In retirement, Alastair Walker has found a new passion for evangelism, knocking on doors, going into homes and sharing the gospel with those who are lost.
Walker, two years into an interim pastorate at First Baptist Church, Campobello, in Spartanburg County (the church will call a new pastor this month), came to Campobello in 2008 with a “new resolution for pastoral, personal soul-winning – the old-fashioned way.”
He retired in 1983 after serving 25 years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg and has served 16 interim pastorates since. In 1979 he was president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and is often credited as an early leader in the convention’s fight against world hunger.
“I came [to Campobello] and made a resolution that I was going to be a witness to lost people. Whatever it took, I was going to try and win people for Christ, whoever those people might be,” he said, maintaining a lifelong Scottish accent.
He said his resolution came after decades of allowing pastoral ministry to be replaced by church administration and sermon preparation.
“When I first entered ministry, I was focused on soul-winning,” he said. “But, then, over time, I began to spend 60 percent of my time in church administration, 30 percent of my time in sermon preparation, and only 10 percent of my time in pastoral ministry. I became burdened that my conviction didn’t match my emphasis. I had allowed myself to drift.
“My attitude had become ‘here we are, and you come to us,’ and my new attitude is ‘there are the people, and let’s go get them.’ “
He started by asking Campobello members to supply the names and addresses of people who were “not enlisted in church” or “unsaved.” The people provided the names and Walker began in-home visitation.
“I called and made an appointment, and it’s been well-received,” he said. “It’s been a sheer joy. Church members are conscious that I want the names of unsaved people, and then I go out and knock on doors. It’s been a wonderful thing.”
“Campobello is a good community, but it’s not a fast-growing community,” he said. “The Lord has blessed us, and I believe we can continue to do even more here.” The church has received 43 new members, most of whom are adults who professed faith in Christ, during his tenure. In 2008, according to the Annual Church Profile, the church averaged 96 in Sunday school. The church was constituted in 1880.
“Statistics don’t tell the whole story,” he said. “I have a burden for people to ‘stick’ in the church and for God to work in the hearts of people.
“Some have responded and come forward, and some of those have no church background,” he said. “When they come to church, no matter who they are, the people of this church surround them, shake their hands, and let them know ‘we are glad to have you.’ It’s given me great joy here.”
But he’s also discovered through his home visits that “we are living in such a time of biblical illiteracy,” he said. “People are more and more secular, and there is a real indifference to church involvement. We need to pray for a hunger to know God.”
Walker said churches focus more and more on reaching people through programs and events, and there needs to be a revival of pastors meeting lost people one on one. “Knocking on doors and visiting people is what we once did as Southern Baptists,” he said. “Soul-winning was a priority of the pastors, and it’s what drew me to being a Southern Baptist. It’s one thing to believe people are lost, and another thing to do something about it.”
Beyond pastors, he believes Sunday school is the outreach arm of the church, and Sunday school teachers “should be reaching the un-enlisted and the lost.”
Walker, a Southern Baptist “by choice,” is a Scotland native whose dad was a preacher in Scotland and South Africa. The younger Walker came to the United States to attend seminary in Chicago. “I heard the Southern Baptists were meeting in Chicago, and I went to their meeting,” he said. “R.G. Lee was preaching, and I was amazed at the great singing about the cross. I decided to transfer to Baylor University, and then went on to Southern Seminary.”
“Every church is precious to the Lord,” he said. “There is opportunity for soul-winning in every church, and every church can search out prospects and reach people.”
He encouraged pastors this way: Ask God to create a burden for lost people; make up your mind that nothing will deter you from getting in the homes of lost people; schedule time to reach prospects and then get the prospects to the church on Sunday morning; and walk with the Lord and reveal that faithfulness to the church you serve.
“God blesses obedience to the commission to see people born again,” Walker said. “Our theology should lead us into the homes of people and lead those people to Jesus.” – SCBC