Learning, engaging are keys to disciple-makingby C. Walter Overman
When the Apostle Paul entered the city of Athens (Acts 17), he went to the marketplace to learn about the city and its citizens before he engaged the Athenians with the gospel.
Michael Sowers, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Convention) strategy coordinator for the Triad Region, said North Carolina Baptists will have to employ a similar strategy to reach the state’s estimated 5.8 million lost people. “Paul spent time in the marketplace; he took the time to get to know the city of Athens,” Sowers said.
Sowers spoke during a break out session at the recent State Evangelism Conference, held Feb. 24 at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. During the session, Sowers focused on how North Carolina Baptists can discover information about the people in their communities and how to use that information to develop strategies to engage them with the gospel.
The break out session was part of the overall conference theme, which was an expression of the Convention’s new strategy: “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making.” The strategy calls for churches to penetrate darkness through disciple-making in North Carolina and around the world.
“North Carolina is rapidly becoming one of the most diverse states in the country,” Sowers said. “The world is coming to North Carolina.”
The state’s increasing cultural and ethnic diversity means North Carolina Baptists will have to learn about the various people groups in their communities as part of the disciple-making process. Sowers said the first step in that process is to see the people in the community.
“Too often we don’t take the time to look and see,” he said. “We don’t see the people that perhaps God might be putting in our path every day.”
There are a number of ways to learn about a community and its citizens. One way is to walk instead of driving around town. “Take the time to walk through your community so that you get to know people and experience things you never experience while driving,” Sowers said.
Sowers also suggested learning about where people gather, such as parks, shopping centers, community centers and the routes they use to navigate around town. “This helps you to start thinking about how you can reach your town with the gospel,” Sowers said. “This is just an exercise to help you open your eyes.”
The next step is to engage people, which is what Paul did during his visit to Athens. Paul did not enter the marketplace and quickly leave; he began conversations with people. In the same way, North Carolina Baptists can enter the marketplace and ask questions to people they meet.
“What if we start thinking like Paul, and we go into the marketplace to begin conversations with people?” Sowers asked. “What if we start finding out about people? What if we start taking an interest in those people?”
Sowers told the audience to ask people where they are from, what interests them, and when and where they might be available to talk again. The important thing is to engage in conversations and learn about people in the community.
“Nothing replaces going out and talking to people and asking questions about who they are and where they’re from,” Sowers said.
The answers to those questions provide information that will help churches, small groups or Sunday School classes to formulate disciple-making strategies for their communities.
“All of that information is good, but unless we put a strategy together to engage them with the gospel, then the question of impacting lostness through disciple- making will not become a reality,” Sowers said. “It’s not real until we get to the point of engaging people with the gospel.”
For more information about how your church or small group can develop a strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making in your community, visit the Convention’s Strategic Focus team Web page here. For more information about the Convention’s five-year strategy, visit www.ncbaptist.og/srategy.