KIRKSVILLE – More than 600 people attended regional evangelism conferences Feb.22-March 10 in the four corners of the state, suggesting that God is challenging Missourians to gain a new passion for sharing His Gospel.
“The attendance, spirit and response of people was very, very good, but to me the best things were the Wednesday night rallies in Poplar Bluff and Kirksville, where we saw about 75 make decisions for Christ,” Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Evangelism Director Gary Taylor said. “More than 25 of those were professions of faith.
“One of those was a man in his 50s who came up with tears in his eyes. All his life he had been active in a church – he was even a deacon – but was looking for a way to make sure he was going to heaven. That night, he realized the only way was through trusting Christ. That made it all worth it. It’s one thing to go to a conference and plan, train, exhort and encourage people in evangelism, but it’s another thing to actually go out and practice it.”
This is the second year for regional evangelism conferences in lieu of one main, statewide conference and Taylor said the reaction to the switch has been positive.
“I’ve had several people tell me they’ve never been to a conference simply because it was too far away or they couldn’t afford to spend the night,” he said. “I had several more people say that if we come back next year, they’ll bring more from their churches. Some even suggested doing six: the four corners plus Kansas City and St. Louis.”
Leading the final conference were the host pastor, Marty Joplin, First Baptist, Kirksville; Monte Shinkle, pastor of Concord Baptist in Jefferson City; and the keynote speaker at all four conferences, Texas-based Evangelist Jay Lowder. He used the example of the deacon who finally accepted Christ to illustrate that believers must be constantly sharing the Gospel.
“The truth of it is that not one of us here can judge another man’s heart,” he said. “We need to realize that there are people in our churches that are not saved.”
Lowder preached from Hebrews 11. In the midst of a chapter all about faith in action, he pulled out verse 4: “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain [did]. By this he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through this.”
“I believe that we want our lives … our faith … to speak through all eternity,” he said. “Not a life of prominence, but a life of significance … a life that continues to have impact after we’ve taken our last breath.”
Lowder’s challenge comes at a time when Missouri’s Baptist churches baptized only 9,944 in the last year, marking the first time since 1943 that number has dipped below 10,000.
“If God ever decided to open the canon and add to the Bible, are we living the lives that He would choose to write about?” he asked. “Are we going out sharing the Gospel with our neighbors and co-workers in a way that would be noteworthy, or are we just content with the status quo?”
Leading the three other conferences were six Missouri Baptist pastors, including the four pastors of the host churches: Randy Johnson, Calvary Baptist, Republic, and Eddie Bumpers, Broadway Baptist, Springfield, at the southwest regional conference Feb. 22; Bill Vail, First Baptist, Poplar Bluff, and Aaron Weibel, New Site Baptist, Monett, at the southeast conference Feb. 24; and Paul McKim, Laura Street Baptist, Maryville, and Chris Guffey, Cornerstone Baptist, Sedalia, at the northwest meeting March 8.
Breakout sessions included: Giving an Effective Gospel Invitation; How to Create a Climate for Evangelism in Your Church; Minister to Others; No Home Left Behind; Sharing the Most Important Thing (Evangelism 101); and Using the Internet for Evangelism.
Taylor said he has not yet finalized plans for evangelism conferences in 2012, but hopes to firm things up in the next month or two.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer