By Tobin Perry
FREDERICKSBURG, VA — As a student pastor at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va., Doug Adams realizes how important it is to involve college students in personal evangelism—and how tough it can be.
To help overcome the inherent struggles in getting students to share the Gospel, Adams has turned to a familiar friend of student ministry—peer support. By participating in Engage 24, Adams has set aside a day to challenge every student in his ministry to share the Gospel with at least one person on .
“It’s a day when you might be doing something you’ve never done before, but you feel like you’re on a team doing it with the rest of your church body or your small group,” said Adams “Engage 24 gives many of us more confidence to share our faith for the first time because you know you’ve been prepared and others are doing it with you on that specific day.”
Not only has Engage 24 made an impact on Spotwood’s college students, but for the last two years Spotswood has incorporated a churchwide focus on evangelism using Engage 24 as a model for the greater body. Spotswood picks a specific date when they ask their members to “engage” a neighbor or friend with the Gospel. In preparation for that day, senior pastor Drew Landry teaches a three- to four-week series designed to encourage and equip their people to confidently engage in Gospel conversations.
On the week following the event day, the church culminates the experience with a service dedicated to sharing stories of people throughout the church who shared the Gospel. This year Landry, and other church leaders, have already begun preparing the congregation to participate in this one-day intensive effort again.
Southern Baptist collegiate ministry leaders from around North America launched Engage 24 in 2012 in an effort to move students who had never shared the Gospel into becoming people who share regularly. Through Engage 24, churches and student ministries encourage all participants to share their faith once during a 24-hour period. Participating churches can use whatever evangelism training or methods they prefer. This year’s national efforts will focus on Oct. 15, although collegiate ministries and churches can set aside any day for their evangelistic emphasis.
“Instead of setting huge goals for the number of people who came to Christ or for baptisms, we decided that our goal would be to get as many students as possible to share the Gospel with one person on a single day,” said Brian Frye (@brifrye), the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) national collegiate strategist. “We’re creating a time where there’s this collective focus on evangelism with a tangible goal. The win is easy so the group can move toward it.”
In that first year alone, Engage 24 mobilized students to make more than 8,000 Gospel presentations on campuses throughout North America. More than 2,000 students shared the Gospel for the first time that year. The goal, Frye insists, isn’t just to focus on a single day but to develop a culture of evangelism within ministries. In fact, he adds, many of the churches who championed the day early on aren’t doing it any longer because, thanks in part to Engage 24, they have developed an evangelistic culture in their collegiate ministries.
For the past four years the effort has caught on to such a degree that the initiative has moved beyond student ministry into the broader church body. Last year Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., and other churches throughout North America, began challenging their entire church families to participate in the effort.
“Pastors are looking for ways to move their people into action. Engage24 is a great first step,” said Al Gilbert, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism. “The movement started on the college campus but has moved into churches across North America. Some churches have used this first step to launch an ongoing emphasis to encourage believers to share their faith.”
Churches and student ministries that want to participate in Engage 24 can visit www.engage24.org. The website includes stories from previous years and videos that can be shown in public worship services.
“Our call is to make disciples,” Frye said. “For every pastor or collegiate leader it’s our call not to just teach the content of the Scripture but to model the content of the Scripture. What Engage 24 gives you is a fail-safe way to model gospel sharing and call your people to it. It’s a win-win-win scenario.”
Churches or individuals looking for evangelism tools are encouraged to explore 3 Circles; Life Conversation Guide, a simple way to engage in Gospel conversations (lifeonmissionbook.com/conversation-guide).
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.