The fall issue of “Southwestern News” magazine looks at evangelism in America, with honest assessments of both concerns and hopes for its future.
“Times are hard for evangelists in the contemporary sense of the word,” wrote President Paige Patterson in his introductory letter.
In an article titled “The Evangelist,” Patterson reminisces about some of the great evangelists of the mid- to late-20th century, and then wonders, “Was this just an era in church history, or is there such a thing as the call of God to evangelism?”
Patterson examines Scripture to answer the question, and finally concludes that the gift of the evangelist is as important today as it has ever been.
“I do not consider myself to have the gift of the evangelist,” Patterson wrote. “But I am one who considers evangelism to be the task of every true believer. In both senses, we must confirm the ongoing program of God through the evangelist.”
“Southwestern News” interviewed Junior Hill, one of Southern Baptists’ most beloved evangelists in active ministry today. Hill assesses the future of evangelism in America, and specifically in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I hope that men like Bobby Welch, who has given himself so sacrificially to the challenge of soul-winning and evangelism, become the norm,” Hill said. “But realistically and honestly, I fear that we will continue to drift and that evangelism will become less and less important to us. It seems we have somehow confused church growth with evangelism.”
Despite this prediction, Hill believes that since evangelism is a gift God provides for the benefit of the church, it will always be manifest among churches. He is greatly encouraged by SBC seminaries and what they are doing to produce ministers who are serious students of the Bible yet also have hearts warm toward lost people.
Two Southwestern Seminary evangelism students are profiled. Daryl Jones was a University of Miami football standout who played pro football before surrendering to God’s call to do the work of an evangelist. Jonathan Baker is a seminary student who balances life as a full-time student, pastor, husband and father to preach the Gospel and encourage other Christians to do so.
Matt Miller, Southwestern Seminary’s award-winning photographer, used his camera to tell the story of Southwestern Advisory Council members Richard and Gina Headrick. They led a small team of Southwesterners to the 66th annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., to share the Gospel with the bikers who gather there by the hundreds of thousands every summer. Using a variety of evangelism techniques, the Southwesterners handed out hundreds of Bibles and tracts, presented the Gospel to dozens of rough-looking bikers, and led three bikers to faith in Jesus Christ.
An article by Danny Forshee, evangelist and associate professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary, addresses the issue of whether expository sermons can be evangelistic sermons. Marshalling support from the Bible and his own experience, Forshee concludes that “every expositional message naturally lends itself to a gospel invitation,” and encourages preachers to preach the Word of God “line-upon-line, word-for-word.”
The magazine’s focus on evangelism finishes with an essay by Keith Eitel, dean of the seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. Eitel outlines how the mission of the Fish School is informed by two Southwestern Seminary professors who represent the Southern Baptist ideals of evangelism and missions.
“At the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, we are committed to continuing the legacies of Dr. Fish and Dr. (Cal) Guy: to teach and live in such a way as to inspire and inculcate values that impact lives for all time and eternity,” Eitel wrote.
For a free subscription or a copy of the current “Southwestern News,” email the editor, Brent Thompson, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (817) 923-1921 ext. 7220. It can also be downloaded at www.swbts.edu.