ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–This year’s worship service sponsored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists will be on Wednesday afternoon during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
One of the reasons for the change, conference president Ron Herrod said, is so that pastors who don’t arrive in town until after Sunday morning can attend. For years the worship service was held on Wednesday afternoons but then was moved to Sunday morning, ahead of the Pastors’ Conference and annual meeting.
“It’s just difficult for pastors to get to the convention by Sunday morning. They usually stay at their church through Sunday morning and then leave on Sunday afternoon,” Herrod said.
The service this year, from 2 to 5 p.m., also will be held in a more prominent location, in a theater just up the escalators from the meeting hall at the Orange County Convention Center. The timing, Herrod said, is intended to allow messengers to attend seminary luncheons, make it back for the worship service and then attend the closing session of the SBC annual meeting.
“We have quite a program. We’re going to have some great music provided not only by members of our organization but Greater Vision, a popular Southern gospel trio, will be featured,” Herrod said.
“Some of our speakers are Bailey Smith, a former president of the convention, Jay Strack, who is from Orlando and is involved in training a new generation of spiritual leaders, Bill Stafford, who’s a member of the conference of evangelists, and Tim Lee, a former Marine who lost his legs in Vietnam and has an incredible testimony.”
Also during the service, with the theme “Reviving the Church, Renewing the Nation, Restoring Hope,” attendees will watch a special videotaped message from evangelist Billy Graham.
“We’re grateful that the Graham association and Dr. Graham sent that to us. You know he’s not in good health now, and we’re not sure how much longer we’ll be able to hear from him,” Herrod said.
Plans are in place for a celebration of baptism during the COSBE worship service in conjunction with First Baptist Church in Orlando. Pastor David Uth and others from the church will baptize people who accepted Jesus during the Crossover evangelism efforts preceding the annual meeting.
An offering for the Baptism Assistance Project will be collected during the service to benefit churches that have not seen people come to faith in Christ and follow in believer’s baptism in years.
“We’re seeking additional funding so that more churches can take advantage of the project. The bottom line is that when a church is in that category of no and low baptisms, we provide them an evangelist and evangelistic singer at no cost to them,” Herrod said.
“We take care of the evangelist’s expense and a modest honorarium, and evangelists are willing to do that so they can help those churches. As we have additional funding, then that strategy will help more and more of these churches.”
More information about the initiative is available at baptismassistance.org.
On Friday and Saturday, June 11-12, the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists will hold its annual retreat at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the convention center. This year’s theme is “Family Reunion,” and the event is sponsored by the North American Mission Board.
“Through their generosity, our evangelists can come and enjoy a couple of days of fellowship,” Herrod said.
The focus on family this year is needed, he said, because so many evangelists’ families sacrifice for the Kingdom on a daily basis, especially in families where the father is traveling while his wife and children are at home.
“It places the evangelist’s wife in quite an important role of being mom and dad while he’s on the road,” Herrod said. “She’s got that kind of challenge, and she has to take care of all the home repairs. And of course he has the stress of knowing that’s going on back home.
“But if he’s called and he’s obedient to that call, it’s part of it. I saw an interview with Ruth Graham one time and it was fascinating to see how she had to take care of those kids while Billy was all over the world,” Herrod said. “All of those kids have great testimonies of how their mom was always there for them and real strong in her convictions. That’s one of the greatest challenges right there.”
One of the rewards, Herrod said, is that the evangelist gets to see a harvest of souls.
“Churches plant and sow and water, but the evangelist gets to come along and see a great harvest of souls. In the cases I know where men have been faithful to their call, God has compensated for their absence in the home and their kids have usually turned out really well and they’ve been able to leave quite a legacy in the lives of their children,” he said.
Registration for the retreat begins at 1 p.m. Friday, and on Saturday evening during the Hall of Faith banquet, two evangelists will be inducted into the Evangelists Hall of Faith, building on an initial induction of 30 people two years ago in Indianapolis.
“This year the two new inductees are Mordecai Ham, who was the evangelist that was preaching when Billy Graham was saved, and Dr. Roy Fish, who has done evangelism and interim pastorates but his greatest claim to fame is being a great teacher of evangelism in his years at Southwestern Seminary,” Herrod said.
In January, the Evangelists Hall of Faith was unveiled at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., with Cliff Barrows of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as the keynote speaker.
“People should know that that’s there and go by and see it,” Herrod said of the exhibit.
During the Hall of Faith banquet in Orlando, evangelists will hear from Frank Page, vice president of evangelization at NAMB.
The status of evangelists in the Southern Baptist Convention today, Herrod said, is a mixed bag. There are fewer evangelists and fewer churches enlisting them, but where evangelists are able to preach, God is blessing the efforts, he said.
“I’ve never known a time when we’ve had better people involved in evangelism. I’m grateful for the Hall of Faith and the legacy and the history of these great men of God, but we currently have some great men of God involved in evangelism and women as well. We have members of our organization who are singers and women’s conference speakers and all of that,” Herrod said.
“The men and women who make up the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists are high quality. It’s never been better, and we’re grateful for that.”
Erin Roach is a Baptist Press staff writer.