Today's From the States features reports from statewide evangelism conferences in three states:
Mississippi (The Baptist Record)
Oklahoma (The Baptist Messenger)
Tennessee (Baptist & Reflector)
evangelism resurgence statewide
By Tony Martin
BRANDON, Miss. (The Baptist Record)--Participants in the 2012 State Evangelism Conference, held Jan. 29 - 30 at Brandon Church, Brandon, experienced something special. From inspiring and exciting musical worship to messages from some of Southern Baptist's statesmen, attendees left encouraged, enlightened, and enthused.
What made it special?
According to Don Lum, director of the Evangelism Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, several factors played into making the event such a success. "For one, the environment created by the Brandon Church family, from the pastor and staff on down, made it happen. Everyone had a role. Church members saw it as an opportunity to minister to others."
The conference began Sunday night with praise and worship led by Marc Ivey, of Lynchburg, Va., and a message from Kevin Hamm, pastor of First Church, Gardendale, Ala.
Monday morning began with worship led by Ivey and another message from Hamm. "I still believe in a God who can bring revival," said Hamm, "and it begins with you and me." Using Revelation 2:1-5 as his text, Hamm said, "We can think we're right and doctrinally correct and still not have passion. We have a form of godliness but our hearts are far from God. We're just going through the motions."
After another season of praise and worship from Ivey, Sammy Gilbreath, director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Convention, spoke. Gilbreath spoke on how so many churches get "used to the dark." He continued by stating, "You lose your burden . We can lose it in Sunday School — it can become more about teaching historical facts than saving grace. You can lose it with deacons — they become more interested in being administrative watchdogs than suffering servants." Gilbreath went on to say that we can lose our urgency, we can lose our dreams, and we can lose our desires.
After a break for lunch, the final four speakers structured their messages around the theme of the conference, "A Life, A Cross, A Tomb, a Living Lord." Bill Stafford from Chattanooga, Tenn., spoke on A Life. "People are trying to find any kind of religion that doesn't call for any sacrifice." Speaking from 2 Peter 1 about "real Christianity," Stafford said, "Salvation is just the beginning. He spends the rest of the time knocking me out of me. God saved us not because He needs us but because we need Him … if you go to church and haven't repented lately, you aren't walking with God."
Junior Hill of Hartselle, Ala., spoke on A Cross. His message concerning "covering the cross" stated that we cover the cross when we reject God's examination; when we ignore God's propitiation; when we ignore the matter of imputation; and when we disrespect God's renunciation. "Jesus paid it all," Hill said. "We might not do much for Jesus when we don't understand what He has done for us. You can be just like Jesus but it won't bring you righteousness. The best of our righteousness is like filthy rags."
Jim Futral, executive director-treasurer of Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, spoke on A Tomb. Using Matthew 28 as his text, Futral said, "The tomb is as vital as any other part of the Easter story. These are three days out of about a thousand days of Jesus' ministry. The tomb is where many of us live, wondering if God Almighty can do anything in our lives now. People come to our churches wondering the same thing."
After dinner, Mickey Dalrymple, retired pastor from Columbus and currently living in Brandon, spoke on A Living Lord. Drawing from Revelation 1:9 and following, Dalrymple's message dealt with the encounter with Jesus, the exaltation of Jesus, and the encouragement from Jesus. "How should we spend the rest of our lives?" Dalrymple asked. "We should live our lives anticipating we are going to encounter the living Lord." Speaking to pastors, Dalrymple said, "I don't know what you're going back to , but I (God) will be there when you get there."
"It was great to hear some of God's most gifted preachers," said Lum. "These are men we've gained from for so many years. I sit back and thank God that He showed up, just as He did during the planning of the conference. God just met us."
This article originally appeared in The Baptist Record (mbcb.org/business_services/br/), newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Tony Martin is associate editor of The Baptist Record.
2012 State Evangelism Conference:
Know Christ to teach Christ
By Bob Nigh
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger)--The Monday afternoon session of the State Evangelism Conference Jan. 30-31 began with greetings from Tim Gentry, evangelism specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Gentry gave a brief update on the travels of the convention's "MY316" car, which he has driven more than 38,000 miles during the past two years.
Gentry announced that he has passed the car on to Ron Clement, prayer & evangelism team leader with the Colorado Baptist General Convention. Oklahoma Baptists began a new three-year partnership with Colorado Baptists this year.
