Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

During the last six years, or more, I've urged pastors and leaders to move their churches in an externally focused direction. Our pastors have read books that describe what this looks like. These have included: The Externally Focused Church by Rusaw, Breaking the Missional Code by Stetzer & Putman, and The Present Future by McNeill...just to name a few. We've had some of these same leaders speak at our leadership training events. Many churches have started new ministries composed of loving acts of service to their immediate community. A simple desire to do good for others is the motivation, with the hope that in some small way God will receive credit for the blessings that invariably come through such ministry.

It is also hoped that through such self-less ministry that some will recognize that Jesus followers really are people who love others, radically. And, perhaps, this will jump-start spiritual conversations. Rick Rusaw explains it like this, "We decided long ago that we aren't going to serve to get noticed. We serve for two reasons: to meet basic needs and to create positive relationships." In other words, good deeds create good will so that people may be open to hearing the good news. All of this is in line with our current, and historic, theme as American Baptists, "Serving as the hands and feet of Christ."

I rejoice that many of our churches are riding the wave of externally focused ministries. The instances of churches engaged in community-based ministries have multiplied in recent years.

As our churches continue to transition from inward focus to outward focus it's important that we not jettison sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, with WORDS. Good deeds alone are insufficient to lead a person into a saving knowledge of Jesus. People must hear the truth in order to believe. And, it is the believing, in a faith and trusting sense, that saves. (Romans 1:16 & 10:17)

So, I'm advocating here for doing the hard work of evangelism, that is, talking to people about Jesus, in addition to engaging in outward focused ministries. I was reminded of this as I was reading some words penned by Dick Ottoson, the highly esteemed Minister of Seniors at FBC Anacortes (WA). He expressed his desire to see his golfing buddies come to know Jesus, and admitted, quite honestly, how hard it is at times to have them consider the person of Jesus.

Dick writes: "But I find one essential ingredient [in my discussions about Jesus with my golfing friends]. These affirm and deepen my own certainty of faith in Jesus Christ my Lord. And I believe that it has the potential to profoundly affect my friends' conclusions about the Son of God....For my friends, there are several things I need to do to influence them toward Christ. First, I need to love them, to be there as a trusted friend. Secondly, I feel called to pray for them regularly, for all the parts of their lives, including knowing Christ. I also want to gently ask probing questions about eternal issues. And as I can, I wish to encourage and assist them in looking at the New Testament accounts of the One called Jesus. In many cases, these friends have chosen to walk away from sterile or rigid forms of traditional Christianity. I don't blame them for rejecting a caricature and distortion of Jesus Christ. But how I long to help them find the real thing. Or should I say, the real person?"

Personal evangelism. I know it's challenging. I know it makes us uncomfortable. I know we can feel guilty about our lack of doing it. And, we can feel very inadequate as we attempt it. But, we have a Savior who promised that with God nothing is impossible. And, that includes talking to others about Jesus. I believe that externally focused ministries will place many opportunities before us for engaging in such conversations. So, let's open our mouths, and talk! About, Jesus, that is!

2010 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]