Bill Sullivan wasn’t someone you heard preach at a conference. He never wrote a book. He wasn’t even a pastor. He was a layperson from a Southern Baptist church who believed the gospel had the power to change lives.
One night many years ago Bill had a conversation about Jesus with a young, twenty-something couple named
Mike and Glenda. They came to faith in Christ that night. A few days later I stood on a pew and watched my parents get baptized. I never met Bill Sullivan and I didn’t fully understand what my parents did that night, but that gospel conversation changed my parents’ lives for eternity.
And it changed the trajectory of their three children, 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild too.
I’m forever grateful that this Baptist layman took the time to share Jesus with my parents that night.
I’m convinced that for the church in North America to make a dent in our continent’s lostness, we need more Bill Sullivans. The North American church needs more believers actively engaging their neighbors and coworkers in gospel conversations.
That’s why I am excited about this book Steve has put together. He is calling churches and individual Christians back to our core purpose—to know God and to bring Him glory by introducing more people to Him.
A major threat to the evangelical church in North America today is that so many have plateaued or are declining in membership. In the faith group I serve—Southern Baptists—we lose an average of 1,000 churches every year. Most of them have simply locked their doors and died. It is such a crisis that at the North American Mission Board where I lead, we have made church revitalization and church re-planting a major priority. It is not a problem unique to Southern Baptists.
Why are so many churches dying? We have found that by far the most common reason is that at some point the congregation turned inward. They started focusing mostly on ministries that served themselves. Good things probably, but they lost their focus on the outside world around them. Individuals stopped sharing their faith with non-believers. The church stopped connecting with its community. The salt lost its taste. The light grew dim.
That’s why Share Jesus Like It Matters is such an important book. Of course mostly because it really does matter to those with whom we are sharing. When Bill Sullivan shared Jesus with my father, it dramatically changed the course of his life, my mom’s life and our entire family. Probably just within your church there are families that can share similar stories. One life changed can lead to so many others.
But sharing Jesus also matters for other reasons. When we follow Jesus’ command to make disciples we are being obedient to Him. When we don’t we are disobedient. There are blessings that come from obedience and consequences for disobedience. Watch what happens when you start to obediently share your faith. You will be amazed how many people God will put in your path and you will be encouraged beyond measure as you have the privilege of watching lives change before your eyes.
And what will happen to our churches? Instead of the stagnation and death that comes from an inward focus, our churches will come alive. When more Christians start having gospel conversations that will lead to gospel congregations. The light will shine. The salt regains its flavor.
For years many Southern Baptist churches faithfully used the Home Mission Board’s Continuing Witness Training (CWT) material to equip believers to share their faith. It was a great tool that helped thousands of believers take the gospel to friends and neighbors. Now we have given that resource to Steve to use in conjunction with this book. I can’t wait to see how his passion and enthusiasm for the gospel will bring new life to this great resource.
If you are a pastor, I hope you will embrace this book and discover how it can help transform your congregation from an inward focus to an outward mission. If you are an individual believer, I challenge you to put into practice the approaches shared here. You will see how quickly God starts to use you and you will be amazed at the encouragement and spiritual growth it will bring.
Dr. Kevin Ezell
North American Mission Board, SBC
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