By Allen Palmeri
BRANSON—From start to finish Jan. 25-26, the hope, heart, and lifeblood of the Missouri State Evangelism Conference was the Cross.
Messages at First Baptist Church here pointed to the blood Christ spilt at Calvary. Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Evangelism Director Gary Taylor spoke of Christ crucified. Christ and Christ alone, the Lamb who was crucified, is the spotless victor!
“Help us in this time to be inspired—not through trickery, but Father, through your Holy Spirit, to be inspired to lead this state and this world to Christ,” MBC Executive Director David Tolliver prayed on Jan. 25.
“Raising the Cross Across Missouri” was the theme placed before a lineup of speakers that included: Jimmy Brown, pastor, St. Luke Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, St. Louis; Chuck Kelley, president, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Ron Herrod, evangelist, Sevierville, Tenn.; Jerry Pipes, director of Mass Evangelism, North American Mission Board; and Larry Wynn, pastor, Hebron Baptist Church, Dacula, Ga.
Charles Billingsley of Lynchburg, Va., led worship in a Cross-centered manner. On Jan. 25, he indicated in song that he believes in a hill called Mt. Calvary. Lyrics skillfully blended into the middle of that same song revealed how much he cherishes the old rugged Cross.
In his first message, Wynn heartily embraced the theme.
“We must lift up the Cross so that people can respond and be saved,” he said, concluding that: there are no insignificant pulpits for delivering the message of the Cross; nothing matches the Cross; the role of the pastor is to lift up the Cross; and people will still respond to the Cross.
Kelley harmonized behind that by voicing some hard truths.
First he affirmed Tolliver’s vision to see healthy Missouri Baptist churches.
“Our future is going to be defined by the health of our churches,” Kelley said. “If you let your eye get off of that ball, you will strike out.”
Then he managed to transform and even transcend a meeting that typically ends up being a pep rally by choosing to preach on sin.
“We are not anointed,” he said to a hushed audience. “The conversion of a soul to Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. The stirring of a church and a community, revival and awakening, is a work of the Holy Spirit. Neither of these works of the Holy Spirit are typical in most of our Southern Baptist churches today. We are not anointed and that ‘we’ would be me and you!”
Methodists and Southern Baptists have a lot in common, Kelley said. At one time that was wonderful, but now, not so good. If Southern Baptists continue to follow in the footsteps of the Methodists, it may mean the fastest loss of church membership (the decline of the 16 million) in the history of the United States.
Kelley then identified three signs that Southern Baptists are the new Methodists—with creeping universalism in the pews, tolerance beginning to overtake conviction, and behavior blending more with culture.
“We have been putting so much attention on how our way of doing church was affecting the lost we stopped noticing how it was affecting the saved,” he said.
Like a modern-day Amos, Kelley lamented the “significant” and “influential” death of the discipleship training process in many Southern Baptist churches that can be traced back to the late 1960s.
“It hasn’t been maintained, nor has it been re-invented (in many churches),” he said. As a result, we find ourselves in a place where many of us “do not look and live like Jesus.”
Wynn slept on that and built comfort into his second message—there is hope through prayer.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about praying—about people prayer-walking,” Taylor said.
About 30 attended a companion event in Branson, the Hispanic / Multi-Cultural Evangelism Conference at the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks.
The Jan. 25-26 gathering at First Branson, which drew between 700-800, was billed as “the main event.” Up next are three regional meetings that will add to the evangelism extravaganza.
On Feb. 9, Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church, St. Joseph, will host a conference. After that comes a Feb. 23 meeting at Calvary Baptist Church, Hannibal, and a March 9 meeting at Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston.