Kentucky pastor Shawn Dobbins counts evangelism among the spiritual disciplines, right up there with prayer and meditation on God’s Word. That’s why he views evangelism training as essential.
“As pastors and as churches we are to equip the saints for ministry,” said Dobbins, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church. “We feel that each Christian is called to participate in the Great Commission. And just like we are to have a spiritual discipline of prayer, reading the Bible, we also need to have the spiritual discipline of sharing the gospel.”
For about five years, Dobbins has included 3 Circles: Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations, a tool developed by the North American Mission Board and offered to churches at no cost, in new member orientation classes and other programs as an ongoing church emphasis. He conducted new classes and refresher courses for the church to participate in the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Gospel to Every Home statewide evangelism initiative, an outreach launched just before the COVID-19 pandemic that also includes its own training tools.
“As churches, we need to equip our people with a way for them to share the gospel,” Dobbins said. “There may be many ways that they can do it … but we feel that it’s our job to at least equip them with one way they can fulfill the Great Commission in their life.”
Joshua Schmidt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grayson, is also participating in the Gospel to Every Home outreach and has trained the congregation for the task.
“The biggest difficulty I’ve seen with new believers and Christians who’ve been Christians for a long time, is they don’t know how to get just a normal conversation to a gospel conversation,” Schmidt said. “And so that’s why our 3 Circles training especially is so beneficial, because it helps make that transition for people, that very critical point.”
KBC Evangelism Team Leader Rob Patterson said the average Christian has a heart to share the gospel. But engaging others in gospel conversations can be challenging, he said, even with the spiritual reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Many of our folks, the thing that trips them up is knowing how to get into a gospel conversation and how to turn a conversation to a gospel conversation in a natural way,” Patterson said. “We recognize one of the great values for equipping our lay folks in evangelism is when they learn a particular gospel outline. So 3 Circles is one that we’ve helped train all across the state, have found a lot of folks really have found to be accessible and a tool they can use.
“But whether it’s 3 Circles or a Marked New Testament or any gospel outline,” Patterson said, “it’s not so much the presentation as (it is that training) builds confidence to a layperson, ‘If I get into a conversation I know where to go. I’m not going to mess this up.’ And once they get in the conversation they realize that they do know and the Holy Spirit’s going to guide them, and they don’t have to be dependent upon following it point by point.” Without training, laypersons might be hesitant to enter a gospel conversation for fear of making mistakes, he said.
The 3 Circles model looks at God’s design for our lives and how sin leads to brokenness, and explains the opportunity to repent of our sins and believe in God, which frees the new believer to recover from a life of sin and pursue God’s design for them personally.
Included in 3 Circles and the Gospel to Every Home training are opportunities to practice the presentation model with other believers before approaching nonbelievers. The model led to an actual salvation at Grayson First that Schmidt refers to as the church’s “big God story over the last four years.”
Schmidt refers to a church member named Bobbi who was saved about three years ago when she visited the church on a Sunday evening, not knowing that the church was in the middle of 3 Circles training.
“It was the first time she’d been to our church in years. She sat down and I told her we didn’t have a regular service, we were just practicing reps of 3 Circles and I wanted to know if I could try it on her,” Schmidt said. “She ended up getting saved. … She has a daughter that gets saved, a second daughter that gets saved, two sons-in-law that get saved, another daughter that gets saved, and a granddaughter that gets saved – all in a period of about a year.”
For the past four weeks in the Sunday evening worship hour, Schmidt has been taking about 25 members of his church into the community in the Gospel to Every Home initiative after conducting a six-week training session using the KBC’s Front Door Evangelism training program he helped design. The training teaches successful strategies for door-to-door evangelism, things to avoid, how to share personal testimonies and how to share gospel booklets.
Hebron Baptist conducted Gospel to Every Home outreaches on Sunday evenings June through August, and resumed outreaches in September that will extend through November. Already, the church has reached about 600 homes, Dobbins said, and will extend its outreach teams to include small groups focused on the neighborhoods where they meet.
“They are prepared and our goal is to have a gospel conversation at every door in the 41048 zip code,” Dobbins said. “As we go, we look for the opportunities to move to gospel conversations and to get into the 3 Circles.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Oct. 3 is Personal Evangelism Commitment Sunday. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)