A task force appointed last year to explore avenues of evangelistic renewal among Southern Baptists has released its final report, including a series of eight recommendations for individuals and groups at all levels of Southern Baptist life.
“We are convinced that these suggestions can be heartily embraced by all gospel-loving Southern Baptists,” the report stated, “regardless of differences in theology, methodology, or generational preferences.”
Released June 11, the report was presented Wednesday morning (June 13) by task force vice chairman Adam Greenway, a dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, following Paige Patterson’s June 8 resignation as chairman. The 18-member task force was appointed by Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines after messengers to the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix instructed him to do so.
The task force met three times over the past year, according to the report, and “prayed together, and talked extensively.”
In addition to its recommendations, the task force included in its report a series of 12 affirmations and denials related to evangelism.
Among the task force’s recommendations:
— That churches “conduct annual witness training events” and “adopt a goal for baptisms.”
— That pastors “model personal evangelism” and “present public gospel invitations of various kinds, calling unbelievers to repent and believe.”
— That seminaries “consider enhancing their curricular requirements in evangelism.”
— That the North American Mission Board employ “senior level leadership” tasked with “involving churches, associations, and state conventions in outreach to the lost, as well as providing evangelism training and resources.”
— That the SBC Executive Committee designate a Sunday as “Baptism Day” on the convention’s calendar.
— That all Southern Baptists “renew with great urgency the priority of evangelizing the next generations” and use “God-called evangelists” as “a wonderful asset in evangelistic endeavors of various kinds.”
See the task force’s full report below.
Report and Proposed Recommendations of the Evangelism Task Force Presented to the Southern Baptist Convention, Dallas, Texas, June 12-13, 2018
On June 14, 2017, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines appointed an Evangelism Task Force whose assignment was to investigate the possibilities for renewal among Southern Baptists in evangelistic effectiveness for the third decade of the 21st Century. This Task Force has met three times, prayed together, and talked extensively.
The Task Force is a cross-section of pastors, denominational leaders, and seminary faculty members representing a spectrum of age groups and theological persuasions within the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). All members of the Task Force are aware of the different theological perspectives within our Convention. However, addressing those issues did not lie within the scope of our task.
Our assignment was to make recommendations on improving evangelistic effectiveness across our denomination. Furthermore, we are convinced that these suggestions can be heartily embraced by all gospel-loving Southern Baptists, regardless of differences in theology, methodology, or generational preferences.
The Task Force offers a series of twelve affirmations and denials followed by eight recommendations with the hope that God would look favorably on our Convention and allow us to shine the light of the gospel into the darkness and distress of our world.
EVANGELISM ARTICLES OF AFFIRMATION AND DENIAL
WE AFFIRM that evangelism is in part “soul-winning,” as the New Testament employs the words “winning” and “persuading” with regards to imploring unbelievers in the power of the Holy Spirit to believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (cf., 1 Cor 9:19-22; 2 Cor 5:11, 20).
WE DENY that evangelism should be employed through means of manipulation, coercion, deceitfulness, or intimidation.
WE AFFIRM that the Scriptures teach that gospel conversations should seek to include both clear presentations of the “good news” of salvation and genuine invitations for all people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (cf., Matt 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-22; Acts 1:8; 2:26-39; Rev 22:17).
WE DENY that gospel conversations are merely general talk about spiritual things and that an evangelistic invitation may only be extended by a singular methodological approach.
WE AFFIRM that the heart of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the God-man,
Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins (cf., 1 Cor 15:3-4).
WE DENY that the gospel is a humanly-conceived invention or myth divorced from supernatural activity and actual historical reality.
WE AFFIRM that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; that it is wrought by the Holy Spirit as people repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ, and receive Him by confessing Him as Lord and Savior (cf., John 1:12; 14:6; 16:8-11; Acts 2:37-38; 4:12; Rom 10:9-10; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Titus 3:4-7).
WE DENY that salvation can be achieved in and through a person’s own power, initiative, or self-actualization.
WE AFFIRM that evangelism is a spiritual discipline that every believer bears the responsibility to practice in order to be found faithful to our Lord’s commands (cf., Ezek 3:16-21; 33:1-11; Acts 18:5-6; 20:17-27).
WE DENY that evangelism is a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit has endowed to some, but not all, believers, thereby excusing certain Christians from personal evangelistic responsibility.
WE AFFIRM that our Lord’s Great Commission is a biblical mandate to be carried out by all true churches and faithful Christians until Jesus comes again (cf., Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).
WE DENY that the Great Commission was restricted only to the apostles and therefore is not binding upon believers today.
WE AFFIRM that the Great Commission mandate is for believers to share the gospel verbally with all unbelievers so that they might repent of their sins, trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, be baptized (immersed) as witnesses to the truth of the gospel, and learn to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matt 28:18-20).
