Many Christians haven't a clue how to do the work to which Christ called them in the Great Commission—to make disciples. But is the church—especially in America—effectively equipping believers to be His witnesses? In some quarters, yes, but there is much work to be done—and no one more committed to it than Dr. Rice Broocks, co-founder of Every Nation and senior minister at Bethel World Outreach Church, a multisite church based in Brentwood, Tennessee.
As the driving force behind the films God's Not Dead and God's Not Dead 2, Broocks is working with the church to empower believers to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks why they have hope (1 Pet. 3:15). With hope in short supply in many places in the world and increasingly in the U.S., Broocks has set his sights not only on America but also on the uttermost parts of the world with the Every Nation ministry he co-founded with Phil Bonasso and Steve Murrell.
Broocks doesn't think small. Every Nation is making a dent with gospel truth across the globe, having grown to a family of more than 1,000 churches and campuses in over 60 countries. Many Every Nation churches get their start on the college campus.
Evangelize With Every Tool
Broocks believes the church should use all the tools at its disposal to share the gospel and defend the faith. Social media is one of the tools he uses, particularly Twitter, where he has more than 22,000 followers.
A best-selling author, Broocks has written several books with an evangelism and apologetics focus, among them Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History's Greatest Question; God's Not Dead; Every Nation In Our Generation: Recovering the Apostolic Mandate; and The Purple Book: Biblical Foundations for Building Strong Disciples, written with Murrell, a highly effective church planter in the Philippines.
Beyond print, Broocks began using the more modern medium of film when New Orleans-based businessman Troy Duhon—who owns more than 20 car dealerships and was funding movies—first suggested the idea. Duhon put Broocks in touch with Pure Flix Entertainment, a partnership that led to God's Not Dead, which became a sleeper hit at the box office. Duhon, the executive producer, "wrote the biggest check for the movie," Broocks says.
In the film, actor Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame stars as an atheist college professor who tells his philosophy class to write "God is dead" on a piece of paper and turn it in. When a Christian student refuses to do so and takes a stand for his faith, the professor challenges him to a debate, and viewers learn why Christians believe God is alive.
Following on from its hit film, Pure Flix is releasing God's Not Dead 2 in theaters April 1. The sequel tells the story of a high school history teacher taken to court by an atheistic civil liberties group. Man, Myth, Messiah offers the evidence behind the sequel for those who want more information or are driven by questions about Jesus after watching the film.
Not only is he employing social media, books and film, but he also launched an app that challenges people to take "The God Test." After 30 years of ministry on hundreds of high school and college campuses, the need for such a tool became apparent.
Available for iPhone or Android users, the God Test app is meant to be used by Christians to start, as Broocks says, "conversations that have eternal significance" and by non-Christians who want to examine what they know about God. (See our review of the app in the first sidebar.) Downloaded 17,000 times in 141 countries, the app has prompted tens of thousands of gospel conversations.
Broocks has also seen "people come alive in sharing their faith" using the app.
"My goal is to train you to share your faith in an hour or less," Broocks says to Christians about why training videos are also available on the app.
One thing important to Broocks was that the global survey on the app not be fake.
"If we're going to take a survey, it's going to be real," he says—and it is. In reviewing results from the survey, Broocks can tell where each God test was taken within 10 feet of where the test-taker was—valuable information to a researcher.
Equip Every Congregation
Broocks, who earned a master's at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and a doctorate in missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, has been told he wrote the first-ever dissertation not on evangelism but on the gift of the evangelist. Since its 2010 publication, his work has inspired others to write on the topic as well.
"There is no gift of evangelism," he says. "There's only the gift of evangelist. Ninety-nine percent of people in the church are not evangelists."
The gift is cited in Ephesians 4:11 alongside apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers.
"The gift of the evangelist was given to the church to equip God's people to evangelize," Broocks wrote in his latest book, Man, Myth, Messiah.
Broocks believes that just as the local church has worship leaders on staff, they should have evangelists working alongside pastors and teachers too. First, however, believers who are evangelists have to be identified and trained.
The church must see the evangelists as an integral part of the body like they would a youth pastor or worship leader. But, Broocks says, when we think "evangelist," we think "revivalist." He decries this stereotype, asking, "How can we get evangelism beyond an event?" Instead, we must create what he calls a "culture of evangelism."
Broocks defines the word "evangelist" as a person "graced by God to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers while equipping believers to do the same." His church has 70 evangelists and a senior evangelist "like a church would have a senior pastor," he says.
"We start out trying to identify that 1 percent first," he says of the evangelists. He then addresses the most significant question: why only 3 percent of churches are growing through evangelism.
The answer to that, Broocks says, is "we're not clear about the gospel, we're not certain whether we should even preach it, we don't have evangelists functioning in the local church, and we really lack the tools. What tools do is they leverage the evangelist's ability to the average person who doesn't have that gift."
