Church outreach marks nearly 600 salvation decisions, more than 100 baptisms
November 14th, 2013 / By: Texan Staff / comments
BURLESON—In the summer of 2010, God burdened the heart of Pastor Charles Stewart about two matters: the Great Commission and Cana Baptist Church’s implementation of it.
In February 2011, Stewart launched Cana’s “Shattering the Darkness” campaign while preaching an evangelistic message from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23; Acts 1:8-9; and Mark 16:15-16 which was based on LifeWay’s Transformational Church program.
Now nearing the end of 2013, the Burleson church also is nearing 600 professions of faith and has logged more than 100 baptisms.
“The Lord burdened me to lead Cana members to trust him for one soul led to Jesus each week by a church member,” Stewart told the TEXAN. “Frankly, I was uncomfortable in going out on this limb because I believed God wanted the evangelistic effort to be led by the Spirit, not the flesh. God wanted Cana people sharing Christ out of love for the Lord and compassion for the lost, not out of a legalistic fear or loyalty to the pastor.”
“Humbly, I confess that God wrestled with my own heart for nine months before we began. This was something that I believe he initiated, not I,” said Stewart, who also is an adjunct professor at Southwestern Seminary.
Winning one every week
When Stewart preached that February sermon, he asked the congregation in each Sunday worship service, “Do you believe it would honor the Lord for us to ask him to allow someone in our church to lead one soul to the Lord in the coming week?”
“They agreed,” Stewart recounted. “So, we stopped and prayed as a church a simple prayer we have prayed for more than 140 weeks: ‘Father, if it would please and honor you, would you allow someone in our church family to have the joy and privilege this week of leading one soul to faith in the Lord Jesus?’”
Professing not to have the gift of evangelism, Stewart, since his college involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ, has attempted to remain a consistent witness, he said. “I also have prayed daily during our Shattering the Darkness campaign for God to allow someone in our church to have the joy of leading someone to Christ, and I personally volunteer to be that one.”
Stewart and a growing number of Cana’s members carry gospel tracts, consistently seeking witnessing opportunities. “I think I am more sensitive to the Spirit’s convictions to share the gospel with others,” he said. “Frankly, I think what has happened to me is similar to what is happening to many people in our congregation.”
When church members lead their first person to Christ, they express “unbelievable exhilaration, and sometimes bewilderment that they previously have been so reluctant to witness,” said Stewart, adding that Cana members grow “increasingly excited as souls come to faith in Christ, week after week.”
Professions, baptisms and follow-up
Having baptized about one-fifth of nearly 600 converts, Stewart explained the differential, saying the tally comes from professions at the nearby Beautiful Feet Mission to the homeless, mission trips across the U.S. and overseas, the results of sermons preached by Cana members in other churches and retreat settings, and converts from Vacation Bible School, musical presentations and other events that draw people from neighboring communities and other churches.
“Some professions occur on jets, on vacations, during business trips, etcetera, and those converts are not available for baptism,” Stewart said. Similarly, some professions are from church members’ involvement in the North American Mission Board’s Evangelism Response Center, where converts from across the U.S. call for spiritual counseling.
“We strongly encourage our members to record new believers’ contact information so if someone professes their faith at work, in a restaurant, or at a park, and they live elsewhere in the Metroplex, we can contact a good, local church for follow-up. Using a variety of means, we make sincere attempts to follow up with each convert,” Stewart said.
Stewart explained the campaign’s name came from an “idea the Lord gave me to demonstrate conversions each week. We placed seven electric candles on a stand in front of the pulpit, and whenever I receive a testimony of someone coming to Christ, I light a candle the next Sunday morning honoring God’s mercies in that sinner’s life. Since I was using the candles, and because John 1:4-5 states, ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,’ then ‘Shattering the Darkness’ seemed to me an appropriate title.”
When announcing conversions, Stewart cites only the converts’ first names and then shares their testimonies. “I never share the names of the evangelists,” he said. “This gives God the glory, keeps our folks’ motives pure, demonstrates God uses ordinary people in ordinary circumstances to lead the lost to Jesus, and helps members become more sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting to witness to the lost.”
Shattering the Darkness required evangelism training for members and a steady resupply of evangelism materials on the church’s tract rack.
Evangelism affects total church
Being in relatively close proximity to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Cana has become home to many professors, staff and students from the seminary. The unique calling the Lord has placed on their lives for vocational ministry has allowed them to help bolster the evangelism efforts at the church. Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism, said he and his colleagues’ contribution at the church is twofold.
“First, a number of our seminary personnel go and preach revivals and do supply preaching,” Queen said, explaining that the gap in nearly 600 salvations and slightly more than 100 baptisms is largely due to professors and students seeing lost people saved in cities across the world where they’ve preached and called for a response. Those people, he said, are referred to local churches that can begin the discipleship process and baptize believers into their own memberships. “Second, Beau Brewer, who is on the staff of Southwestern Seminary, provided the Evangelism Response Center (ERC) training.”
The ERC training has helped equip lay members in the church to share their faith and engage the lost in conversations that lead to a recognition of sin and the need of a savior—creating a congregation-wide preparedness for sharing the gospel that expands far beyond the reach of only those called to full-time ministry.
“It is great to see the Shattering the Darkness efforts clearly declare that the pastor and staff are not the only soul winners at church, nor even the five seminary professors, all of whom are soul winners themselves,” Stewart said. “The Holy Spirit is at work, energizing our people with compassion for the lost.”
Terry Wilder, one of those five seminary professors whose membership is at Cana, agreed and stressed that the church as a whole has come together to reach the lost.
“As we—not just seminary professors or students—advance the gospel, the church does so in unity and is careful not to take any credit for these salvations; rather, Cana Baptist attributes all glory to God,” said Wilder, professor of New Testament at Southwestern. “We have seen God miraculously work with divine appointment after divine appointment. I have never seen anything like it in a local church.”
Evangelism emphases have spilled over into other church ministries, Stewart said, as they “all seek to be evangelistic with intentionality. Every ministry should have this component, and any ministry can become evangelistic when evangelism is the intention of that ministry’s leadership.”
“Evangelistic intentionality cannot be overstressed,” he continued, “unless it somehow could distract us from our complete dependency upon the Father’s Spirit to accomplish the Father’s work through the Father’s children.”
Words of advice
“I think many of our Baptist programs can easily become exploits of our own strength and wisdom as some pastors try to motivate members with legalistic imperatives,” Stewart said. “From the beginning, I desired that we respond to the Spirit’s leadership in sharing Christ with the lost as our weekly prayer indicates.”
Additional cautions included Stewart’s suggestion that “no pastor engage his congregation in an evangelistic campaign like this without due prayer and perhaps even fasting beforehand. Otherwise, selfish motives will taint the effort and possibly quench the Spirit.”
“Prayer will confirm what the Spirit desires to do,” Stewart continued. “Only as the Spirit confirms his willingness to bless any campaign should we advance. We know the Father is drawing the lost to Christ, and that we are under a divine mandate to take the gospel to all the earth, especially our community. The Spirit must call the saints to prayer for the lost, sensitize the saints with compassion for the lost and impart to them boldness to share the gospel with the lost. Flesh and blood cannot do any of these things.”
Reiterating the foundational importance of prayer and its results, Stewart said, “God is answering our congregation’s prayers most graciously because they are in tune with his heart.”