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Students make evangelism a priority
September 13, 2004
By David Roach
Southern Seminary students share Christ last year in a Louisville neighborhood. Students will have numerous opportunities to participate in evangelistic endeavors each week through the seminary's Southern Evangelistic Teams.
Each week this fall more than half a dozen teams of students from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will proclaim the saving message of Christ to lost men and women in Louisville.
The teams are part of a ministry known as the Southern Evangelistic Teams (SET) and will participate in such activities as sharing the Gospel with people on the streets of downtown Louisville, ministering to students on the campus of the University of Louisville and conducting evangelistic surveys in conjunction with local churches.
Bryant Glisson, a master of divinity student from Oxford, Miss., who serves as president of SET, says he plans to send eight teams of students to different sites across Louisville every week. As the semester progresses, he hopes that members of those eight teams will start new teams and recruit additional students to participate in weekly outreach activities.
“SET exists for students who are serious about learning to share their faith and improving their witnessing skills among all kinds of secular audiences,” Glisson said. “To this end, SET offers a variety of weekly outreaches, through which a student can gain essential practical experience in how to share effectively.”
Timothy Beougher, Billy Graham professor of evangelism and church growth and faculty advisor for SET, said SET provides practical evangelism training that complements Southern’s personal evangelism classes.
“I tell students in my classes that trying to learn to share your faith in a classroom is like trying to learn how to swim through a correspondence course,” Beougher said. “In order to learn to swim, you have to get in the water. In order to learn to witness, you have to go out and talk with lost persons. The SET teams provide an organized outreach effort that helps our students take what they are learning in the classroom about evangelism and apply it in ‘real life.’”
According to Twyla Fagan, director of Great Commission ministries at Southern, SET plays a vital role in the seminary’s quest to share the Gospel with people in all spheres of life.
“The Southern Evangelistic Teams form an integral part of Southern’s Great Commission strategy,” Fagan said. “While it is common for us to look to ‘the ends of the earth’ as our focal point for participating in the Great Commission, we must also reach out to our ‘Jerusalem.’ Students who participate in SET will be blessed by participating in the challenge of sharing Christ with the lost of Louisville.”
Some Christians may think that participating in one or two outreach activities each week through their local church is a sufficient manner in which to obey the Great Commission, Glisson said. But faithfully following Jesus means making evangelism a lifestyle rather than an activity scheduled once or twice per week, he said.
“Regular outreach through the local church is of first priority for all students,” Glisson said. “However, this is a bare minimum response to the Great Commission. We who are to be leaders of ... congregations must have a passion for reaching the lost that drives us far beyond the bare minimum.”
Glisson developed a passion for evangelism as he participated in SET during past semesters and saw firsthand the need for Christians to confront spiritual confusion with the truth of the Gospel, he said.
On one occasion, a team of Southern students witnessing on the streets of downtown Louisville encountered a man who claimed to believe in 17 different Jesuses, Glisson said.
On another occasion Glisson spoke with a man who claimed never to have sinned. Shortly after claiming to be sinless, however, the man recounted a list of things he had done in his life including burglary and acting unkindly toward others, Glisson said.
“We’re called to make disciples,” he said. “So as much as possible we need to seek avenues where people will have the chance to disciple those whom they encounter.”
Glisson hopes SET will encourage the Southern Seminary community “to cover every waking hour of every day of every week throughout the school year with the faithful Gospel witness.”
As seminary students increase their passion for evangelism, Christians in their churches will likewise become impassioned and impact the world for Christ in a powerful way, he said.
Glisson concluded, “We want people to see students putting feet to their words.”
Students interested in SET evangelism opportunities may visit www.geocities.com/setevangelism/. Southern Seminary and Boyce College students are welcome to participate.