Editor’s note: Sunday (Oct. 3) is Personal Evangelism Commitment Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Tim Beougher considers himself blessed that he already understood evangelism to be a natural part of the Christian life before he realized that for many Christians, it isn’t.
Shortly after his conversion, Beougher was invited to attend a weekend retreat by the Baptist Student Union at Kansas State University. The topic that weekend was evangelism.
“As a young believer, I just sort of thought [evangelism] was what you do,” he said. “After that conference I started sharing my faith in the dorm and the last two years was a resident assistant in my dorm. I told the Lord that with His help I wanted to share the Gospel with all 70 guys on my floor, and I was able to do that two years in a row alongside many classmates.”
Beougher serves as associate dean at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry and Billy Graham professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..
There is a simple reason Christians are to make personal evangelism a part of their life, he said.
“We’ve been commanded to,” said Beougher, who released the book Invitation to Evangelism: Sharing the Gospel with Compassion and Conviction last month. “There’s an old saying in church life that ‘God said it. I believe it, and that settles it.’ We need to leave that middle part out. If God said it, that settles it.”
Other motivations, of course, exist for participating in evangelism, he added. For one, it glorifies God as people begin to worship Him. It also meets the needs of others, especially in eternal matters.
The reality of an earthly death reminded everyone at Southern Seminary today (Sept. 27) of the need to share the Gospel, Beougher said, referencing the unexpected loss of fellow professor Gregory Brewton.
“One that we know has passed into eternity, but thousands do so every day,” he said. “And so, heaven and hell are real. The Gospel is people’s only hope, and we need to be about the business of sharing it.”
Although studies show a willingness from the unchurched to hear about the Gospel, Christians continue to exhibit a hesitancy to share it. Fear, Beougher said, remains the chief reason to avoid evangelism even though it benefits both the hearer and speaker.
“When we come to Christ, the Gospel isn’t something we leave in our rearview mirror,” he said. “It’s the fuel for our sanctification as well. We get the privilege of seeing God use us in someone else’s life. That happened to me as a young Christian and I never got over it.
“A lifestyle of witnessing opens up to spiritual growth. The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea both have fresh water flowing in, but the Sea of Galilee has output as well. If there’s not output, the fresh water flowing in sits there and it soaks and sours.”
When more members of a church get that desire for evangelism, it can change a culture, he said.
“You begin to get a sense of anticipation and you’re not surprised when someone comes to faith,” Beougher said. “I’m convinced there are two types of Christians – those who think we can’t reach anyone anymore, and those who say things have changed but the Gospel hasn’t and can still reach people.
“The point is both groups are right. If you don’t think you can reach people, you won’t. But those who think they can, will.”