|Embers of revival still glow from 2014 Evangelism Conferences
By Barbara Denman
April 9, 2014
BONIFAY—The embers of revival are still burning in the hearts of pastors in Holmes County, days after the conclusion of a western region Evangelism Conference held in Bonifay
Spontaneous prayer broke out at the weekly pastors’ meeting three days later, said Shelly Chandler, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bonifay, which served as the host church for the March 27-28 conference.
“The Lord grabbed a hold of it,” said Chandler, explaining the extensive prayer time that brought flowing tears from the pastors.
The conference’s prayer emphasis resonated with Kent Lampp, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Graceville. “We have backed away from ardent prayer,” he said, calling it a message that needs to be taken to each church in the association.
But he stressed to his own congregation “we need to get back to the real thing. I confessed myself to them, ‘we are the best trained non-witness there is.’”
He made a recommitment to his congregation to focus more on personal witnessing without caring if it is “too bold or too blunt” by asking those he meets “a very personal question about your spiritual life.” He explained further, “you may not be an evangelist but you can tell your own story.”
“You have to be reminded and pushed into evangelism,” said Chandler. “This conference did that. It gave ideas on what to do. Everyone knows to do the Great Commission and what we are supposed to do. Then the Holy Spirit gets hold and you realize have fallen short.”
The meeting in Bonifay was the second of two regionals conferences. Earlier that week, March 24-25, First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach hosted a similar program. The week-long emphasis drew a combined 345 registered attendees.
However, nearly 400 persons from nearby churches attended the evening worship sessions in Daytona Beach and 300-plus came to the Panhandle services. Also throughout the week, events were held to target specific groups, including a luncheon in Daytona Beach attended by 100 senior adults; and a youth rally in Bonifay with 200-plus students resulting in 12 professions of faith.
David Burton said the two locations made the conferences more accessible to pastors.
“We attempted to reach more pastors and we did,” he explained. “The day of the one big conference is beyond us. Florida is just too large. Due to economy and days a pastor can be away from his church, he has to 'pick and choose' more than ever. Competition with more different conferences and meetings gathering in Florida has grown.”
Because “budgets are very tight,” Burton said, “participants could stay at home and drive each day to the meeting, needing no hotel accommodations for the most part.”
Keynote speakers for the Daytona Beach meeting were Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tim Maynard, pastor of Jacksonville’s Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville; Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.; and Bobby Welch, associate executive director, Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Speakers in Bonifay were John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention; Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church; and Craig Conner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Panama City, along with Maynard and Garland.
Maynard, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, preached from Matthew 16:13 in Daytona Beach and decried that “We have stopped preaching Jesus and are preaching felt needs. Let us talk about the author and finisher. Let us stop pretending that the lost are going to flood our churches to hear us speak.”
He said while Jesus was on earth, there was growing confusion about who He was. Some said he was John the Baptist, while others said he was an illegitimate child and others who believed he was disrupting the religious establishment.
Such confusion still exists today, Maynard contends. “Evangelism must bring the good news that He is the King on the throne. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe it.”
Maynard also spoke at the Bonifay meeting, citing 2 Corinthians 4:7-16 on treasures in jars of clay. He said we are all "cracked pots" that God uses us in spite of our flaws. Sometimes the light of Jesus is seen more clearly through the cracks, he explained.
He strongly encouraged pastors and those “who are flawed and cracked not to give up. Like a boxer we only lose when we won't get up.”
Citing 2 Corinthians 4:16 and following, Patterson warned that everyone will stand before God “in a state of spiritual nakedness” and judgment. Therefore we are compelled to be witnesses, “knowing the terror of the Lord, we must persuade men.”
He noted that at this time, seven billion people worldwide will not be entering heaven. “If you hold any doctrine that curtails your personal evangelism, you need to get rid of that doctrine.”
He voiced his concern that God had taken His hand off of Southern Baptists due to their focus on other pressing needs away from “fervent evangelism.”
“Southern Baptists, our future is in our hands,” Patterson urged. “We must share Christ until Jesus comes.
Past SBC President Welch also sounded the alarm for Southern Baptists, saying we are “heading toward a train wreck.” Citing statistics that indicate SBC baptisms have dropped to a 1974 level, Welch said, “Some people say I am an alarmist. That’s what they said about the prophets of old. That’s what they said about Jesus.”
He reminded the audience that baptism is the first act of obedience. “We are failing in the number one thing the Great Commission called us to do.”
“Nothing can take the place in our approach for the existence of intentional evangelism and demonstrated discipleship,” said Welch, proclaiming that the SBC must “catch a vision of people perishing.
“Southern Baptists are planting more churches now than they ever have, while baptisms are going down. We are not planters, we are harvesters,” he asserted
Oklahoma pastor Garland reminded those in attendance during the Tuesday worship session that four persons died on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion—Jesus, the two thieves and Judas, who hung himself in “absolute rejection.”
The first thief was remorseful that he got caught, but was doomed to hell, Garland explained. However, the second thief “received the marvelous gift of redemption.”
“That was the best day of that man’s life, to get caught and be crucified with Jesus. He went to heaven.”
He urged Florida Baptists to become “ambassadors of the grace of God.”
Conference participants also heard from pastors serving in a variety of settings--small, large churches, rural and metropolitan locations—who shared their evangelism strategies in sermons, demonstrations and panel discussions.
Rodney Keith of Gardenview Baptist Church in Jacksonville shared a demonstration of the Evange-cube witnessing technique. He told how the troubled church grew from a handful when he arrived to a thriving congregation with 500 in worship attendance and more than 100 baptisms annually, through aggressive knocking-on-door evangelism.
The gospel in a nutshell is found in John 3:16, said Charles Roesel, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Leesburg. He explained how the Leesburg Church sought to reach spiritually lost persons, including drug addicts and the sick, by ministering to their needs and unashamedly proclaiming the gospel.
He complained that too many Southern Baptists are “waffling” at the point that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, which may not be “politically correct, but is theologically sound.”
Sarasota Baptist Church pastor Mike Landry recounted the story of Nehemiah and reminded participants “you are on assignment from God.” He urged them to stay “laser focused” to the assignment and to be a “finisher”
Throughout each conference, participants were given hands-on demonstrations of witnessing techniques. These included presentations from the Strength Team, “God’s Science,” illusionist Brock Gill and “Love Your Neighbor, Share Christ.”
“Evangelism witness tools were the order of the day in much we did,” Burton explained. “People are looking for simple, easy, useful witnessing techniques to share their faith. They got them at these two conferences.”
Throughout the week, Gill traveled to other locations—Sarasota, Apopka, Jacksonville and Bonifay--and shared his talents and his faith in youth-oriented rallies. These evangelistic rallies resulted in an attendance 3,027 combined and 85 professions of faith.