January 13, 2021
When Harper Shannon retired as director of the office of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, an article was published in the Jan. 30, 1997, issue of The Alabama Baptist about his retirement. A sidebar article featured questions and answers with him related to the future of Baptist evangelism.
Shannon died on Dec. 30, 2020, (see story here). The following is an excerpt from the 1997 Q&A feature written by David Reid, who worked in communications with SBOM at that time.
Q: What are some of the greatest threats to evangelism?
Shannon: The greatest threat is what we used to call “creeping” universalism — the idea that everyone ultimately will be saved. … Also, the waning evangelistic fervor of the busy pastor. Pastors have so many other things to do — good things which must be done — that they may cease to emphasize evangelism. Evangelism is a discipline which every pastor must make a priority. A related threat is the busyness of lay people, who have so many responsibilities and commitments. You have to determine who and what will rule your life.
Q. As a former pastor, what advice would you offer to pastors serving in local churches?
Shannon: To “plow around rocks.” When a farmer is plowing and he comes up on a rock in a field, he can try to blow it up or plow around it. He might blow it up, but he might get blown up with it.
There are power structures in some churches, which can prevent a pastor from leading it forward. He can try to blow it up, but sometimes it’s best to plow around it.