By Bob Baysinger
January 20, 2004
SPRINGFIELD – A Florida pastor told Missouri Baptists attending the 2004 Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Evangelism Conference Jan. 12-13 that they have a choice.
“You can keep doing what you’ve always done," said Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., referring to the lackadaisical attitude displayed by many Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches toward evangelism. “Or there can be a change in Missouri."
Preliminary statistics indicate that baptisms reported by MBC churches may have dropped to a nine-year low in 2003.
Welch, past president of the Florida Baptist Convention, is responsible for the F.A.I.T.H. outreach program distributed by the Southern Baptist Convention. His church traditionally is a pacesetter in leading people to Christ in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Welch reminded the Missourians that millions have come to Christ down through the years.
“But there’s still room for one more," he said. “We’re not short on people who will come, but we are short on people who will go and go now."
The conference, hosted by Second Baptist Church, Springfield, delighted Bob Caldwell, MBC evangelism director.
“I was extremely pleased and very proud of Missouri Baptists and their turnout," Caldwell said. “I believe the evangelism conference will just continue to grow each year. There were right at 1,100 registered this year. I was elated at the number of youth groups in attendance."
Conference organizers were also pleased by the response to messages presented during the two-day event. At times the conference appeared more like a prayer meeting than a conference as participants filled the Second Baptist altar, praying for power to reach the lost, for the youth in their churches, for their young children and other needs.
Welch was but one of five featured speakers at the conference.
Others included Voddie Baucham, Jr., a Texas evangelist; Terry Hopkins, minister of missions at First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga.; Jamey Ragle, a Kentucky evangelist; and Roy Spannagel, MBC associate executive director and leader for the convention’s Church Outreach Team.
The theme for the 2004 conference was “Shake This Place," based on the Acts 4:31 account of Pentecost when the first-century apostles spoke the Word of God with boldness after they were shaken and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Welch said there are several facts Missouri Baptists should know and never forget as they go about the task of evangelizing the lost.
“All will not be saved," he said, preaching from the Gospel of Matthew. “This is a startling but frank and honest fact."
Welch said the reason for lack of enthusiasm on the part of many Baptists is because they are “closet universalists." A universalist adheres to the belief that all are going to Heaven, no matter what their belief.
Welch said the day is coming when we will know who will be saved and who will not.
“But I don’t worry about whether I’ve witnessed to the right one or not," he added. “God has called us to sow the seed. Not all will be saved, but all that are saved ought to be sowing the seed."
The second fact Missouri Baptists should remember, Welch said, is that the majority of people will be lost.
“Many are on the wrong road, Jesus said, and unless something happens they will go to Hell," said the former president of the Sunday School Board of the SBC. “More people would escape Hell if more of us would be out there pleading for their souls. What can we do? We need to do all we can to get out there and share the Gospel."
Caldwell said he heard response after response from people attending the conference that they were inspired and planned to begin sharing their faith.
“Many will perish who expect to be saved," Welch said. “Many people don’t witness to anybody because they’re afraid they will have a false conversion. I’m not worried about false conversions. What I’m worried about is not reaching anybody."
Welch said the rich man who went to Hell in Luke 16 “wasn’t there two seconds until he became a soul winner," pointing out that he was pleading for someone to go talk to his brothers.
“It could be that people in Hell are more concerned about souls than those (people) in our churches," Welch said. “We need to be telling people that there is no salvation after death. You get on the other side and we can’t help you because there is a great gulf fixed."
Conference attendees gave the meeting high marks.
“Every year I’m touched and moved at the evangelism conference," said Roger Flint, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Mountain Grove. “I’m always amazed at how God uses the Gospel, not preachers, even at conferences like this. There’s always something – and it happened this time, too – that sticks and pricks my heart.
“Of all the things the convention does for us, this (evangelism conference) is the one thing that I always make it a priority to attend."
James Savage, pastor of Cross Keys Baptist Church, Florissant, described the 2004 conference as “dynamic, helpful and informative."
“This is the best group of speakers that I can remember," said Savage who brought three of his church members to the event. “We’re all going to take something home from here that is practical."
Spannagel helped kick off the conference with a Monday afternoon message. He said some of the saddest words in the Bible were spoken by Jesus in Revelation 3 to the church at Sardis when He said, “‘But you are dead.’
“We’re in a state where the people have moved to where we are," Spannagel added. “I’m having trouble finding a place to hunt. There’s a house ever little bit down the road … There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be reaching these people."
Spannagel listed several symptoms of a dead church, including no hunger for the Word of God and no conversion growth in the church.
“It happens right here in Missouri ," Spannagel said. “There are churches where nobody was baptized in the last year. If you’re not seeing anybody saved, where is the life in your church?
“Sometimes I think we forget what it is to know the forgiveness of God. To be quite honest, it is nothing more than laziness. Ministry is work. It’s not easy being a minister of the living God, but that is no excuse for laziness."
Hopkins, whose testimony has been turned into a video evangelism tool for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, shared his story about being transformed from an alcoholic husband to a minister of the Gospel.
Hopkins challenged Missouri Baptists to get a vision from God.
“God is going to ask you to do some impossible things," Hopkins said. “You’ll reach a point where you say to God, ‘If you don’t bail me out moment by moment, I’m going to fail.’ But God will empower you to do whatever He calls you to do."
Ragle used one of his two messages to speak to pastors about encouragement.
Using 1 Samuel 30:3 as a text, Ragle asked conference participants if they, like David, had “wept until they had no more power to weep."
“I want this to be a time of encouragement … but if you’re going to be encouraged you can’t look to people for encouragement," the evangelist said. “Let the Lord encourage you. That’s God’s business. You may be going through a tough time, but you can always find encouragement in the Lord."
Baucham, using Hosea as an example, told churches represented that they should not shove their youth to the side but should involve them in all aspects of the church.
Dates for the 2004 MBC Evangelism Conference will be Jan. 24-25. A site has not been selected.