Published Apr 01, 2012
TORRANCE – Urgency was a common thread woven through messages by a denominational evangelism leader, a California Southern Baptist pastor and a British evangelist at the 2012 On Target Evangelism Conference, Feb. 20-21.
Larry Wynn, vice president of the North American Mission Board’s evangelism group, said there should be urgency in reaching people in North America because of the compassion Jesus had as recorded in Matthew 9:35-38.
“There is urgency,” Wynn said, “because the fields are white for harvest.” But the problem is not the harvest, but the “laborers.”
“Like never before, we need to penetrate our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and push back darkness. We need to confront lostness.”
In order to reach America, Wynn said Southern Baptists must obey what Jesus said – pray; see what God sees – the multitudes; and experience what Jesus experienced – compassion.
He noted prayer is an essential part of the harvest. “I don’t believe you can separate prayer from evangelism.”
Wynn said he believes in programs, but noted they alone would not win America to Christ. “If programs were the answer,” he said, “Southern Baptists would have won America to Christ many years ago. I believe we need workers to enter the labor force in prayer.”
He added that believers must see the multitudes. “When the Pharisees saw the multitudes, they saw a nuisance, a problem that got in the way of their traditions and religious activities.” But when Jesus looked at them He saw “people who had desperate needs in their lives. One thing we need in evangelism today is the eyes of our Savior,” Wynn said.
Christians’ hearts need to break with compassion,” he added, “as Jesus’ did when He saw the multitudes.
“When was the last time your heart broke for people who didn’t have Jesus?” Wynn asked. “When was the last time a prayer meeting for the lost was more important than a business meeting? When was the last time it didn’t matter whether we liked the song the worship leader did this past Sunday, but that it glorified God and attracted lost people to the cross of Jesus Christ?
“When we have compassion, people know it,” Wynn said. “The world is waiting to really see if we mean what we preach.”
Montia Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, said Satan will do everything he can to keep Christians from seeing people who are “Worth Reaching,” theme for the On Target conference.
“As flashy as Satan is, he cannot keep us from the assignment, regardless of his tactics. There is a world worth reaching,” Setzler declared.
Referring to the biblical passage of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, Setzler said when believers see a world worth reaching, they will act with intentionality, interact with people they don’t normally interact with and react with punctuality.
Setzler told his listeners they should be intentional like Jesus, who could have avoided Samaria but didn’t because “He knew He would have a divine encounter. Likewise,” Setzler added, “you may be called into places other people avoid. We may be asked to go to places that are difficult and challenging, not necessarily outside your town. It might be right outside your church’s door.
“Many California Southern Baptist congregations are in transitioning communities and you will be called to be salt and light to a community that has long forgotten that your church ever existed.”
Setzler noted Jesus broke several protocols of the day to share the Good News with the Samaritan woman. “Because there is a world worth reaching we should interact with those we wouldn’t normally interact with.
“There are some people out there who are not lovely. People who don’t smell, look or talk like us. But we have to see them as Jesus sees them,” Setzler declared. “We must act with intentionality. When we believe they are worth reaching, the barriers to obedience have to come down.”
Setzler added that Christians must react with punctuality because “timing is everything.” He noted the disciples didn’t want to be in Samaria although the harvest was ready.
“The fields of the 21st century are not just white for harvest, they are brown and black and every color for every nation. We must go to multiple colors for harvest; otherwise we are not going to reach our world.”
Setzler noted Jesus made a “life-changing impact on this woman. Here was one so messed up and everyone in town knew it.” Yet Jesus chose her as the one to evangelize her community.
“The world will be changed by the ones who have been changed the most,” Setzler asserted. “Even those we wouldn’t have picked are worth reaching because they will be the ones who will become evangelists, the ones who will go and tell.”
Dennis Pethers, an evangelism specialist from Great Britain, also expressed urgency for telling people about Jesus and the church – because those who don’t know Jesus “don’t know they don’t know and don’t know they don’t go (to church).”
Pethers said he never went to church while growing up in England. “The people who don’t go to church don’t know they don’t go. They don’t know they don’t know who Jesus is. They have no idea. They have not decided to not know, they just don’t know!”
He noted declining church attendance that started in Europe “is happening across the world, including the United States.”
Pethers said 100 years ago, 94 percent of England’s population was in church every Sunday. That figure is now less than 10 percent.
Many keep doing what has always been done in hopes that something different will happen, Pethers asserted. “But if you do the same thing, the same thing happens.”
He said he was introduced to Christ by a coworker who gave him the book, “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. While sitting on a train on his way to work one morning Pethers put his faith in Christ.
“God loved me enough to die for me,” he said he realized. “That message, reality, truth grabbed me on the in- and outside that day.” He confessed, “Here’s my life, do what You want with it.
“I felt washed inside, like I’d had a shower on the inside, not the outside.
“I don’t want to stand in front of you as an expert in evangelism,” Pethers stressed. “I’m just a bloke who wants people to know about Jesus because there is nothing better in the whole world than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Pethers, who collaborates with LifeWay Christian Resources on a number of projects, said churches are saying the wrong prayer for people to return to the church.
“We should be praying, ‘God, send us out!’
“We’ve got it the wrong way,” Pethers declared. “The (non-Christians) didn’t build the walls, we did. We built walls for people outside, but those outside don’t know it because they don’t know they don’t go to church.
“We spend too much time ‘doing church’ and it makes no difference to the people outside,” Pethers asserted.
He encouraged the audience to get outside the church and practice evangelism, which he defined as “leaving the person I have met with a better understanding of God than they would have if they had never met me.”