Thorough Gospel presentations bear fruit
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – The smell of hot dogs and nacho cheese wafts from row to row and mingles with the peanut dust stirred up as fans shell their snack. Most of the stadium’s spectators have their gaze locked on the pitching mound, wondering what kind of ball the pitcher will throw next and if the runner on first will try to steal second. Thousands of people have left behind worries of work and sinks of dishes, coming to the stadium for nine innings of relaxed fun at the all-American pastime. They have pushed the pause button on business deals, errands and chores—at least most of them.
Southwestern student Anthony Svajda brought a book he needed to read for class. When the man seated next to him inquired as to what he was reading at the ballgame, Svajda took the opportunity to share his testimony and the message of the Gospel with him.
Assistant Professor of Evangelism Matt Queen says that type of behavior is typical of Svajda, who is pursuing a Master of Divinity with a concentration in evangelism, and many other students that cycle through his evangelism courses at Southwestern.
“Anthony is one of those students who is a go-getter,” Queen said. “He is witnessing several times [a week], and so far in the last two weeks of the class, he has seen six professions of faith.”
Svajda first took “Contemporary Evangelism” with Queen and then enrolled in “Theology of Evangelism” as a conference course with Queen this summer, along with two other students.
In addition to studying scriptural doctrines such as Christology and soteriology, as they relate to evangelism, and writing a thesis-defined research paper and a critical book review, Queen requires students in “Theology of Evangelism” and his other evangelism courses, to meet a self-set witnessing goal each week during the class.
“They have to set a witnessing goal of no less than once a week,” Queen said, “and by “witness” I mean not just attempt to try to share the Gospel, but they've actually got to have somebody that they share the consequences and reality of sin, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and why that matters and how that makes us right with the Father and then actually call for a decision to believe and repent. Students are required to do no less than once a week, but they are encouraged to do more than that.”
Svajda, who worked in real estate for eight years before enrolling in seminary, said the Lord turned his heart toward evangelism when he took his first Southwestern class with Queen. Even though he was familiar and comfortable with engaging people in conversation, he said Queen’s class and leadership helped him to see how to direct his conversations with people in a way that would allow him to share the Gospel with them.
“Coming from a sales background, I never really had a problem talking to people, but I didn’t know what to say,” Svajda said. “The Lord really got a hold of my heart then. I started understanding that it wasn’t necessarily about the approach or anything like that, or the method that you do it in, but it was more about the intentionality of it. That’s my whole deal, is to make sure that's on the front of my mind.”
Queen agreed, saying that intentionality serves as the base for evangelism. Unless people plan and prioritize evangelism, it likely will not happen, he said.
“You won’t evangelize if you don’t have a plan to evangelize,” Queen said. “I have found personally, that if I don’t make it a priority to at least once a week say I’m going to make it a priority and put it on my calendar to go and do evangelism, that generally when the opportunities come that I could evangelize, many times I just ignore them.”
Queen says the notion that direct evangelism does not work is a myth.
“It doesn’t work if you don’t do it,” Queen said. “Let me say it this way: Not every single time you witness, will someone come to Christ, but I can guarantee that no one will come to Christ if you don’t ever witness.”
Svajda and Queen’s other students have seen the truth in that statement.
“One guy, he saw himself messing up, never saw anybody come to faith in Christ, and then finally one day it was raining and he comes in and he’s beaming, like a drowned rat, and I said, ‘What are you so happy about? You’re wet!’ and he just said, ‘I just led somebody to Christ in the rain!’” Queen said.
Svajda, too, knows the excitement of leading someone to salvation.
“It’s really cool to see that,” Svajda said. “It makes you want to go out and do it again. I can tell you that. It gets you pumped up.”
Svajda shares anywhere he goes, from Starbucks to the golf course to the front doors of his church, where he serves as director of men’s ministry.
“There are times when we come into contact with people all around us and we miss opportunities just because we are not thinking about sharing the Gospel,” Svajda said. “If we think more about sharing the Gospel and we are intentional, we will feel that discernment and we will be more proactive about doing it.”
Queen added that in addition to the obvious and primary goal of evangelism to bring the lost to faith in the Lord, a commitment to witness also stands to embolden those who have already accepted salvation, encouraging them to proclaim the good news to others, as well. Svajda had that particular opportunity with the man who inquired about his book at the Texas Rangers game, finding out that the man was a Sunday school teacher attending the game with his class.
“If someone we share with is a believer, then hopefully in addition to seeing people saved, we’re encouraging the saints to evangelize,” Queen said, “because [perhaps] they say , ‘Hey, this kid from Southwestern Seminary—at the ballgame of all things—instead of paying attention to the game, is sharing the Gospel with me. Maybe I should share the Gospel.”