y father was the master gardener in our family. About
this time every year, he would sit in his easy chair and pour over the seed
catalogs, thumbing through each one and marking items of interest.
These catalogs offered beautiful photographs of flowers, vegetables and
fruit trees in full bloom. During the cold Missouri winters, they offered hope
for the future. The frozen, often snow-covered, ground would, in a few months,
become soft and pliable, yielding gorgeous flowers and delicious fruits and
vegetables that would find their way to our dining room table.
After marking the catalogs he would move to the table. Out would come pads
of graph paper, and he would begin the process of plotting that summers
Hed mark rows of leaf lettuce, spinach, onions, green beans, peppers,
tomatoes and hills of squash. I was always interested in his plans, because I
knew my brother and I would join him when the weather permitted. Wed till the
ground, plant the seed and plants, fertilize, water, mulch and weed the garden
and battle the insects. Eventually wed harvest the crops. This was an act of
love that led us to even keep a hive of bees to aid pollination. But the work
always began in the middle of winter with the arrival of the catalogs around
the first of the year.
The beginning of the calendar year was also our familys occasion for setting
resolutions ... a natural time for personal introspection and evaluation.
How was my physical life? Did I need more exercise?
I also evaluated my spiritual life. How was my quiet time? Bible reading?
Intercessory prayer life? Whom did I need to tell of the hope that the gospel
Just as Dad planned ahead for the harvest he hoped for at summers end, a new
year is a good time for us to think strategically about how we might build
bridges for the gospel.
There will be times when we will plant gospel seeds and other times when we
will nurture relationships (water, weed and mulch) but ultimately God will give
the increase. At the beginning of a new millennium, consider these 12 ideas for
renewing a commitment to personal evangelism in your life (1 Corinthians
Lighthouses of PrayerConsider making your home a
Lighthouse of Prayer. This is two or more believers uniting together for the
purpose of intentionally praying for, caring about and sharing the gospel with
people in their neighborhood. Begin the year with a focus on identifying and
praying for lost colleagues and neighbors.
Make a list of people in your circle of acquaintances
who need to hear the gospel. Consider offering a neighborhood Bible study in
your home especially designed to share the gospel with lost neighbors. At the
very least, begin the New Year intentionally praying for unchurched family and
Act nowFor an individual or church Lighthouse Kit,
contact HOPE Ministries at 800-217-5200. Order an "On Mission as a
Lighthouse of Prayer" brochure from the North American Mission Board (NAMB)
Customer Service Center, 800-448-8032, or fax, 615-251-5983. Also ask for an On
Mission Prayer Map, which offers a helpful guide to praying for U.S. states and
Canadian provinces, government and mission leaders, missionary personnel and
countries around the world that are virtually untouched by the gospel (ISBN
Acts of kindnessFebruary is known as the "love
month." As an expression of love for your community, consider doing various
acts of kindness. My own church sponsored acts of kindness within our churchs
community, such as delivering free light bulbs to homes within a certain radius
of our church along with the reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world
(John 8:12). On another occasion, members volunteered to serve at a local
grocery store to help patrons carry their sacks to their cars. These servant
evangelism opportunities gave us the opportunity to offer a word of hope to
each person. Other acts of kindness include delivering bottles of water to
homes along with an appropriate scripture such as John 4:13-14.
Act nowOften, churches sponsor multiple acts of
kindness as part of an event known as a Kindness Explosion. "Servant
evangelism," says Carol Baker, NAMB Missions Opportunities and Events
associate, "is a combination of simple acts of kindness with intentional
personal evangelism." What can you do in your neighborhood? What acts of
kindness can your church perform? Make a list now. Call 770-410-6427 for
information about Kindness Explosions.
By all means!Think about the ways your church can use
media to further spread the gospel. Consider radio, cable access televisionits
free and easy to get in most placescommunity newspapers, the Internet,
billboards or yard signs. Be creative and team with other churches in your area
to pool resources if necessary.
Act nowMediating the Message (the 2000 North American
Mission Study) is a church resource kit that will help you become personally
involved in using media to spread Christ. Call 800-448-8032, or fax
615-251-5983 to order. The kit offers specific ways children, youth and adults
can play a role in using media. If you dont need the entire kit, order the
book, Mediating the Message.
Evangelizing at EasterEaster (April 23, 2000) is a
natural time to point people to the gospel. Consider unique ways to involve
unchurched neighbors and friends in your congregations Easter services. Many
churches plan special music pageants with multiple presentations during this
season. Some offer neighborhood children an evangelistic Easter egg hunt in
which the fun involves hunting for plastic eggs with
scriptures tucked inside that point the kids (and their parents) to the real
message of Easter. Still others enlist the assistance of apartment managers to
hold special Easter weekend events targeting children and youthall proclaiming
the truth of the gospel rather than simply reinforcing the secular idea that
Easter is about bunnies. If none of these ideas fits your situation, consider
hosting an evangelistic block party around Easter with your church as
Act nowMake the commitment that this Easter will not
pass by before you have that conversation about your faithalong with an
invitation to churchwith your neighbor or coworker. Make a list of at least
three people you will share with.
Plan a summer evangelistic eventVolunteer at your
church to conduct a summer event that is intentionally evangelistic. It could
be an evangelistic Vacation Bible School, a backyard Bible club, a health fair,
a neighborhood Bible study or a block party. Build into your plans a way to
share the gospel, even if you are drawing people into your church for blood
pressure screenings (health fair).
Events such as these require preparationselecting the project, ordering the
curriculum materials, gathering supplies and recruiting other helpers. Make
your list in advance. May is not too early to plan a major summer event.
