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6/2/97 Skeptic-turned-evangelist underscores faith’s facts

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Frank Harber was a skeptic until he studied the Bible; now he’s an evangelist.
Harber was a University of Texas student with plans for law school until he spoke with Southern Baptist pastor Bruce Wells at a tennis match. “I told him the Bible was full of errors — the invention of men. When he realized I was a skeptic, he challenged me to back up what I was saying,” Harber recalled.
“I agreed to disprove Christianity. I read the Bible from cover to cover. I read other books. I knew more than most Christians. What struck me was the primary evidence of the resurrection — the greatest attested fact in all antiquity. The miracles of Christ and what his enemies had to say about that was also powerful. But still I was not convinced.”
One day Harber was in a Longview, Texas, bookstore when Wells walked in. “I fumbled around. I told him I was looking for a real defense of Christianity. He said, ‘You need to read ‘Basic Christianity’ by John Stott.'”
By the time Harber finished the book, he was intellectually convinced of the claims of Jesus Christ. Then, he said, “I had to deal with the willingness problem. I had to repent and commit myself to living a life of righteousness. I had to take the leap of faith.”
He made a personal commitment to Christ. Then he looked at the different Christian denominations and settled on one. “Southern Baptists are so doctrinally solid,” he said. “I am Southern Baptist because I chose to be.”
Soon Harber was sharing his faith experience. “Every time I spoke,” he said, “people were saved. I discovered I have the gift of evangelism.”
Harber entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, earning his Ph.D. in a record 2.5 years. He also taught a class in evangelism at the seminary.
Southwestern’s Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism, said, “Among the men God is calling into evangelism today, none is finer than Dr. Frank Harber.” Harber, current president of the Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists, will be among the featured speakers during the Conference of Southern Baptists Evangelists annual meeting, 1:30- 4:30 p.m. June 18 at First Baptist Church, Dallas.
Harber’s dissertation covered the major evangelists from Philip of the New Testament to Billy Graham. “What I found out was that these early evangelists were apologists. They were well-educated and had sharp minds. They were taking the gospel to pagan skeptics. They had to know philosophy to speak to the Greeks. They had to know Scripture well to convince the Jews.”
In his ministry, Harber said, “I am just doing what the earliest evangelists did. They were defenders of the faith.” He advises young, upcoming evangelists to “get the best education they can have so they will have the best tools to present the gospel.”
Harber recounted that the church “was tuned out during the Dark Ages when it insisted the earth was flat. People thought if the church was wrong on that, maybe they missed it on ultimate matters. Our audience today is intelligent and has access to information. If we come off as being uninformed, we will be tuned out.”
Harber, author of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” addresses intellectual skepticism with apologetic topics ranging from “Why Is Christianity True?” to “The Importance of the Resurrection.” This year, in addition to 30-35 area-wide crusades in the United States, Harber will hold crusades in Russia, Romania and Africa. The requests have been for preaching with content, he said. “They are looking for answers to the question ‘Why?'”
Harber’s crusades are interdenominational and interracial by design. He not only wants to win souls, his plan is to help other Christians be more effective in their witness. “The evangelist is supposed to be an equipping office,” he noted.
“One thing I have learned is that Southern Baptists are the most skilled in holding revivals and crusades. My goal is to go into cities across America, partner with Southern Baptist churches and teach them. Then the crusade is a perfect setting for Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians to work together. We can train Christians of every denomination. I want to get laypeople involved. I want them to be able to tell not only how a person may become a Christian, but why they believe what they believe. We need to share both. The Christians who do that will win more people.”
Relativism, Harber said, is the greatest challenge to the spread of the gospel in this country. “I hear people say, ‘You have your truth and I have my truth.’ But I have to ask, ‘Do you realize what you are saying?’ Either Jesus is the Savior and the only way to God or he lied. Muhammad said, ‘I am in need of forgiveness.’ Jesus said, ‘Which of you convinces me of sin?’ Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us.”
The key, he said, is to help people understand that “Jesus demonstrated he had power over sin and the grave. He can save you.”