the “Who’s Your One” emphasis. As a result of her praying and sharing, 13 people have made professions of faith in Christ.
Stories like this and the recent salvation decision of a 98-year-old keep Renfro inspired to repeatedly share Christ.
“Do you remember the day that Jesus changed your life?” she asked, recalling that for her the decision came at age 13 after going on her first mission trip.
“For me, it was an opportunity to spend a week away from home,” Renfro admitted, but God used it to turn her heart toward Him.
She went through evangelism training not realizing part of it involved knocking on doors and sharing testimonies and the gospel.
“I was absolutely terrified,” she said, and hid in the back of her group. But they wanted her to practice too, so the 13-year-old knocked on a door “all the while praying no one would answer.”
The family seemed receptive to her group and invited them in. They listened to her testimony and her sharing the gospel, and even went so far as to pray. But then they looked up, laughed and said they didn’t believe.
That day, Renfro vowed to never share Christ again.
“The enemy has these tactics he uses on every single one of us,” she said. “He uses fear to keep us from telling people about Jesus.”
Doubt, uncertainty, rejection, discouragement and busyness also are excuses.
“Success is not seeing someone saved,” she stressed. “Success is sharing the gospel.”
For seven years Renfro’s “one” has been a devout Hindu woman. At first the door was closed to sharing the gospel, but over the years the woman has been more and more open. A year ago she came to a church event and commented to Renfro, “There’s one difference: you know where you will spend eternity.”
“We can’t give up on other people,” Renfro asserted. “It’s Jesus who changes lives. He simply allows us to be a part of it. We’ve got to see the people He puts in front of us.
“Let’s do something today that will matter more for eternity,” she said.
‘There is no secret’
Shane Pruitt, NAMB’s Next Gen director, shared the secret of reaching Generation Z — which includes pre-teens to young adults — with the gospel.
Pruitt said the main question he gets asked is, “What is the secret of reaching Generation Z with the gospel?”
“There is no secret,” he admitted.
“There is a gospel that has worked for 2,000 years. There is the Holy Bible. And there is the Holy Spirit.”
Though there can be a lot of negativity and gloom concerning this particular age group, God is moving, Pruitt asserted. Last summer at various camps he saw more than 3,500 professions of faith and 500-plus called to ministry.
Many older adults say they have nothing in common with Generation Z, Pruitt noted, but, “Anybody in this room born a sinner in need of a Savior? Anybody need to be discipled? Has anybody in this room ever made a mistake? Anybody ever done something stupid before?
“You have a lot in common with the next generation,” he declared. “The next generation is sinners in need of a Savior, people made in the image of God, and they desperately need the gospel.”
Pruitt said when he asks a church why they want to reach Generation Z with the gospel, the most common answer is that the church won’t exist in the future without them.
“As a former lead pastor, I understand that pressure, that concern. But please hear my heart,” Pruitt said. “That is not the right motivation to reach the next generation with the gospel. The right motivation … is not so your church’s name can continue or your church’s logo or not even so we can pay bills. The main reason we want to reach this generation with the gospel is because they are made in the image of God, God loves them so much He sent His Son for them, they desperately need the gospel and they are hungry for community and discipleship.
“If we make this our main motivation, then all those other things will fall into place.”
Pruitt related that Generation Z is the most depressed and anxious generation ever seen. They are desperate for truth, core value and authenticity.
“Generation Z doesn’t want fluff and puff. They want Spirit and Truth,” Pruitt said. “Don’t be scared to talk about the depths of God or doctrine and theology.
“Generation Z’s aren’t going to just stumble into our churches on their own. If they’re there, they’re going to be there because a trusted friend invited them or because their life has just blown up and they’re looking for hope and answers.
“If they come into our services and basically hear a self-help pep talk with Bible verses sprinkled in out of context — please hear my heart in this — it sounds like ‘white-noise’ to them,” Pruitt said.
“This generation is not looking for a cool church. They are looking for an authentic one. If they come in and they hear the Bible taught — the world is broken, you’re broken, our only hope is Jesus and He loves you — that cuts through the white-noise because they will not hear that truth anywhere else.”
Danny Forshee, lead pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, shared in his workshop five key words related to evangelism: obedience, listen, creativity, boldness and cumulative.
He said “Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” is a question that will help extend the conversation and open more doors to share the gospel.
To share the name of your “one,” text ONE to 888123. For weekly encouragement for pastors, text ENCOURAGE to 888123. Visit whosyourone.com or namb.net/resources for more information.
To view a gallery of photos from the event, visit tabonline.org/whos-your-one.