Eight years ago, after a long road trip to New Mexico, we stopped at a park to allow our kids to stretch their legs. My son, who was four at the time, immediately hit it off with another boy about his age. I watched them chase each other, squealing with delight, up and down the playground. The kids stopped abruptly and engaged in what appeared to be a serious discussion.
As we left the park, I asked my son what they talked about. He shared how his new friend spoke of fighting with his sister. My son, who was not yet a believer, said, “If you would ask Jesus into your heart, He would help you be nice to your sister.” For the duration of the trip, I couldn’t shake this simple question: is sharing the Gospel so simple that even a 4-year-old can do it?
The answer to that question profoundly impacted the way God has led me to do ministry. I have had the honor to pastor three churches that have grown significantly, and that growth is tied to the Lord working in the following strategy:
Share the Gospel
You may have heard the popular phrase, “preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words.” While that might look good on a t-shirt or bumper sticker, the reality is that is far from the truth. It is always necessary to use words when sharing the Gospel.
Paul was never ashamed to speak the Gospel, for he believed that in it was the power of salvation (Rom. 1:16). Later, he would question how anyone could call on the Name of the Lord for salvation if the Gospel had not been shared with them (Rom. 10:13-15).
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches have seen a sharp decline in baptisms for many years (one report showed 80 percent of SBC churches saw 0-1 people, ages 18-29, baptized in a single year). My conviction is not that God is no longer in the business of salvation but that churches are no longer in the business of sharing the Gospel.
How many baptisms have you seen this week? This month? This year? If you are unhappy with that number, the answer is simple: share the Gospel.
Show the Gospel
Lifeway’s newest study states that 66 percent of our young adults drop out of church for at least one year. The research lists top reasons for leaving include life changes, church or pastoral-related issues (judgmental and hypocritical statements), and political and ethical beliefs. Could it be that our younger people are leaving the church because they hear us talk a good game about being Bible-believing Christians but see in us the absence of being a Bible-practicing Christians?
Old Testament Israel questioned why God seemed to be absent from their assemblies even though they believed all the right things. God revealed that He is out breaking the bonds of wickedness, setting the oppressed free, sharing bread with the hungry, bringing in the homeless and clothing the naked.
Luke 4 affirms that Jesus also did the same thing in the New Testament. The principle here is to take time to show the Gospel, so we can earn the right to speak the Gospel with a culture that is increasingly questioning whether or not we love them.
The Gospel in practice
I love Falls Creek. I have been every summer since I was in seventh grade (with the exception of last year). Every year I visit the cement steps of Dougherty Cabin where I answered the call to ministry as a 14-year-old. I love witnessing God stir in the hearts of teenagers at Falls Creek.
What makes Falls Creek so effective is not the location but the logos of the camp. From sun up to sun down, students are confronted with the Gospel. They hear it in the teaching, preaching, worship and cabin devotionals.
In essence, they hear the Gospel and see the Gospel, and God shows up. I’m suggesting the God of Falls Creek is the God of your church, and He will show up in the same way when we speak the Gospel and show the Gospel.