Evangelists and, in turn, believers of all ages must be equipped to tell their faith story and vigorously defend the gospel in the midst of a cultural onslaught that decries the truth about Christ.
"Churches are starting to realize that equipping people to defend their faith is just as vital as teaching the basic doctrines, or preaching encouraging and comforting messages on Sunday," Broocks says.
Churches must teach believers to "winsomely engage" people with the gospel. For years, the church has trained believers to use tools such as Bill Bright's tract The Four Spiritual Laws and D. James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion system, but there is always room for more tools to help believers share Christ.
"The ways you can engage unbelievers are as diverse as your own imagination," he says, adding a caution.
"Whatever method of engagement you use, make sure you get to the gospel," he says. "Many people go out and they're doing good works, but they never get to the gospel, as if that's some kind of a stumbling block."
Broocks feels it's necessary to use words to communicate the gospel.
"There is a message that has to be presented," he says. "Good works should adorn the gospel, but they don't replace them. They should accompany them, just like signs and wonders."
He emphasizes that "preparing believers to give the reasons for their faith should be the highest priority for those engaged in Christian ministry."
How does a Christian know if he is part of the 1 percent in the church who are evangelists? Broocks cites several ways: the Lord's voice, a prophetic word, spiritual fruit, a desire or burden for souls, peer affirmation and leadership affirmation.
As a junior at Mississippi State, Broocks received a prophetic word about his gift and was told, "Always be ready to pack your bags."
Other than the factors above, why does Broocks think he is an evangelist?
"I'm doing this ministry and I'm equipping people because nobody else wants to do it! I drew the short straw!" he quips.
Broocks' "defining moment" came when he baptized his atheistic brother, Ben, a third-year law school student who set out to talk Broocks out of his faith.
"That was the catalyst for my entire family coming to faith," he says.
Broocks knows he is gifted as part of the 1 percent, but the real figure that sticks in his craw is 3 percent, the percentage of churches growing through evangelism. He set out to examine the data and deconstruct that number in his doctoral work.
"The average Christian doesn't know the gospel," he says. "The gospel is the Good News that God became man in Jesus Christ; He lived the life we should've lived; He died the death we should have died in our place; three days later, He rose from the dead, proving He is the Son of God and offering the gift of salvation to everyone who repents and believes in Him."
Churches do so much to draw people, but Christians still don't understand how to communicate the gospel.
"When I go to speak (at churches), I say basically if you do nothing else, teach your people the gospel," he stresses. "We've got seminars and tap-dancing ducks—I mean, look at all the stuff we're doing to impress people to draw a crowd—and if we can't empower them to know the gospel, I think it's a tragedy, much less part of the reason for crisis."
The main problems leading to the crisis are that believers don't know the gospel, there's a lack of clarity about sharing it, and there are practically no evangelists in the church.
Reach Every Campus
Brooks is called to bring about a "cross-denominational apologetics and evangelism movement that equips people to defend their faith." Through Every Nation, he is committed to establishing "Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, socially responsible churches and campus ministries" across the globe. Every Nation now has churches in 73 countries.
"Our strategy is to go onto a campus and start there and also to have one foot in the campus and one foot in the community," he says, observing why it's so important to address the campus. "Whatever's on the campus, five years later will be the values in society."
Broocks says he doesn't want to be the "next big thing" in evangelism.
"I'm not trying to be the next Ravi (Zacharias) or the next Josh (McDowell)," he says.
Rather, Broocks is trying to win a million Christians willing to be used of God.
"If we don't get a million kids to defend their faith in this country, we lose," he says. "We're going to lose this thing. People are losing by (intellectual) drive-by shootings. The average kid is losing their faith by a drive-by insult: 'There is no God. Your God is like a tooth fairy. Jesus never existed.'"
With 25 million people having watched the first God's Not Dead movie and more than 8 million Facebook likes on its page, God's Not Dead is certainly part of that movement. Broocks is also aiming to give away 1 million books to college students "to get this evidence in the hands of people," he says, and to have ministries on hundreds of campuses around the world.
Broocks finds young people "open to a credible presentation of the gospel and the truth of the Christian faith," he writes in Man, Myth, Messiah, citing the urgency of defending the faith in an age when young people easily walk away from the church once they leave home for college.
Battling ignorance on campus is critical as a student's lack of understanding can easily lead to deception.
"Time and time again in conversations with believers and unbelievers alike, the testimony is consistent that they either came to Christ or fell away into unbelief because of a few thoughts that seemed to change their worldview almost overnight," he says.
But Christians seeking to evangelize others and defend their faith had better be prepared, Broocks cautions. It's a spiritual battle, so the forces of hell will be aligned against the Christian witness, not to mention the fact that one must be prepared to handle the intellectual objections.
Brian Miller, who speaks with Broocks, is an example of a student who left the faith while in college. Now a physicist, Miller lost his faith while taking a Bible course at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later, while earning his Ph.D. at Duke University, he fully committed himself to Christ "based on being willing to follow the evidence wherever it led."
