Pastors: World waits for authentic messengers | Print |

By Norman Jameson
Biblical Recorder

ATLANTA-People outside the church will hear a gospel message only from a passionate messenger who lives an authentic, transformed life, said two pastors leading a special interest session on evangelism at the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta Feb. 1.

"The proclaimer of the good news must be gripped and transformed by the presence of the living word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit," said Brenda Little, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church of Christ in Evanston, Ill. "Saved and satisfied is not going to work."

In a session intended to give participants handles on evangelism in their communities, Little, who said her church was "ice cold" when she was elected pastor in 1990 after 25 years as a pediatric nurse, said prayer is the starting point for witness.

Then, the church must embrace evangelism as its primary ministry or it "will never do evangelism or other missions with integrity and effectively," she said. "Every ministry in the local church should be a concrete reflection of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ."

Effective evangelism must be a lifestyle, Little said. "Somebody other than you ought to know that you are a believer."

She said authentic ministry leads to people finding saving grace among believers. "Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it," she said.

Ronald Bobo, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo., found feeding the hungry in the area surrounding the church "has been a good side door," to reaching people.

"We were in the neighborhood all these years and didn't realize how many hungry people there were," Bobo said. It was not in the budget "but we just knew we had to get it done."

Church men sponsored boys who enrolled in Boy Scouts and bought their uniforms. They formed relationships and started to meet physical and social needs.

"You can't be afraid to go into the homes in these areas and neighborhoods that may not be middle class," Bobo said. "To have the boldness to go to people where they are is important."

While some participants complained that the evangelical message fails with youth consumed in the hip hop culture, West Side utilizes hip-hop methods in such areas as dance, mime, a contemporary choir and rappers.

"Sometimes people get upset," Bobo said. "But you can use the method without using their message."

He drew laughter when he said, "You can't clean a fish until you catch it. Sometimes we try to clean 'em before we catch 'em."

To win people in hostile neighborhoods, where unemployed or truant youth claim street corners and cut strangers no slack, Bobo said a potential evangelist must have an incarnational ministry.

Bobo wore a suit and tie every day in an area other professionals had abandoned, to get residents' attention and "to present a different set of values," he said. It took years, but over time "it turned around and we saw young people come. Your job is to be Jesus among them."

Bobo said Christians in America are like Rip Van Winkle, who slept through a revolution. Jonah's call to Nineveh was a wake-up call, he said.

"The world is coming to God and America is going in the opposite direction," Bobo said. "America is a zombie-a sleeping, walking, talking nation."

There is a revolution going on, he said, and Christians in America are going to miss it, unless we "learn to love people enough to seek their best good, their soul's salvation."

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