“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on Earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Summertime presents an excellent opportunity to advance the Gospel within our neighborhoods and communities. Churches will be in high gear, with programs and events designed to bring people into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Later this summer, there is even a Franklin Graham festival (similar to Billy Graham Crusades) taking place in Oklahoma.
As Evangelical Christians, we must be stronger than ever when it comes to sharing the Gospel with a lost world, as every day, people are dying without having received the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. In our urgency to obey the Great Commission and reach people for Christ, however, we must remember that He called us to make disciples, not mere converts.
To that end, we would do well, with each Gospel encounter, to have a strategy that has these parts:
When Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch in the Book of Acts, the man was good soil, ready to receive the Christ. He also was eager to receive baptism right after he believed, and Philip was just as ready to administer it.
Often times, people sharing the Gospel are not in the place or authorized to arrange for an immediate baptism. Far more often, however, we unnecessarily delay the baptism days, weeks, even months. While delaying baptism, according to pastors, for reasons of making sure the decision was firm is often wise, more often we delay because we’re looking for a more convenient time. This could unwittingly hamper the new believer’s growth by delaying their first step of obedience.
A bigger problem than delaying is forgetting altogether. As Baptists we recognize the centrality of baptism, and that the expectation of every new believer is to follow Christ in believer’s baptism. So any person sharing the Gospel should do so with a strategy in mind that leads the person to follow in baptism.
The term “hit-and-run evangelism” makes a key point that we are not just about getting all the converts we can. At the same time, we cannot use this as an excuse not to share the Gospel. A balanced Christian approach prayerfully shares the Gospel in hopes the person will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and following Him for life and eternity.
What this practically means is the person, the “baby Christian,” will need discipleship through the local church. As the saying goes, with birth must come growth. Statistics from mass evangelism efforts of decades past show a shocking drop-off between decisions and signs of discipleship. Tens of thousands of decisions result in very few new church members. This has to change, beginning with us.
In the end, any kind of good evangelism is better than no evangelism. We should not make the lack of a perfect evangelism approach keep us from doing an evangelism approach at all. At the same time, Christians must own up to the fact that we often are good at getting people to make a decision, but not as good as helping people after they believe. To that end, let’s say “no” to “hit-and-run evangelism” this summer and “yes!” to making disciples.