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'Reaching Out' to Louisville in 2003
November 24, 2003
By David Roach
More than 200 students, professors and staff members proclaimed the Gospel door-to-door on Nov. 8 during the school’s Reaching Out 2003 evangelism effort. Photo by Ginger Gilliland
Brian Priest recently saw firsthand how acts of service open doors for the Gospel.
When Priest and a team of students from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offered to rake leaves for one Louisville family, they learned that the family had been praying for someone to do their yard work. The family was so grateful for the students’ assistance that they promised to attend church the following Sunday.
Priest, a master of divinity student from Canton, Ga., was among 202 students and faculty who participated in Southern’s “Reaching Out 2003” effort Nov. 8. Reaching Out involved teams of seminarians undertaking projects such as rural outreach, servant evangelism, prayer walking and inner city evangelism. It was Southern’s second such outreach effort this year.
“I am greatly encouraged,” said Twyla Fagan, director of Great Commission ministries at Southern. “We almost doubled our attendance from last semester’s [Reaching Out project]. I really feel like the Spirit of God is moving on our campus and people are being called out to do evangelism. This is just one small indication of what He’s doing here.”
Matthew Cooke, a master of divinity student from Maynard-ville, Tenn., said Reaching Out 2003 gave him an opportunity to apply the knowledge he has gained in seminary classes.
Cooke served on a rural outreach team that traveled door-to-door telling people about the love of Jesus Christ.
“I learned today that I have learned things [in seminary] that are going to ... make me more effective in winning souls,” Cooke said. “... I learned in my evangelism classes that complimenting people will create opportunities to share the Gospel. So I tried it today and it worked.”
Through encounters like Cooke’s, Reaching Out 2003 participants communicated the Gospel to hundreds of Louisville residents and distributed copies of a tract entitled, “Experiencing God’s Grace,” which was developed by Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.
“The greatest encouragement was that the Gospel was shared,” said George Martin, M. Theron Rankin professor of Christian missions and a Reaching Out 2003 participant. “And that really was the focus with all the teams. Whether it be servant evangelism raking leaves, whether it be Hispanic outreach, rural outreach, it was all about sharing the Gospel. We understand here at Southern Seminary that everything we do ultimately must result in sharing the Gospel.”
For Katie Shults, a master of divinity student from Spring, Texas, serving on a prayer walking team was an eye-opening reminder that God’s heart breaks for the lost people who live near Southern Seminary.
“I think for all of us, it was pretty impacting,” Shults said. “Some of us spoke about the fact that we were really personally convicted because we’re in that area a lot but we don’t see it all the time the way God sees it.
“... The darkness there is very tangible, but we had a lot of opportunities to pray for those homes and those businesses.”
Brad Morrow, a Southern Ph.D. graduate who participated in an inner city outreach project, discovered that in some cases sharing the Gospel has an immediate effect.
“The church was following up on a block party they did in back September,” Morrow said. “So a group of us went out into the neighborhood to find those folks that attended the block party.
“... And the group that I was in had an opportunity to share Christ with a 13-year-old boy. He prayed to receive Christ and it was very exciting.”
Morrow also shared the Gospel with a 22-year-old man who may attend church in the weeks to come.
Martin concluded, “We must share the Gospel. Whatever else we do, ultimately that is what we are about.”