Students and faculty members from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, shared the gospel with nearly 1,000 people during the seminary’s annual Spring Evangelism Practicum March 12-18.
Dan Crawford, professor of evangelism and missions at Southwestern, said 109 students and three faculty members traveled to 24 states to preach revival services. They shared the gospel with 806 people one-on-one, and preached a total of more than 550 sermons throughout the week. The effort, he said, resulted in 422 decisions, including 118 professions of faith.
“The fact that we shared the gospel personally with 806 people—plus the people who were present in the church services—indicates to me that seeds properly sown will reap a harvest for years to come,” Crawford said.
During chapel on March 23, Crawford presented Russell Bryan and Pat Findley with the Todd Brooks Riza Memorial Award. The award was established in memory of Todd Brooks Riza, who died in 1995 two days before embarking his first practicum preaching assignment. Riza’s parents, J.C. and Barbara, were present for this year’s presentation.
According to the inscription on the award, it is “presented annually … to the Spring Evangelism Practicum participant, selected by fellow participants, for demonstrating genuine compassion for non-Christians.”
Both students said they were surprised to receive the award. Bryan, a second semester advanced master of divinity student from Headland, Ala., preached at Tulelake Baptist Church in Tulelake, Calif.
According to Bryan, Tulelake is a potato farming community in Northern California with a population of about 800-900; it has been hit hard over the last few years due to a lack of water for crops. However, Bryan was impressed by the hunger for God the people of that community displayed.
“I realized that these people are just like me. They have a desire to be fed. They have a desire to hear from God, a desire for their community, and they want to be able to reach their community,” he said. The experience taught him that “we cannot forget these small rural communities.”
A highlight of Bryan’s trip was leading a man named Ralph to the Lord. Ralph had not attended church in years, and is suffering from cancer. Using the evangelistic tool called “the Roman Road,” Bryan led Ralph through key verses in the book of Romans. Ralph prayed to receive Christ. Bryan was amazed that God chose someone from Alabama to bring the good news to someone in Northern California.
“I guess it opened my eyes,” Bryan said. “When God is orchestrating, or leading you to do things, be obedient to Him. Yes, it may be a long distance, but God has a reason.”
Findley, a second-semester advanced master of divinity student from Springfield, Mo., preached at the New Harmony Baptist Church in Centralia, Ill. The practicum was Findley’s first taste of revival preaching. The experience diverged from his usual one-on-one ministry with pre-teens at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
“I was really excited just to have a chance to preach,” he said. Findley said New Harmony Baptist was a small church with an average attendance of about 25 to 30 people. However, he noticed that God was working in the lives of church members.
“I went to the men’s Sunday school class on Sunday morning, and every man had come, having read their quarterlies and being ready to discuss the Scripture,” he said. This is a practice Findley would like to see implemented in larger churches.
Findley also learned that people cannot be forced to come to Christ. He learned that through Jack, a man whom Findley witnessed to several times without success. Jack was willing to listen to the gospel, but he never accepted the possibility that it applied to him, Findley said. Findley returned to Fort Worth without having seen anybody come to Christ through the evangelism practicum.
“I … came back thinking, ‘Should I have argued harder? Should I have been more blunt? Should I have been less blunt?’” he said.
But after he was given the Todd Riza Award, Bryan said he was encouraged when Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky., delivered the chapel sermon.
“God just sort of thumped my heart, and said, ‘You were supposed to go and preach the truth. You did that. My Word does not return void,’” he said.
Dr. Crawford encouraged the practicum participants to invest more time ministering to local pastors than has been the case in past years. “Many more pastors than we know” are searching for encouragement in their ministries, he said.“If genuine revival does not come to the pastor, it is unlikely that it will come to the church,” he said.