By Will Hall, Message Editor
RUSTON — Speaking to a full crowd in the chapel of Temple Baptist Church, Ruston, Jan. 21, featured speaker Mateo Lopez encouraged the audience of pastors and laymen to be intentional in preparing to reap a harvest through evangelism, and, he emphasized going back to the growth “secrets” of the early church in order to expand the Gospel to the world.
Referencing 2 Timothy 4:5, Lopez, a pastor, church planter and teacher at the Indigenous Education Center in Veracruz, Mexico, said believers must be serious about “doing the work of the evangelist.”
He said this life emphasis starts with “a personal transformation,” and he implored the crowd to seek the Word and pursue “an attitude of obedience.”
Lopez concluded the first general session by referencing Isaiah 6:8 which asks “Who shall we send?” and elicits the response, “Here I am. Send me.”
Revisiting this passage with the Baptist Message, Lopez said too often readers think “international missions” when reading this text. But he said it actually reflects the Great Commission’s charge that “as we go” we are to evangelize, baptize and disciple (Mathew 28:18-20). Furthermore, he said, “Acts 1:8 shows the correct order of priority in missions: Our home, our Jerusalem, then expanding outward as God sends us.”
During the second general session, Lopez focused on the Book of Acts to reveal the secrets for church growth.
In particular, Lopez cited Acts 2:47 and the phrase “finding favor with all the people.”
He said it is critical for the church to know the needs of the community and to meet those needs in order to “find favor” in sharing the Gospel.
“I don’t mean ‘social work,'” Lopez explained to the Baptist Message, afterward. “I’m talking about a dual track – physical and spiritual ministry – where we become carriers of the Gospel in practical ways.”
Carlos Schmidt, Louisiana Baptists’ Hispanic church planting strategist and organizer of the program, told the Baptist Message he was pleased with the turnout and the response, and that he was particularly happy with the participation in the breakout sessions.
He described these as “four skill-building workshops” developed to impart practical knowledge and to share resources which directly apply to soul-winning:
— Jonathan Sharp, a missionary with Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board who is assigned to Portugal, used three overlapping circles to represent evangelism, making the point that every believer should be able to tell three stories as an evangelism approach: the story of a broken world; a personal story of salvation; and, God’s story of love for the world.
— Guillermo Mangieri, Hispanic campus pastor for Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, highlighted the importance of telling a story in sermons, emphasizing how Jesus used parables, or narratives, that people could remember in order to convey his teachings. He featured the use of the stories from “Creation to Christ” for effective evangelism.
— Juan Puente, Spanish pastor with Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport and dean of Hispanic Studies at Louisiana Baptist University, also in that city, led a seminar in “Can we talk?” on how to engage the lost in a conversation that leads to sharing the Gospel.
— Lopez led a workshop on how to develop an intentional strategy for evangelism.
Schmidt said possibly the best part of the conference was the opportunity to introduce these Louisiana Baptist pastors to the Harvest initiative – a two-year effort to “pray for every home and share the Gospel with every person in Louisiana.”
By the end of the conference, 10 pastors had committed to participate with their congregations in the Harvest initiative, he said.
“We passed along important strategies and practical skills for evangelism,” Schmidt said, “and we made the case they should use these soul-winning tools as part of our joint effort as Louisiana Baptists to win the state for Christ!”