Seminarians teach door-to-door evangelism to church's students
BRANDON, Fla. (BP) -- In the span of three hours, more than 100 middle school, high school and college students delivered the Gospel to nearly 2,300 homes in a Tampa neighborhood.
The door-to-door blitz was the culmination of an evangelism training weekend at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., led by faculty and students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.In sum, teams visited 2,292 homes, which yielded approximately 230 conversations and 120 complete presentations of the Gospel Sept. 14. As a result, six people prayed to receive Christ on their doorsteps.
"We wanted to do everything we could to go into our community and reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we really wanted to do something in partnership with Southwestern Seminary," Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church, said.
The team from Southwestern consisted of two evangelism professors -- Matt Queen and Dean Sieberhagen -- along with 18 students. They trained Bell Shoals students on Saturday morning and led teams out in door-to-door evangelism in the afternoon as a lead-up to National Back to Church Sunday Sept. 15.
"We chose Southwestern because we know that Southwestern has a hot heart to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people," Rummage said.
"We know what they're doing in their community around Southwestern Seminary to reach people with the Gospel, so we wanted a little bit of that spirit here in our community as we seek to reach the people around us with the Gospel.
Queen is one of Rummage's former students.
"I know about his commitment to evangelism and to personal soul-winning, so I really wanted our students here to have an opportunity up close to find out what it's like to be around people like Matt and like the students who are studying with him at Southwestern, who are sharing the Gospel diligently, boldly and through the power of the Holy Spirit," Rummage said.
Rummage initially was amazed at the size of team that was planning to come from Southwestern and the students' willingness to pay their own way to fly to Florida and train members at Bell Shoals.
"As thrilled as I am that we would have students who would do that, at the same time, I didn't want them to do that. I wanted us to pay for them to come," Rummage said. The church paid for the Southwestern team's airfare and provided host homes for the weekend.
"We believe it's a great investment in Southwestern students because there are going to be things they experience here that will make a difference in their ministry and their life," Rummage said.
"But it's also a great investment in our church, in our community and in our students right here because as they go out and share the Gospel, God is going to change their lives and the lives of those they're going to share with."
During the evangelism weekend, Southwestern students and faculty led teams of three as they walked the streets, knocked on doors, engaged residents with the Gospel and invited them to church. Each team used a short spiritual interest questionnaire to open conversations and transition to Gospel presentations. They also prayed with residents and left a gift bag at every home.
While some say door-to-door evangelism is dead, Rummage disagrees, saying it continues to be a viable method for reaching a community with the Gospel. In addition to the immediate results, he said believers grow in their walk with the Lord through the experience.
"As we go out, it teaches us to be bold in sharing our faith so that whether we're in school, at the workplace or with our family, we have a greater boldness and courage to share the Gospel with the people around us in more natural settings because we've done the work going out door to door," he said.
Queen said he knows God still uses door-to-door evangelism because he has stories to prove it.
"God not only uses door-to-door evangelism to see people come to faith in Christ," Queen said. "God uses door-to-door evangelism to help hone our obedience and to help use us in those situations to be confident and bold in the power of His Spirit."
As teams returned to the church for a recap and sharing, Queen told them, "I have a Ph.D., and I'm a professor in evangelism, and I hereby give everybody an A in evangelism for the day."
By that, Queen said, he meant that he didn't want anyone to be discouraged if they were on a team that didn't get to give a full Gospel presentation.
"Can I tell you something? You succeeded," Queen said. "You really did get an A. You would have gotten an F if you had not gone out at all."
Queen encouraged everyone that God simply requires obedience and that He gets credit for Gospel conversations and changed lives.
"What you can take credit for," Queen said, "is the fact that you were obedient."
Victor Flores, student ministry pastor at Bell Shoals and a Southwestern Seminary graduate, challenged students to take what they learned over the weekend and carry it into their schools. Each student was given a Gospel tract, and Flores asked them to commit to sharing with their friends.
"If it just stays here, I'm not sure we've done all that God desires for us to do," Flores told the students.
"So let's take it beyond here. How cool would it be if next Wednesday we're hearing stories not just of what happened here but what happened after the fact as you took that one tract and shared it with a friend at school? That's what we want to see -- lifestyle evangelism as you are going," Flores said.
As the weekend wound down, two middle schoolers asked Queen to pray for them to remain bold in their witness at school and with their friends. Queen encouraged them and prayed with them, recognizing the ongoing ripples the weekend will make in eternity.
Southwestern Seminary faculty and students are willing and ready to train and lead other local churches in community evangelism, Queen said.
Over the past few years, Southwestern has visited every home within a one-mile radius of the seminary to share the Gospel; and with that goal accomplished, students and faculty have expanded their efforts to a two-mile radius in a campus initiative called "Going the Second Mile."
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). For more information, visit www.swbts.edu/SecondMile. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).