SPRINGFIELD – Conference leaders at “Furnace,” the Missouri Baptist Convention’s 2015 state evangelism and discipleship conference, encouraged church leaders from around the state to remain faithful amid hardship and opposition, Feb. 5-6.
During the morning session of “Furnace,” Feb. 6, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen preached from the biblical account that inspired the conference theme—namely, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the fiery furnace.
Missouri Baptist leaders of the 21st century are getting heat from an increasingly hostile culture, which threatens them with ill-treatment should they refuse to bow to the culture’s call for “erotic liberty” and the redefinition of marriage.
But Allen said that he hopes Missouri Baptists will respond as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did: “Live or die, burn or survive—that is almost irrelevant, for we will not commit idolatry.”
“The crucible of testing,” Allen said, “is designed for greater worship.”
In two sessions, Brad Brisco, author of Missional Essentials: A Guide for Experiencing God’s Mission in Your Life, urged Missouri Baptists to imitate the missionary nature of God in their own lives by truly loving their neighbors and living life among those who need to hear the gospel.
“We can’t do ministry from a distance. We have to be in close proximity with people,” Brisco said. “We don’t do ministry to people, for people. … We do it with people.”
D.A. Horton, national coordinator for Urban Student Missions with NAMB, called Missouri Baptists to prepare for revival and spiritual awakening by taking the Lord’s Supper seriously. Preaching from 1 Corinthians 11, he urged listeners to “burn with a fire to remove impurities.”
“We’re scared: What will they think? What will they say? But the integrity of your Savior is attached to your actions,” Horton said.
Micah Fries, a former Missouri pastor and now vice president of LifeWay Research, spoke in two sessions about rightly engaging a hostile culture as exiles. Though he pointed out that American Christians are not true exiles, they can take direction from Jeremiah 29 in God’s instruction to the Israelites to live fully and prosper in Babylon.
“Even in the midst of a thoroughly hostile culture, God is still sovereign,” Fries said. “We are here that the gospel might be magnified and the Kingdom expanded.”
Closing “Furnace” was NAMB’s vice president for the Midwest region, Gary Frost. He spoke from Acts 12:1-24 on Peter’s imprisonment and the importance of an increasingly intimate relationship with Christ.
“The furnace is not a very pleasant place to be,” Frost said. “It can be a destructive place, but also a purifying place. We live in a time when the enemy is not so subtle. This is a time when the church had to be wise as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove. Brothers and sisters, if we are going to endure the kinds of persecution that is already going on in the Middle East and Africa, you’d better know Jesus.”
Greg Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma provided a unifying response time after each speaker, calling on the crowd to respond to what they just heard. At the end of the event, he led an altar call that saw the front of Ridgecrest Baptist Church filled of Missouri Baptists, kneeling in prayer.
Mark Snowden, MBC evangelism/discipleship strategist, said that Christian singer and songwriter Charles Billingsley, who led worship throughout the conference, “contributed to an overall attitude that brought healing and godly inspiration.”