In its fifth year, hundreds of students and church leaders gathered at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest for the 9Marks conference focusing on evangelism.
The conference, held Sept. 27-28, featured Daniel Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, John Folmar, J.D. Greear and Peter Williams. The annual event, inspired by Mark Dever’s book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, has now covered five of the nine marks. These marks are preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship and leadership. Next year’s conference will focus on membership.
Akin, president of Southeastern, opened the event with a message on evangelism that highlighted Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
“Philip was a remarkable individual,” Akin said. “It is Philip who takes the gospel first to the Samaritans. … He was willing to go where others had not gone. He was willing to go where others needed to go. He was … a soul winner … who preached effectively.”
BR photo by Kelly Hunter
A panel discusses evangelism during the 9Marks conference recently at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. At right, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern, answers a question while, from left, Mark Dever, Peter Williams, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Folmar, and J.D. Greear look on.
Evangelism requires the church to be intentional in their efforts to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time,” said Akin, quoting Christian theologian Carl F.H. Henry. “… You have to be intentional if you’re going to build and cultivate an evangelistic church.”
According to the website of the Joshua Project, there are around 16,800 different people groups scattered around the globe today, and about 7,280 of them are unreached.
“Which means either … there’s no one there working among them to share the gospel and to do the work of evangelism, or the numbers are so few that the overwhelming majority of those people will be born, they will live, they will die and they will go to hell and they never even heard the name of Jesus one time or had the gospel presented to them,” he said. “That comes to 2.9 billion people on planet earth.”
Unfortunately, Akin said, being “a witness, being a personal evangelist, being a soul winner,” is too often the exception, not the rule in most churches.
To be effective in sharing the gospel, a Christian must give up focusing on their limitations and spiritual gifts. All Christians are called to share their faith.
“There’s no need to manipulate,” he said. “There’s no need to coerce. We are simply messengers who are delivering Good News. I just need to be faithful and sensitive to the promptings and the leading of the Spirit and then [trust] the Holy Spirit of God to do his unique, divine, sovereign work.”
In addition to challenging pastors to be intentional in building an evangelistic church, he encouraged them to teach and train people to do evangelism, set the example, share evangelism stories, present the gospel in preaching, listen and ask questions and help plant evangelistic churches.
He added that evangelistic churches should be planted where “the need is great.”
Last month, the North American Mission Board reported that in New York there is only one congregation for every 59,165 people.
In New Jersey there is one church for every 78,760 people. In Canada there is one church for every 115,040 people.
However, there is one congregation for every 1,446 people in Alabama. There is a church for every 1,385 in Mississippi. Still, according to a report from Christianity Today, one out of five non-Christians in North America have not met one Christian. Nearly 80 percent of Hindus surveyed in America said they don’t know a Christian. And more than 40 percent of Muslims said they haven’t met a believer.
“You find opportunities all around you,” Akin said. “We just need to be about the business of connecting with them, sharing with them and just stepping back and watching God like we did in Acts 8 do His incredible, sovereign work.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham area, later said church leadership should take a hard look at what works and what doesn’t.
“When we’re not fruitful, I question everything,” he said. “I realize you can take it to an unhealthy level, but … I think it’s very helpful to put all the tools on the table and ask … ‘Why isn’t this [approach] catching fish?’”
John Folmar, pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, said he learned about effective discipleship through “good preaching.”
“I learned through sitting under … preaching that is gospel centered … whether you’re in the Old or New Testament,” he said. “That’s a good way for your people to understand how to share the gospel with others.”
Baptism stories also are effective, said Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
“Sometimes our evening services have testimonies they share,” he said. “It … feels more accessible or at least feels different than the preacher on a Sunday morning … not just a guy that was paid to say those things.”
Some of the best evangelistic messages can come from the Old Testament, added Anyabwile.
“You get this window into humanity,” he said. “You see humanity at its starkness. The human need for the Savior creates that bridge to Christ.”
Regardless of the approach, Akin said the key is to remain faithful to sharing the gospel – in your neighborhood here in the U.S. or overseas.
“Don’t be weary in well doing,” he said. “Keep sowing the seed … keep sharing the gospel, preaching the gospel … because God has promised His word will not return void.”
For more information, or to watch video of those who spoke at the 9Marks conference, go to http://www.sebts.edu/news-resources/conferences/9marks/default.aspx.