Personal evangelism benefits more than the listener, says SBTS professor
By SCOTT BARKLEY, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Tim Beougher considers himself blessed to have already understood that evangelism is a natural part of Christian life before realizing that for many Christians it is not.
Shortly after his conversion, Beougher was invited to attend a weekend retreat by the Baptist Student Union at Kansas State University. The subject of this weekend was evangelism.
“As a young believer, I kind of thought [evangelism] was what you do, ”he said. “After this conference, I started to share my faith in the dormitory and for the past two years, I was a resident assistant in my dormitory. I told the Lord that with His help I wanted to share the gospel with the 70 guys on my floor, and I was able to do so for two years in a row alongside many classmates.
Beougher is 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 should make personal evangelism part of their life, he said.
“We were ordered to do this,” said Beougher, who published the book Invitation to evangelization: sharing the Gospel with compassion and conviction last month. “There’s an old saying in church life that goes, ‘God said so. I believe so, and it’s settled. We have to leave this middle part aside. If God said so, that settles it.
Other motivations exist of course for participating in evangelization, he added. On the one hand, it glorifies God when people start to worship him. He also responds to the needs of others, especially in eternal affairs.
The reality of an earthly death reminded everyone at Southern Seminary today (September 27) of the need to share the gospel, Beougher said, referring to the unexpected loss of fellow professor Gregory Brewton.
“One we know has passed into eternity, but thousands are doing it every day,” he said. “And so, Heaven and Hell are real. The gospel is people’s only hope, and we must be concerned about sharing it.
Although studies show a willingness on the part of unbelievers to hear about the gospel, Christians continue to show a reluctance to share it. Fear, Beougher said, remains the main reason to avoid evangelism, even if it benefits both the listener and the speaker.
“When we come to Christ, the gospel is not something we leave in our rearview mirror,” he said. “It is also the fuel of our sanctification. We have the privilege of seeing God use us in someone else’s life. It happened to me as a young Christian and I never got over it.
“A witnessing lifestyle opens up to spiritual growth. Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea have fresh water, but the Sea of Galilee also has flow. If there is no outlet, the fresh water flowing in it stays there and soaks up and becomes sour.
When more members of a church feel this desire for evangelism, it can change a culture, he said.
“You start to have a feeling of anticipation and you are not surprised when someone comes to faith,” Beougher said. “I am convinced that there are two types of Christians – those who think that we can no longer reach anyone, and those who say that things have changed but the gospel has not 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.