It's stories like Miller's that reveal why it's so important to reach students on campus today. Overall, Broocks knows most Christians are "scared to death of evangelism," and many aren't really sure what the gospel is, so he encourages them to "memorize and master the gospel."
It also helps for Christians to use simple approaches to sharing their faith. He recommends acronymns such as SALT and GREAT to remind believers how to get their message across effectively. SALT stands for Start a conversation; Ask questions; Listen; and Tell the story, while GREAT refers to Gospel, Reasons, Empathy, Approach and Tools.
God has given Broocks an assignment, and he plans to take as many churches as possible with him toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Christine D. Johnson is managing editor, print, at Charisma Media. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The God Test App: A Review
One of Rice Broocks' most innovative projects is an app called "The God Test." The God Test is, on the surface, a simple survey. Based on the respondent's answer to the first question—"Do you believe in God?"—the app will present one of two sets of nine questions, one to assess a biblical worldview and the other to challenge atheists. Upon completion, the respondent can find resources to learn more about Christianity.
But the app's evangelistic capacity is where its genius lies. Anyone with The God Test on his phone can become a legitimate survey taker, asking friends, family or anyone on the street these questions to record the data—and, in the process, start a conversation about Christ. The app even comes with instructional videos, training believers how to share their faith in an hour or less.
The God Test aims to train Christians who have a difficult time finding an "open door" to talk about matters of faith. The only way to train effective evangelists is to give them real-world experience in sharing their faith, according to Broocks, so The God Test is designed to remove barriers to that experience.
"You can't teach golf in a classroom," Broocks says. "It's the same for evangelism. This is an easy, genuine survey to help people start evangelizing, which helps evangelists come alive."
The app employs the power of digital media to reach people worldwide. More than 100,000 people have been tested using the app, which has been downloaded 17,000 times in 141 countries. One of the countries where it is most used is the Philippines, where The God Test has been downloaded around 5,000 times. The app has even been downloaded in distant locations like Jordan and Ghana.
Over 200,000 test questions have been answered using the app. Moreover, thanks to data-collecting features within the app, the survey creators can tell both what respondents said and where they said it within 10 feet.
These early numbers have Broocks excited about the app's potential.
"The God Test could be the largest raw-data survey about God ever," he says.
The data collected through The God Test has strong, practical usage. At a recent conference at Arizona State University, Broocks and his team promoted The God Test. Several students took the test, and the conference was able to use that demographic data to minister more effectively to the audience. Broocks and his team also are working on getting The God Test translated into more languages.
During my time hands on with the app, I found it functional and well-designed, though at times lacking polish. As a highly tech-savvy millennial, I'm used to working with many different apps. The design is intuitive, particularly on the most important part—the survey. After the test concludes, an option comes up to see further resources, though I wish there were the option for the user to see the survey results. Without the ability to see the data, the survey offers limited value to the respondent—though it offers great value to the survey questioner and to Rice's data-gathering team. Additionally, technical glitches display a lack of polish, though I expect that will be fixed soon. After all, the iterative nature of apps means that the development team can be constantly refining and smoothing the God Test experience.
Ultimately, The God Test is an intriguing new tool. The app comes highly recommended to any Christian interested in sharing his faith. It is free to download and available on both iOS and Android operating systems.—Taylor Berglund
The Gospel as a Human Right
The Assemblies of God (AG) was launched with a fourfold mission of evangelism, worship, discipleship and compassion. One hundred years after its 1914 founding, the AG recommitted to evangelism with "The Human Right" campaign (thehumanright.org). The campaign asserts that every person has the right to experience a clear and adequate presentation of the gospel.
The concept of evangelism being a human right also intentionally came up in the movie God's Not Dead 2. Defending Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), the teacher on trial for her faith, attorney Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe) argues before the court that the "most basic human right is the right to believe."
Rice Broocks believes it is good to frame the gospel as a human right, as the metaphor is meaningful to young people today.
"We're very concerned about human rights, but ultimately, the most basic of human rights is the gospel," Broocks says.
Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent for Assemblies of God, concurs.
"This generation is very culturally sensitive to human rights," Wood said when the campaign launched. "We're actively involved in child advocacy, child sponsorships, water wells, feeding programs and any number of issues that deal with human rights. But there is a right that is even more basic and that is the right of every single person to have a clear and adequate presentation of the gospel of Jesus. We want to ensure this human right is being met worldwide."
Speed the Light—the student-led initiative that provides students the opportunity to engage in missions—is the global expression of The Human Right movement, and Youth Alive—which works cross-denominationally to connect youth ministry to the schools—is the local expression.
Broocks also helps believers launch faith conversations through his What Matters Most? A Survey of Human Rights (My Healthy Church), which includes a simple survey about human rights. The product then guides participants to consider knowing Jesus as the most important right of all.
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