Evangelism and National Hoops Ministries

Most conservative churches are struggling in the area of evangelism. The leaders will readily admit it. Most pastors are discouraged by the fact that we seem to be doing a pretty lousy job of spreading the Gospel message to the lost. I believe that conversion is God’s job, but evangelism is our job. And it seems we’re pretty anemic at doing our job.

nhoop_logo.jpgWhen it comes to methods, we seem to be just as confused and discouraged. Most Gospel tracts seem to be tossed aside (Truly, when is the last time someone came to your church or got saved because of a Gospel tract?). Christian rock concerts compromise our philosophy of ministry. We have reacted against the “felt needs” approach. Door-to-door evangelism can be helpful in inviting people to church but is rarely effective in seeing someone come to genuine conversion. And what do we have left?

Unsaved people aren’t knocking our doors down on Sunday morning to hear our message. Many have jumped on the bandwagon of relational evangelism only to discover that it’s much more difficult than “confrontational” evangelism. It takes more time and often has the same result as more direct approaches. Worse, relationships sometimes develop, but people never share the message. Bottom line—most pastors I talk to feel like they’re “all thumbs” when it comes to evangelism. I feel your pain. Evangelism in a postmodern society is difficult. On top of that, most pastors don’t face a tough job review in this area. How can a flock who don’t evangelize hold accountable a pastor who doesn’t evangelize? It’s much easier just to do what’s expected from the congregation rather than to do what God expects.
hoops_01.jpgI have come to the belief that if we would just do our job—proclaim the Gospel message to lost people—we would see people get saved. We are not responsible for the results, but we are responsible to proclaim the Gospel. In The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever writes, “According to the Bible, evangelism may not be defined in terms of results or methods, but only in terms of faithfulness to the message preached.” He quotes John Stott at the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism: “To ‘evangelize’…does not mean to win converts, but simply to announce the good news irrespective of results” (p. 135). However, try to find a church that is aggressive about spreading the Gospel message to its entire community. It’s difficult. Evangelism is the most difficult ministry value to keep on the front burner. It takes time, money, energy, and sacrifice. However, it’s a must! Without aggressive evangelism, the church dies.

I have seen enough Gospel presentations to come to the firm belief that if lost people are able to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel, some will get saved. So how do we get lost people to hear the Gospel?

Let me tell you about one way that I believe is effective in getting a number of people to hear the Gospel message. I was pleased to observe a young ministry pioneer, Mike Washer, as he ran a National Hoops weekend for a local church on the east side of Denver in an hoops_03.jpgAfrican-American community. Mike brings his ministry to a church, canvasses the area to promote a three-on-three tournament, then preaches the Gospel at the tournament. When lost people are under the sound of a clear Gospel presentation, the Word of God is heard, and faith comes.

What Is National Hoops?

National Hoops Ministries is a basketball ministry that proclaims the Gospel across the nation to those without Christ. It started with a burden God placed on Mike Washer while serving as a youth pastor. He began hosting three-on-three tournaments to reach unsaved teens through his ministry at Westgate Baptist Church (Spartanburg, SC). After many fruitful outreaches, Mike took his burden to the road full-time in 2004. Now his team travels across the nation, putting on tournaments for local churches. They carry all the equipment they need in a large trailer. They bring the basketball goals, sound system, scoreboards, stencil for the court lines, chalkboards for the brackets, the computer program for the brackets, and a staff to conduct the tournament. The winners of the individual tournaments get to compete on center court of the All-Star Game each year and receive tickets to the game. This is a huge draw for teens who love basketball. Each year, the ministry depends on the Lord to provide the All-Star prize. So far, God has continued to provide that draw.
hoops_02.jpgNational Hoops Ministries schedules tournaments with fundamental churches and partners with them to go into public schools, neighborhoods, and gyms to reach the lost for Jesus Christ. National Hoops also works in Christian schools and with youth groups during the week leading up to the Saturday tournament.

National Hoops Ministries is now operating under a board consisting of Pastor Bill Bethea of Westgate Baptist Church, other pastors, deacons, and businessmen.

What Did I See?

I went to see the National Hoops Ministry on September 2, 2006. When I arrived, I saw four basketball courts set up in a YMCA parking lot where East Denver Bible Baptist Church meets. I arrived just after the Gospel message was given, and the tournament was in its final two hours. Pastor Loren Richmond, who pastors a predominantly black church on the east side of downtown Denver, had sponsored the tournament. The tournament had 17 teams registered, and 88 heard the Gospel message. Thirty-four made hoops_04.jpgprofessions of faith that day! From what Mike told me, several came back to the church the following week. I believe National Hoops is a very effective way to reach into your community and to spread the Gospel message.

What Do I Appreciate About Mike Washer?

  • He does things first-class. I appreciate a guy who has an extensive website that answers all the major questions, includes video testimonials, and is updated regularly.
  • He has a vision for the ministry. It takes guts just to think about contacting the NBA regarding permission to play on center court during All-Star Weekend. Mike has landed the big deal three years running.
  • He is a pioneer. Mike is just a kid, and he’s doing great things. Hats off to a guy who takes the Gospel seriously enough to take risks. If there are some folks with discretionary income, invest in the ministry of National Hoops. Young guys like Mike need backers. He never mentioned it, but I’m sure he could use some solid supporters.
  • He keeps the “main thing” the main thing. Perhaps it’s because he grew up as a missionary kid in Togo, West Africa. His passion for the Gospel is refreshing.

I believe Mike’s ministry can be a great blessing to local churches. If you are burdened about reaching your community with the Gospel, contact Mike and trust God for a harvest of souls.

More information is available at Mike’s website. Feel free to call Mike Washer at (864) 237-2086 and book a week with his ministry.

janz_small.jpgJason Janz, SharperIron site publisher, serves as an assistant pastor at Red Rocks Baptist Church (Denver, CO). He has a bachelor’s degree in Bible and is currently finishing a master’s degree in theology. He has been married to Jennifer for 10 years, and they have four boys. His interests include pastoring, reading, and wrestling with his boys. He likes SI because of how it helps serve pastors and church leaders.
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