Pastor journeys 190 miles to join SWBTS neighborhood evangelism team
Why would someone drive nearly three hours and 190 miles from Austin to Fort Worth in order to participate in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s door-to-door evangelism program? For Jonathan Bowman, the answer is “obedience.”
On two non-consecutive weeks in September, Bowman, campus pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church at The Quarries, drove from his home in Austin to Fort Worth in order to join the students and faculty who venture out into nearby neighborhoods on Thursday afternoons for evangelism. His motivation stemmed from two experiences earlier this summer—learning that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, and reading an article about Chair of Evangelism Matt Queen’s “scariest evangelism encounter.”
In mid-July, after hearing of his father’s cancer diagnosis, Bowman began to do some “self-evaluation.” Understanding in a fresh way that one’s time on earth is limited, Bowman realized he was not being obedient to share the Gospel in his own life, something God commanded all believers to do.
Soon after, Bowman read the article about Queen, detailing the evangelism professor’s efforts to witness to a group of men, one of whom had a gun. In the article, Queen described the fear he experienced after discovering the gun, followed by his relief upon learning that it was merely a BB gun.
Reading of Queen’s willingness to evangelize in such circumstances, Bowman asked himself, “Why am I not doing that?”
A Master of Divinity graduate and current Doctor of Ministry student at Southwestern Seminary, Bowman knew of the seminary’s daily evangelism efforts, so he reached out to Queen and asked if he could join them sometime. Queen responded immediately, inviting him to make the trek from Austin in order to participate. So far, Bowman has done so twice.
“If you’re going to get stronger, you have to go to the gym and lift,” Bowman says. “And so I knew that if I wanted to get better at being obedient in personal evangelism, then I needed to go and be encouraged in that and trained in that. In reading that [article about Dr. Queen], I felt moved by God to drive to Southwestern and join him in that effort.”
In the two weeks that he has made the approximately 190-mile journey, Bowman and his teammates have had multiple spiritual conversations with people in the Fort Worth community, one of whom even prayed to receive Christ.
“God has certain people every time I’ve gone out whom He has already prepared for us to speak to, or for somebody to speak to; it’s just where they are in their life,” Bowman says. “But it’s just taking that step to ask them.”
Aside from being encouraged in evangelism and learning about different presentation methods, Bowman says an important lesson he has learned from his experience is that “the hardest part is opening your mouth.”
“I think most Christians don’t actually need to know any more information; we probably have as much information as we need,” he says. “… But it’s just getting the courage to open up your mouth.
“For some reason, I can do that when I’m talking about the Cowboys, but there’s a lack of courage in doing that to share the Gospel. But once you overcome that hurdle a few times, it becomes easier and easier.”
Bowman is now in the early stages of working with his leadership team at The Quarries Church to begin an evangelism program for their congregation, and some of the laypeople to whom he has spoken have expressed an interest in participating. Though Bowman says the program will likely start small, he trusts that it will grow.
“A lot of times, we think our way of reaching people is, ‘If we build a better church, they will come,’” Bowman says. “But Jesus didn’t invite everybody to His synagogue and tell them He was running it better than all the other synagogues. He was out there with people, and that’s what we need to be doing.”
“One of the verses that spoke to me is ‘Do the work of an evangelist,’” he says, alluding to 2 Timothy 4:5. “Evangelism is work, and I think a lot of us just don’t want to do the work. But I want to do what I can on an individual level to be faithful to the Lord.”