The conference's first speaker was the pastor of the host church, Doug Melton, who also is president of the convention. Melton was charged with speaking about biblical evangelism.
"We are talking about teaching Christ personally and to teach Christ personally, you have to know Him personally," he said. "It has to be your story. If you think about it, all of our lives are lived in the context of stories .... the key, then, is understanding that all of our stories are all under THE big story. There is the much bigger story that we're all a part of ... whenever we think about that bigger story, we go back to the beginning.
"A person's view of that big story will greatly influence how they view their own life story. A person's understanding of how it all began impacts how they view their own life story. We will never fully understand ourselves or what we are supposed to do until we understand our place in the big story.
"That's why I'm so thankful that we have the story. The Word of God tells us the story. I want you to hear today THE story."
Melton then presented a dramatic monologue titled, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," beginning in the book of Genesis and telling the redemptive story of Christ's love through our Savior's death, burial and resurrection.
Former BGCO president Emerson Falls, pastor of Oklahoma City, Glorieta, was next, and he asked the audience, "Do you think the Gospel could be effectively lost in one generation?"
Letting that thought sink in, he then asked, "How many of us are actually concerned that the Gospel could be lost in one generation?"
Using Judges 2:6-11 as his text, Falls reminded those present that the Gospel could be lost in one generation because it happened before when the generation after Joshua strayed from the Lord—The Lost Generation.
"The elders knew the work of the Lord, but the next generation didn't get it," Falls exclaimed. "They got so focused on the work of the Lord that they forgot the Lord of the work!
"It's true for some of us today. We get so busy, we don't hear God when He speaks. But, we're experts at doing church!"
Falls bemoaned the rise of mega churches that have smaller impact.
"I don't know about you, but I don't want to get to the end of my ministry and find that I have been successful at the wrong thing," he said.
"We need to ask ourselves: Is what we're doing now going to produce disciples in the next generation? I doubt it."
Falls said making disciples is at the heart of the Great Commission.
"The Great Commission is about teaching Christ personally," he said. "And to be teaching, we need to be doing, We need to learn how to spend time with lost people."
He pledged to do two things in his own life.
"I'm making two commitments today," he concluded. "One, I've got to personally win lost people to Jesus. And to do that, I've got to spend more time with lost people. And two, I will personally teach a small group of people to do the same thing. Then, the Gospel will spread.
"Then those people will each teach a small group and then each of them will teach a small group, and so on. And, soon we will have an army of God taking it to the streets."
Wrapping up session one, Jeremy Freeman, pastor of Newcastle, First, spoke on "Making the Mist Matter Missionally."
The "mist," referring to a human lifespan, which is referred to as a mist in James 4:14 that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
"We are in need of a fresh move from God," Freeman declared. "We have a short time when compared to eternity. What will we do with the mist God gives us?"
Focusing on that passage in James 4:13-17, Freeman said, "You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. He quoted a line: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last," which is from a poem written by missionary C.T. Studd, and gave a list of five points to help his listeners make sure their "mist" matters.
1. We must be intent on seeking God.
"Presumptuous thinking leads us to forget our ignorance, forget our frailty and forget our great need and dependence on God," Freeman said.
2. We need to be intentional.
"We need to live with the end in mind. Only what is done for Christ will last."
3. We need to invest in others. "Most people would rather build a building than invest in a life; it begins in our homes and extends into the lives of the people God puts around us."
4. We must take the initiative. "Baptist churches are full of spectators. We must expect, push and motivate our people to take the initiative. It's a sad reality we have to beg people to serve."
5. We, as Christians, must insist on doing God's will.
This article originally appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob Nigh is managing editor of The Baptist Messenger.
TBC holds first More Life Rally: Ministers, laypeople
attend rally on new evangelism/discipleship emphasis
By Connie D. Bushey
DYER, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector)--About 150 Tennessee Baptists attended the first More Life Rally held Jan. 31 at First Baptist Church here by the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
They heard Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the TBC, present More Life, a plan to involve Tennesseans and especially Tennessee Baptists in additional evangelism and discipleship efforts. During his presentation, he referred to the fact that before the meeting he visited places in the community and witnessed to a law enforcement officer.
At the end of the presentation, 37 ministers of churches from the area gathered at the church's altar to pray for the non-Christians they knew and their role in witnessing to them. Of those, 28 pastors and two directors of missions made a commitment to participate in More Life.
