The Baptist Messenger recently sat down with Ed Newton, senior pastor at San Antonio, Texas, Community Bible, to talk about evangelism and the church. Newton, who is a well-known evangelist and perennial-favorite speaker during Falls Creek’s summer weeks, is scheduled to preach on Monday evening, Jan. 29, at the Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills (To view the SEC schedule, visit www.bgco.org/sec).
Baptist Messenger: When you come to speak in Oklahoma this month, what message has God put on your heart, about evangelism and the move of God?
Ed Newton: One of the realities about the movement of God specifically is that we cannot manipulate or manufacture it. For example, often time we find ourselves with a bold request of inviting God to gatherings such as the State Evangelism Conference. But the simple thought would be that we don’t have to invite God to the (SEC), He’s already there. And He’s inviting us. That is the direction in which we operate as pastors, believers, followers of Christ. Two specific questions we are attempting to answer is, “What is God saying?” and “What does He want me to do about it?”
Baptist Messenger: Do you think we sometimes make the Gospel too complicated?
Newton: I think I have a tendency to make it more complicated than what it is. Usually where it gets complicated is when I begin to live in a performance-based reality. I’ve got to be reminded that the grace of God that saved me is the grace of God that keeps me. It’s not grace that allows me to live however I want to live; instead I embrace the very mission and mandate that was put on the Apostle Paul, that “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” So the more I can get out of the way, that I’m fully submitting to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, is to have His way in my heart and life. And to walk in the Spirit is to walk in step with the heartbeat of God. I think the more we can get out of the way, and yield and surrender, I believe we have greater opportunity to experience Kingdom growth and Kingdom advancement.
Baptist Messenger: Along those lines, what does evangelism look like in the church where you pastor? What does personal evangelism look like for Ed Newton?
Newton: Let me speak to the first aspect. The Good News of the Gospel is better defined as what seems “too good to be true.” What’s “too good to be true” is that someone as wretched as me, in full depravity, can be a son of the living God. I can have justification, I can be declared righteous and my sins forgiven—past, present and future—and embrace that message in such a way that I will preach the Gospel to myself.
Oftentimes, it’s in interviews or conferences and seminars that we give great intentionality to inspiring people to share the Gospel. Yet in order for people to effectively preach the Gospel to others, we have to preach it to ourselves.
That’s what I am helping our community of faith to understand. We will never share with somebody the message of salvation if we are not overwhelmed by what God did for us in giving us salvation. If the motivation becomes, “I have to do this because there’s a box to be checked” or a hoop to jump through, then our conferences and gatherings can motivate people to be responsive for only so long. But when a person gets caught up in the fact that “God so loved the world,” then all of the sudden, it’s not an obligation, it’s an opportunity.
Think about it. God could speak from heaven and say He’s the way, the truth and the life. But instead, He chose to use us. Broken, frail, weak people who oftentimes fumble the ball at the one-yard line.
But God in His sovereignty has a great rich history of using broken, frail, weak people to do extraordinary things. That’s what I am trying to help our people understand. It’s not about ability, it’s about availability.
Baptist Messenger: Amen. It has been said, if people are passionate about their relationship with Jesus, they will talk about Jesus. Out of the overflow, they will communicate the Gospel. Could you expound on that thought?
Newton: At a personal level, let me begin with confession. I just wrote in my journal this week, “Lord, renew a passion in my heart for evangelism.” As a pastor, I find myself around believers—our staff, our team of volunteers—week in and week out. And when I go to the gym and I engage with those who may not be believers, may I be more intentional with every movement I make.
I have been asking the Lord, “Let me see people not as interruptions but as invitations.” Because I think, for many of us, for those of us in ministry, we find ourselves just being overwhelmed with the responsibility which God has given us. We find ourselves moving from “point A” to “point B,” but sometimes God has us moving, not to get to “point B.” It is really more about what was between those points, a divine appointment.
I missed an opportunity recently to share the Gospel that just wrecked me. A young man that I had a conversation with, and felt as if my time was running out. I didn’t want to rush an evangelistic presentation, but I immediately thought of Bill Bright (who’s in heaven right now) who said, any conversation with anybody for five minutes is a divine appointment. I had talked to that brother more than five minutes, so I missed it. For me personally, I must see people not as interruptions, but as invitations.