Act nowFor helpful evangelism project plans try these
books: Meeting Needs Sharing Christ by Donald A. Atkinson and Charles
L. Roesel, available from LifeWay Christian Resources (800-448-8032) or
Faith Works by Joyce Martin, available from the Womans Missionary
Resort outreachAmericans love to vacation. If you
live in a resort community or plan to visit one this summer, think about how
youon your own or with other Christianscan reach vacationers with the gospel.
People on vacation typically have more time to talk and are moving at a less
hectic pace. What better time to meet the Prince of Peace than when youre
seeking some R&R? Be intentional about sharing the gospel with those you
meet while on vacation. Turn your vacation into your on mission project.
Act nowFor ideas about how to share Christ in a
resort setting, order Working with People in Resort Settings from NAMB
World ChangersWorld Changers is a life-changing week
of ministry and evangelism for Christian students and adults who participate.
They have opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others
through practical learning experiences of servanthood and personal commitment
to missions. While doing repair work on houses located throughout North America
(and around the world through the International Mission Board), participants
can share the gospel with people they help. Projects are planned for students
and their sponsors. Community projects are also planned in which children,
youth and adults work together to share Christ while performing ministry
projects ranging from light construction to organizing food and clothing
Act nowRegister early for projects scheduled for the
year 2000. Contact World Changers registration (800-462-8657, ext. 6470) and
ask for a World Changers 2000 projects brochure. Read it carefully. Involve
other Christians from your church.
The world in our back yardCultural and religious
diversity exists in nearly every community today. There are an estimated 6.5
million Jews in North America. Islam is growing rapidly and is estimated to total
5.6 million adherents. Buddhists and Hindus total more than 1 million each and
groups such as Mormons (5.1 million) and Jehovahs Witnesses (1.1 million) also
populate the communities in which we live.
Act nowWhat interfaith groups exist in your
community? Contact your local or state Southern Baptist offices for assistance
(your church office will have the phone numbers). Many state Baptist offices
provide special evangelism training targeting different faith groups. Contact
NAMB at 770-410-6322 for more information.
School daysSeptember is back-to-school month for many
people and their churches. Consider becoming involved in a youth-related
evangelism project. See You at the Pole, ACTS Revolution and other campus
events and organizations will allow you to help support and encourage students
standing up for their faith.
Act nowOther age groups may, however, be a priority
for you and your church. If so, consider beginning a new Sunday morning Bible
study geared toward people in your community who dont know Christ. Volunteer to
host it, organize it, publicize it or teach it. Share your vision with others.
Involve them in the ministry of this new group. Start today.
Halloween evangelismMany Christians are developing
creative ways of turning Halloween into an evangelistic event. Some people
carve crosses into pumpkins then light a candle inside and shine a simple
witness to neighbors who come trick or treating. My own church provides
scripture tracts and colorful handouts about our church, which we give out to
the children along with candy.
Act nowToday many parents accompany their trick or
treaters around the neighborhood. This provides you the opportunity to take a
few extra minutes and meet the parents of the children who come to your
If you give children a tract or church handout along with the candy, tell
the parents. Youll begin to build a relationship with them as you share the
gospel. (See "The
harvest at your door," September-October 1999.)
Thanksgiving prayerwalkThis month offers an excellent
opportunity to continue building relationships with neighbors and colleagues
for whom you are praying. Consider inviting a person with no family nearby
(perhaps a single adult) or an entire family to your home for Thanksgiving
dinner. Tell them why you and your family are so thankfulbecause of the life
you have in Christ.
In recent years, prayerwalking has become a creative, new
method for interceding for neighbors, communities, schools and even whole
towns. Intercessors walk through their neighborhoods, praying both silently and
aloud for their neighbors. Some have followed Gods leading to distant lands to
intercede for non-Christians living there. The deacons in my church conducted a
prayerwalk in our community as a means of preparing for a fall revival.
Act nowKeep alert to the Holy Spirits guidance. Feel
free to pray silently or aloud as you walk. Use the time for praise, worship
and intercession. When you meet a neighbor, if appropriate, say that you will
pray for them. Find out if they have any special prayer requests. It may be
possible for you to pray with them right then. Be sensitive to share the gospel
whenever you have the opportunity. Taking Prayer to the Streets, Prayer
Journeys Resource Kit is available from NAMB (800-448-8032).
Reaching out at ChristmasTake advantage of the
Christmas season to tell those who come into your home about Gods greatest
gift, sending His Son to give us life through his death and resurrection. Turn
Christmas letters to family and friends into faith-sharing opportunities. (For
specific ideas, see "Holiday
letters," November-December, 1999.)
Act nowYour church can join arms with an overseas
missionary team to pray for the salvation of lost people around the world. The
International Mission Board (IMB) sponsors two strategic partnership options
for Southern Baptists willing to commit to persistent prayer. Contact the IMBs
PeopleLink at 877-462-4721. PRAYERplus (888-462-7729) specifically partners
Southern Baptists who want to pray for smaller, hidden people groups who have
not yet heard the gospel. Churches making this commitment will begin by praying
that the people will become open to the gospel. When God answers that prayer,
prayer partners will be joined through PrayerLink with missionaries who respond
to the openness with an evangelistic witness.
hatever ways you seek to share Christ in 2000,
remember that though you may plant some seeds and water and nurture others, it
is God who gives the increase.
May the New Year be one in which you become more intimately acquainted with
your Heavenly Father through intentional prayer for lost family, friends,
colleagues and lost people around the world. And may the year be marked by a
renewed commitment to evangelism in our lives.
Wally Buckner lives in Atlanta.
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