PHOENIX (BP)–Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention are invited to a Sunday morning worship service sponsored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists June 12 at 9 a.m. in the Valley of the Sun Ballroom at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
Speakers include Harold Hunter, president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind.; Brian Fossett, a former COSBE president; and Eric Fuller, a young evangelist.
“This year we decided to use only COSBE evangelists as preachers at this meeting,” Braxton Hunter, president of COSBE, told Baptist Press. “The theme this year is ‘Ageless Urgency.’ The call of the evangelist is to people of all ages, and the spreading of the Gospel is an ageless urgency. It’s something that is a mandate for people in every age.
“Capitalizing on that idea of people of every age being in evangelism, we have one of our youngest evangelists, Eric Fuller, and then we have a guy in his 40s, and then to represent the more senior evangelists I thought I would ask my father to speak.”
Harold Hunter had a thriving television ministry while he was pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Florida from the 1980s to 1990, his son said, and the church had 3,500 or more in regular attendance. Throughout the 1990s and until 2005, Harold Hunter was a fulltime evangelist.
“He preached in every kind of church, every size church and in conferences,” Braxton Hunter said. “He’s a seminary president as well as an evangelist. The fact is I couldn’t think of a more fitting person who has touched on every aspect of ministry. I think he’ll be a good benefit to the conference.”
Fossett did something that spoke volumes to the younger Hunter when he joined COSBE in 2006.
“He sent a letter to me, and he was not president at that time, which is important to mention. Just as another member, he sent a letter to me, and I know he has done that for other guys of every age, and just reached out and encouraged us and offered any support, any help,” Hunter said.
“He demonstrated to me that he wasn’t interested in personal glory but wanted to see the call of evangelists be fleshed out in our time and be successful in our time so that people could be saved,” he said. “It occurred to me that for all I could tell, that was what mattered to him the most.
“I think it’s important as a guy who kind of stands in the gap not only in terms of his age but in terms of his vision for older evangelists and younger evangelists, he would be a good person to represent those in between the younger and older evangelists.”
Fuller, 29, has served as an interim pastor for two churches, as a youth minister and as a missionary in West Africa.
“Eric spoke at our COSBE retreat when the convention was in Louisville. We had a communion service and he brought an amazing message on the blood of Christ. He’s one of the most godly guys ever,” Hunter said.
“One of the reasons on a practical level I thought he would be good to include is unlike some young ministers, Eric did not have someone in his family as far as I know who could build his ministry for him or show him how to build it. He just pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, felt a call to evangelism and said, ‘I don’t know if anybody’s going to help me or not, I don’t know how God’s going to bless in this, but I believe I have this calling, and I’m going to follow it and see what happens.’
“He now has a very successful ministry not just in the United States but he regularly takes missionary groups to other countries,” Hunter told BP. “In addition to being an amazing preacher, he’s a testimony to the fact that young guys don’t have to be afraid that God won’t bless. If they have that calling, they can experience success in evangelism.”
Hunter said Ephesians 4:11 places great importance on the position of evangelist alongside the pastor.
“Specifically, from a spiritual perspective, the evangelist is gifted with a special calling to reach the lost with the saving truth of Jesus Christ. I think it is good for a pastor to call a fulltime evangelist to come and share that gift and that calling with his congregation,” Hunter said.
“I think too the evangelists are a good resource for helping congregations understand how to reach the community that they live in for Jesus and their friends and family members. That’s not to say that pastors are not successful in doing evangelistic work. It’s just that evangelists are specifically gifted with this calling.”
From a practical point of view, Hunter said, it’s good for a pastor to allow someone with a fresh perspective to fill the pulpit from time to time.
“Maybe their congregation isn’t familiar with that person and that evangelist will be able to reach people that perhaps the pastor has not been able to reach. Thank God the pastor is able to reach people the evangelist is unable to reach and so his weekly ministry is important as well. So I think there’s a great partnership there,” he said.
Hunter, 29, serves as a visiting professor of apologetics at Trinity College and Seminary and believes that in the 21st century followers of Christ face an ever-heightening challenge from the culture and from those who are skeptical of the Christian message.
“With the rise of the new atheism where you don’t just have professors and writers and people in the entertainment world just disbelieving in God — that is, atheism in a very general sense — you have what has been called by some of these characters within the new atheism ‘antitheists,'” Hunter said.
“It’s not just that they’re atheists and they don’t believe in God. They are opposed to God and aggressively preach against belief in God. With that and with agnosticism and with the variety of worldviews that are offered in modern culture, I think it is very helpful for the evangelist to have an understanding of apologetics so he can present a defense of Christianity and of course of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“It may be the case that there are a number of people who are on the fence. They see there is this intellectual crowd that is telling them that belief in God is antiquated and smart people don’t maintain a belief in God, much less Christianity,” Hunter said. “They just may need someone to help them over those roadblocks of intellectualism and maybe some arguments against Christian theism.
“If an evangelist has some skills and training in apologetics, he’ll be able to do that. Of course 1 Peter 3:15 gives us that admonition to be ready and willing to give a defense to anyone who asks a reason for the hope that we have.”
Hunter extended an invitation for anyone who might be interested in attending the worship service.
“This SBC worship service has throughout the years been a time-honored part of the Pastors’ Conference and [SBC] convention experience,” he said. “I believe you’re going to get some of the best preaching, and I mean that in every way. I believe you’re going to get deep preaching, you’re going to get a challenge from the Word of God. It’s going to challenge you as a Christian.
“For pastors, they’re going to get exposure to some great evangelists that they can use in their churches that I believe will be a blessing to them. I think it’s just a great place to go to church on Sunday morning that week of the convention.”
After the worship service, COSBE members will enjoy a fellowship meal and mini-retreat at 12:30 p.m. followed by a COSBE business meeting from 3-5 p.m. In keeping with the group’s practice of inducting evangelists into the Hall of Faith every two years, another induction will occur next year.
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information, visit www.sbcevangelist.org.