I remember the class as if it happened yesterday. I was teaching a jumbo breakout session for Collegiate Week in Glorieta, N.M. I had well over 200 college students in my class, all of whom were there that week to pursue missions around the globe.
My subject was “Christ in Revelation,” and on this particular day, we had been looking at specific passages within the Apocalypse that dealt with the Atonement. I could have easily landed the plane and dismissed the class. I mean, after all, I was in room full of college students who were pursing missions.
Probably unexpected by all who were in the room that day, the Holy Spirit led me to give an invitation for those who needed to repent and trust in Christ as their atoning sacrifice. With every head erect and every eye open, I watched as three college students literally stood up in a room full of peers and publicly profess their faith in Christ.
Now having served five years as a senior pastor within our state, I have seen God do similar things in a plethora of situations like the one mentioned above. The key for every class or service that we lead is to remember something I heard Andy Stanley say years ago. He said, “Assume they are in the room.” The “they” that Andy was referring to is the lost or unregenerate.
Too often, even within our normal church gatherings, we as pastors might be tempted to look out over our audience and assume they are the 99. Not only might we have a visitor who is lost, however, but even within the familiar territory of our congregations we could have an unregenerate church member. I think it is always good to, “assume they are in the room.”
This is one of the reasons I follow Spurgeon in taking a text and heading straight for Calvary. I believe it is always appropriate, in any setting, to present the Gospel and give people some kind of opportunity to respond.
Besides our normal services and classes, special gatherings yield a high volume of visitors who need the Gospel. Two of these special gatherings are weddings and funerals. Unfortunately, like many of you, I have preached and attended many funerals over the last 20 months. Occasionally, I’ll leave one grieved over the preacher who had a room full of unchurched and unregenerate attendees and rather than clearly presenting the Gospel they chose to go the “celebration of life” route.
Why is that? The most important life we should be celebrating is the life of Christ, our Savior. By all means, comfort the family, honor the deceased, but above all, preach Jesus! Yes, I even give people opportunities to respond at funerals and weddings by tactfully giving what I call a “soft invitation.” Regardless of how one chooses to draw the net, the main thing is, we need to “assume they are in the room” and preach the Gospel.
Recently, our beloved Southern Baptist Convention has been lamenting the decline of baptisms while we have actually grown in membership. The heyday of our evangelistic efforts was a time when, it seemed, we had an army of specially called men who were traveling from church to church as full time itinerate evangelists.
The days, nevertheless, of Bailey Smith seem to be long gone. We not only have less evangelists, but churches are having fewer evangelistic events. Pastor, the onus is on us to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).