Contemporary Evangelism in the 21st Century – Interview with Carlton Byrd

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Oakwood University Church and Speaker/Director of the Breath of Life television broadcast, which airs on four international TV networks. He is also a passionate public evangelist. Dr. Byrd recently authoredContemporary Evangelism for the 21st Century. Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press Publishing Association, publisher of the book, recently interviewed Dr. Byrd.


Question: Dr. Byrd, you have a passion for soul-winning and evangelism. Tell me why evangelism is so important to you.

Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church. Without evangelism, we will die as a church”not just a numeric death, but a spiritual death. The primary purpose of the church is to engage in evangelism. Just prior to His ascension back to heaven, Jesus made it clear that we are to engage in the gospel commission teach, preach, and baptize. This was His final charge to us, so I'm confident that it was very important. Moreover, what joy you experience when seeing someone else give their life to Jesus!

Question: Some in the church today suggest that the days of public evangelism are gone, that it no longer works. What do you have to say about that?

It still works. The message is still the same. We must, however, employ relevant evangelistic methods in our postmodern, contemporary society.

Question: How do you see evangelism in the 21st century differing from the way evangelism has been done in the past?

There has to be a better blend of law and grace in our teaching/preaching, along with our interactions with others. Additionally, there has to be increased, intentional emphasis on why we obey God. We obey Him because we love Him. Love must be the motivating factor for our actions and behaviors. The accoutrements that aid in the presentation of our message are more relevant. We've replaced the tent revival with the hall or church meeting. Our online ministry options for public viewing and tracking visitors has increased. Music offerings are more experiential and relational. Also, there is an expectation of excellence in our presentations (preaching/teaching, marketing initiatives, physical plant, music, etc.).

Question: You talk about contemporary evangelism how has evangelism changed in the past decade or two?

There is a greater emphasis on relationships relationships with God and one another. This is reflected in our worship through our teaching, preaching, and singing. We've moved from a "top/down" approach to a more decentralized approach. Evangelism cannot be seen as seasonal; everything a church does should center around evangelism. While we need to teach/preach our distinctive message, it must be accompanied by addressing people's genuine felt needs.

Question: Tell me about your book. Is it just for pastors? Or full-time evangelists? Who did you have in mind when you wrote the book?

This book is for anyone who is passionate about soul winning and evangelism. We may not all be able to preach like Peter, pray like Paul, or sing like David, but we can all do something to build God's kingdom. Pastors, evangelists, Bible workers, church officers, and church members can all benefit from this book.

Question: What can this book do for the local church?

It can revolutionize a local church to mobilize for public evangelism, not just seasonally but for year-round, everyday evangelism as it offers a theology for evangelism, while sharing practical methods for creating an evangelistic culture at the local church.

Question: You make this statement in the book: Neighborhood residents need to see that the church is not merely interested in gaining more members and money, but is more interested in the well-being and positive development of people. Would you share a little more about how this fits with evangelism? What are some specific things a church can do to reach out to the community in this way?

The local church must be community minded and active. It cannot be seen merely as a group of people that shows up on Sabbath mornings for worship, but it must be seen as an outpost for activity that benefits community needs. Community feeding programs, clothing distribution, health classes, health clinics, exercise classes, tutoring programs, after-school programs, ESOL, substance abuse support groups, grief/bereavement support groups, cancer support groups, mental health counseling, marriage counseling, parenting classes, and sports/recreation opportunities should be offered by the church. While this is an extensive list, the local church can identify what service(s) it can do well and practice accordingly.

Question: What is your prayer for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 21stcentury?

That we understand, recognize, and practice what our mission as a church is all about. It's rooted in our name ”Seventh-day Adventists. We observe and celebrate God's seventh-day Sabbath in joyful anticipation of Jesus' second advent, His second coming! May we cease "majoring in minors, sweating the small stuff, engaging in the paralysis of analysis" and, instead,  passionately and aggressively through the power of the Holy Spirit collectively share with the world Christ's message of hope and love!