WE DENY that the gospel is primarily concerned with social justice, political engagement, or secular aims resulting in the call to personal repentance and faith being minimized or ignored.
WE AFFIRM that the gospel has societal ramifications, leading believers to engage in the biblical causes of justice and reconciliation (Luke 4:18).
WE DENY that the gospel only addresses personal spirituality and individual behavior.
WE AFFIRM that evangelism and discipleship are interdependent and together constitute the whole of the biblical disciple-making process (Matt 28:18-20).
WE DENY theological and philosophical lines of argumentation or ministry strategies that seek to separate evangelism and discipleship.
WE AFFIRM that evangelism is a way of life to be learned and practiced, as God has gifted all believers with His indwelling Holy Spirit to enable them to witness boldly by His power (cf., Acts 1:8; 4:8; 4:31).
WE DENY that evangelism is merely a human activity or a church program.
WE AFFIRM that a sinner’s prayer is a biblically appropriate and practically effective method by which lost people can personally receive God’s gracious offer of the gospel in repentance and faith (cf., Luke 18:13-14; John 1:12; Rom 10:9-13).
WE DENY that people are saved merely by mouthing the words of a specific prayer.
WE AFFIRM that God gifts certain individuals to function as evangelists as a gift to the church in order to lead in the harvest and to equip believers for greater effectiveness in personal witnessing and corporate outreach in order to build up the body of Christ (cf., Acts 8:12; 21:8; Eph 4:11).
WE DENY that the ministry of the New Testament evangelist ceased at the conclusion of the apostolic age and therefore is not a valid expression of God’s calling and gifting today.
1. To the churches — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that every Southern Baptist church:
A. Set aside one day per month as a special day of prayer for lost people and for the evangelistic effectiveness of our churches.
B. Select a witness training method and conduct annual witness training events.
C. Adopt a goal for baptisms that will challenge the church to increase its baptisms through leading people to faith in Christ and baptizing those converts.
D. Submit their Annual Church Profile report as one significant way of understanding our effectiveness in carrying out the first two aspects of the Great Commission. (We recognize the limitations of simply reporting numeric baptisms.)
2. To the pastors — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that pastors:
A. Model personal evangelism for their congregations.
B. Present public gospel invitations of various kinds, calling unbelievers to repent and believe.
C. Renew extending to followers of Christ God’s call to the pastorate, to missions, to evangelism, and to all other vocational ministries.
3. To the seminaries — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that each Southern Baptist seminary:
A. Conduct annual witness training events for employees and students.
B. Consider enhancing curricular requirements in evangelism.
C. Involve students and faculty indirect efforts to reach the lost through mission trips, local mission partnerships, and their local churches.
4. To the Directors of Missions/Associational Mission Strategists — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that you identify, celebrate, and use as training models churches and pastors who demonstrate evangelistic effectiveness resulting in baptized believers. We ask that you invite Baptist colleges, seminaries, state conventions, and churches who have effective evangelism ministries to assist churches that desire to increase evangelistic effectiveness.
5. To the State Convention Executive Directors — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that you prioritize evangelism in your staffing, training, and ministry as you equip the churches in your state(s). In addition, we ask that all your ministry efforts be infused with the consciousness of the lostness of humanity and the incomparable news of the love of Christ.
6. To the North American Mission Board — The Evangelism Task Force recommends that senior level leadership be employed and tasked with involving churches, associations, and state conventions in outreach to the lost, as well as providing evangelism resources and training events on a consistent basis, in order to help re-establish evangelism as a denominational priority.
7. To the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention — Recognizing that churches may choose their own date for a Baptism Day emphasis, the Evangelism Task Force recommends that a Sunday be set on the denominational calendar as “Baptism Day,” when all our churches are invited to work especially hard to lead people to Christ in the weeks prior to the selected date and to focus on a significant baptismal service in which the meaning of baptism is articulated in preaching and teaching.
8. To all Southern Baptists — Recognizing the challenge of evangelizing the younger generations, the Evangelism Task Force recommends that:
A. All parents, church leaders, pastors, and denominational entities renew with great urgency the priority of evangelizing the next generations, adapting our methodology without changing our theology.
B. God-called evangelists be utilized as a wonderful asset in evangelistic endeavors of various kinds, since while all Christians are called to be personal evangelists, God has always given some individuals unique giftings with respect to evangelism.
May Jesus Christ our Lord be honored in our efforts to introduce people everywhere to His saving grace.
Evangelism Task Force members:
Paige Patterson, chairman
Adam Greenway, vice chairman
David Allen, Jordan Easley, Nick Floyd, Noe Garcia, J.D. Greear, Jeff Iorg, Robert Matz, James Merritt, Doug Munton, Preston Nix, Bartholomew Orr, Matt Queen, Alvin Reid, Jimmy Scroggins, Jim Shaddix, Steve Gaines, SBC president (ex-officio)
— David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.