Ministers from Gibson Baptist Association, based in Trenton; Dyer Baptist Association, based in Dyersburg; and Beulah Baptist Association, based in Union City; were invited to the rally though the meeting was open to all Tennessee Baptists.
Welch told the crowd that the Dyer resident he met and witnessed to, who was a Christian, told him of six places in the community where a Christian could locate lost people who would be open to attending a ministry group.
"But somebody has to be willing to go do it," declared Welch, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"There has never been a better time for us to share the gospel," he added.
He noted that the country is going through a difficult time but that Christians should see it as "our time to shine because we know something that they don't know. We see … through the eyes of Christ," he stated.
As an Army officer, Welch said he trained soldiers to use night vision equipment. The equipment led the military to coin the phrase, "We own the night." Like the military has a "strategic advantage" over the enemy when using night vision equipment, said Welch, Christians have an advantage over non-Christians. Christians can explain that despite the many problems in the world and in people's lives "we have a happiness and a peace in our heart and that's in Jesus," said Welch.
He warned that when hearing a Christian say this, non-Christians often won't express an interest in Christianity right then, but later will contact the Christian and accept the faith, Welch explained.
He told the crowd that he wasn't there to help their churches increase in attendance, develop a building plan for a new addition, learn about a new funding program or reinvigorate their congregation. Yet all of these things could be accomplished if they would adopt the More Life emphasis, stated Welch. He added that while all of these things could be helped by More Life, Christians have to be concerned about keeping people out of hell.
He referred to John 10:10 noting God's promise of abundant life for people.
"It is the will of God that all should have this kind of life and have it beyond this world," said Welch.
"The sad, sorry, low down truth," continued Welch, is that many people that Christians know "will go to hell" unless we do something.
"There's only one thing that will alter this course" he stated, and that "is the grace of God through you."
He also referred the crowd to Luke 16:24 where it tells of a man in hell who saw Abraham and Lazarus in heaven and asked Abraham to send Lazarus to touch his tongue with water to relieve his torment in the flame.
Welch added that not only is hell a place of torment, it is a place from which a person cannot leave.
Welch introduced More Life using a power point presentation.
He said that More Life has been "tailor made in Tennessee by Tennesseans for Tennesseans" and is based on information gained personally by the TBC staff and from a survey of about 400 ministers. More Life is suited for all size churches including the church which has 200 members or less led by a bivocational pastor, he continued.
Welch said he helped develop More Life, making it more simple than most other approaches developed, and based on his experience of witnessing in every state in the United States and the majority of countries in the world including the Vatican.
The More Life emphasis in a church can include an eight-week focus in the fall and eight-week focus in the spring, suggested Welch. During those eight weeks, courses on lifestyle evangelism and relational discipleship can be offered. Materials including videos for those courses will be provided free through the Cooperative Program from the TBC, he added. Also, outlines for sermons to coordinate with the emphasis will be provided.
This will result in a "synchronized effort in your church," stated Welch.
Church leaders won't need to attend conferences or clinic training to lead More Life, Welch emphasized.
In conjunction with More Life it is recommended that one or two GPS (God's Plan for Sharing) projects be held. In 2012 GPS calls for churches to hold an attractional event.
The GPS project can be held prior to More Life, said Welch, so the church members discover needs of people not in the church. More Life will help them follow leads and try to minister to people they meet through GPS. At the end of More Life, another GPS event can be held to provide a harvest opportunity and a "climatic … experience to all that time together," said Welch.
Guide materials for GPS also are available free through the CP, he noted.
Then Welch introduced the transfer guide which helps a Christian witness to another person. He encouraged the ministers to become familiar with it and start teaching their church members how to use it.
He noted that the TBC staff will be witnessing to others using the transfer guide. "We're not going to ask you to do something that we're not doing," he said.
Try More Life and GPS "and you watch what God can do," he declared.
Welch told the story of a man who came to the altar in a service Welch was leading and as he kneeled he stopped and stood back up. The man explained that for a long time he had prayed and told others about his brother who wasn't a Christian who lived in that town. He finally realized that he needed to go talk to him.
"Somewhere we've got to jump up and get after it," said Welch.
"We'd better work when we can because we don't know when we can't," he concluded.
Also speaking during the rally was Brian Robertson, pastor, First Baptist Church, Kenton. He spoke on GPS training to be offered by Gibson Baptist Association.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie D. Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net