Mission Lab

Send Luncheon: ‘Evangelize or fossilize’

June 18th, 2017 / By: Daryn Sinclair | NAMB / comments

Send Luncheon: ‘Evangelize or fossilize’

Las Vegas pastor Vance Pitman, right, encourages pastors toward evangelism and to be disciple-making churches during the NAMB Send Luncheon Monday, June 12. Others in photo (left to right): Kevin Ezell, Greg Laurie and James Merritt. Photo by Marc Hooks

PHOENIX—A full-capacity audience gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center June 12 for a discussion about evangelism at the North American Mission Board’s 2017 Send Luncheon.

“NAMB exists to come alongside churches and help them be on mission,” NAMB president Kevin Ezell told pastors. “The mission of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ—to push back lostness in North America; to see that every man, woman, boy and girl can hear the gospel. Everything we do is about evangelism. We as a convention need to focus on having gospel conversations.”

Ezell shared some sobering statistics based on an analysis of 2015 Annual Church Profile numbers. Eight percent of SBC churches, he said, baptized nine people or fewer. Fifty percent of churches baptized two or fewer, and 25 percent baptized none.

Ezell then invited pastors Vance Pitman, Greg Laurie and James Merritt to the stage to discuss their experiences sharing the gospel and leading others to do the same. Each man stressed how crucial evangelism is to the survival of the church, and they challenged pastors to lead by example in their own lives by intentionally and regularly having gospel conversations.

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., began the conversation by explaining how he motivates his church staff and members to share their faith.

“If you want to start a fire in the pews, it has to start in the pulpit,” Laurie said. “Evangelize or fossilize. New believers are the lifeblood of the church. If you show me a church that does not have a constant flow of new believers coming in, then I will show you a church that’s stagnant.”

Laurie explained that older believers stabilize the church while newer believers mobilize the church.

Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., added, “The gospel is still a fire that can melt the coldest heart. It is still a rock that can break the hardest heart.”

Vance Pitman, NAMB ambassador and pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, shared his experience with evangelism as a church planter.

“What changed for me in the arena of evangelism was moving to Las Vegas to plant a church,” Pitman shared. “When I moved to Las Vegas, there was no church. I didn’t have a choice but to build relationships with people in the city.”

Pitman said it was then that he became more active in meeting lost people, cultivating gospel conversations with them, and building relationships with people in the city. He addressed a problem he said is common among Baptist churches today: Members are only surrounding themselves with fellow church members.

“Can you name people in your city who don’t know Jesus that you’re building relationships with?” Pitman asked.

He suggested restructuring the ministry to allow more time and opportunities for members to build relationships with people outside the walls of their congregation.

Pitman then introduced a video of Martin Haghani, a church planter from his church who excels in evangelistic work. A former Muslim, Haghani has devoted his life to reaching out to the Islamic community in Las Vegas in order to share the gospel and the hope of Jesus. In 2015, he led 26 Muslims to Christ, and in 2016, his church baptized 54 more.

Merritt offered a concluding comment, saying, “The single greatest thing you can do for another person is introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

—with reporting by Keith Collier