State Evangelism Conference offers mosaic of motivation
SPRINGFIELD—Despite the threat of severe weather, more than 750 registrants attended the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) State Evangelism Conference Jan. 22-23 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. The event was comprised of several sessions, each with worship, speakers and special guests.
The members of the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists launched the event Monday morning. Diana Edwards of First Baptist Mountain Grove along with Ron and Haven Howard led the attendees in worship, while Phil Hamilton provided the special music. Joseph Ransom, founder of the traveling drama ministry Joseph’s Closet, depicted a scene in which the Apostle Paul writes Second Timothy.
Bob Tolliver, an evangelist and missionary in Kiev, Ukraine, spoke to the crowd on being rescued from apathy. He urged the group to take some time to address the issue of apathy and how it affects personal evangelism.
“When I understand what brings apathy in my life, then I can do something about it,” he said.
By understanding that apathy seeps into a Christian’s heart because of familiarity, boredom and weariness, Tolliver offered this solution.
“If you want to get rid of apathy in your own heart, seek the presence of God in your own heart and stay there, stay there, stay there,” he said.
Duane Duchesne, president of the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists, ended the morning with thoughts about “Search and Rescue” through the life of Jesus. The mission of Jesus was to seek and save what is lost, and we are responsible for the lives of those people around us, he said.
“We are not going to find lost people where we have been looking,” he said. “Jesus was willing to go where the needy, hopeless and hurting people were.”
The crowd picked up Monday afternoon to where the sanctuary was more full. Worship Leader Chuck Sullivan helped prepare the hearts of the congregation for the message, and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Frank Page spoke candidly about his time in office.
“It is something I never expected in my life,” he said. “It says to me God can do whatever He wants to do.”
“I believe our convention is at time of an irrecoverable moment … a time of crisis,” he said.
“The Good News changes lives, redeems families and transforms churches, and I believe it can happen again,” he said.
MBC Personal Evangelism / Spiritual Awakening Specialist Ron Barker, a good friend of the SBC president, led out in prayer after Page’s talk for various needs in his life. Page knelt on both knees and clutched his Bible as men surrounded him in prayer.
Richard Harris, vice president, church planting group, North American Mission Board, concluded the second session by revealing “The Treasure of the Gospel.” Harris said we must handle the message with care.
“It is by the mercy of God we are where we are and (are) doing what we are doing, by His gift of mercy,” he said.
“Our job is to get back to proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. He also gave the assurance that our witnessing is for the pleasure of God. He said, ‘We do everything in the Christian life for one reason…to please Him!’”
Brad Bennett, an evangelist with Real Encounter Ministries, closed the session by riding his stunt motorcycle through the crowd and on up to the stage, where he offered a prayer.
In the evening, Alvin Reid, associate dean for proclamation studies and Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., and David Uth, pastor, First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., both spoke. Sullivan and band members Drew Spurgeon, Andy Johnson, Doug Yeager, Michael Bladorn and James Evans led worship, with special music being provided by Hosea Bilyeu, the host pastor, along with his family.
Reid spoke on “Movements,” asserting that “Christianity, when you boil it all down, is a movement to be advanced, not an institution to be maintained.” He said Christianity needs a movement towards effectiveness in ministry before concluding that Christians should look to the younger generation and understand their culture in order to reach them for Christ.
“They have grown up in a culture where we (Christians) are really good at Sunday morning, but not the rest of the week, and they are sick of it,” Reid said.
“You will never be evangelistic or have a passion for evangelism until you have a passion for Jesus,” he said.
Worship is the avenue in which passion can be developed in a Christian’s life. It is not music, he noted.
“Worship is when you have a passion for God that erupts in words that you cannot understand, and songs help you find it,” he said. “When I’m in worship, I see things a lot better.”
The final day Jan. 23 included nine breakout sessions ranging from evangelism to children’s ministry. That gave way to the afternoon session, which Barker launched by talking about fishing. “If we are not fishing (for Christ), we are not following,” he said.
“We are redefining church according to our preferences. Traditions are fine, but if they are not found in the Scriptures, they are not fine … our hearts have to change.”
Special music by Jeana Vermillion and her daughter, Bethany, followed the message.
Phil Hoskins, pastor, Higher Ground Baptist Church, Kingsport, Tenn., spoke on five things that Jesus left the church. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, the task was unfinished, Hoskins said.
“You and I can accomplish the task the Lord has for the world…and the work is this: to go and seek the lost and win at any cost,” he said.
The Holy Spirit is needed in order to accomplish this task. We are to be filled with the Spirit so we can be bold witnesses for the King of Kings.
The fourth session then ended with a time of prayer for the MBC and its churches. State Evangelism Director Bob Caldwell announced that he was leaving his position to join the staff of First Baptist Church, Arnold. Caldwell was given a standing ovation.
Uth bolted into the final session by speaking on sowing. Using a bowl of seeds as an object lesson, he proclaimed that sowing is investing in the life of another for Jesus’ sake. He warned that Christians must be open to different ways of sowing.
“If you limit the way you share the Gospel to one style, you limit the fish you catch and the fishermen that fish,” he said.
“The number one church principle is: People will go where they are loved … every time,” Uth said.
“We live in a nation of many cultures … but truth doesn’t change,” he said. He then punctuated the conference by urging attendees to speak the message boldly, respectfully and persuasively.
Caldwell reflected on the 750 number.
“We were praying we’d break the 2,000 mark,” he said. “Last year we were knocking on the door (with 1,301 official registrants), but once we began to see the threat of weather we just knew the people that were coming were hungry. That is not to take away from those who didn’t come because of weather.
“Our prayer is that we would continue to be a movement of God, not a conference, and God shows up in such a way that He and He alone gets the glory.”