JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) — Ernest Easley recently looked through a file folder from 1984 where he came across an old Texas Baptist leadership magazine.
“On every page there was something about evangelism, outreach, training, rallies,” said Easley, professor of evangelism at Union University. “I don’t read much emphasis anymore on evangelism,” he said, voicing concern that Southern Baptists aren’t fanning the flame of evangelism like they once did.”
That’s one reason why Easley, in partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, initiated the West Tennessee Evangelism Rally slated for Feb. 21 on Union’s campus in Jackson, Tenn. The event is for pastors, staff members, church members, students and anyone else interested in evangelism.
“It’s to encourage. It’s to equip. It’s to help engage them,” Easley said. “In a nutshell, it is to fan the flame of evangelism in people’s hearts.”
Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, will be the keynote speaker for the rally, which will also consist of breakout sessions and a dinner.
Breakout session leaders include Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.; Mike Ellis, senior pastor of Impact Baptist Church in Memphis; John Powers, pastor of Delano Baptist Church in Delano, Tenn.; Brian Mills, church strategist for Student Leadership University/LifeTours; David Evans, evangelism specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Convention; Hal Poe, the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union; and vocational evangelists Jerry Drace and Darrell Robinson.
Easley said Southern Baptists baptized fewer people last year than they did in 1943, and last year’s number of baptisms was 5,000 less than the previous year. With a larger population, more seminary-trained pastors and staff and more qualified teachers now, that trend concerns Easley.
He compared the lack of evangelism with what happens when a flame isn’t fanned — it dies down. Once the flame is fanned, it grows.
“I’m afraid the flame went down, and we stopped fanning it,” Easley said. “We’ve got to get our people back to thinking about the fact that people really are lost. They really do die and go to hell without Jesus. We’ve got to get soul conscious again.”
He hopes the West Tennessee Evangelism Rally will be a step in that direction for people who care about reaching those who aren’t Christians.
“I want people to walk off the campus being encouraged, being better instructed and inspired to do evangelism as an individual and as churches across West Tennessee,” he said.
The rally, slated for 4 p.m. Feb. 21 in Union’s G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel, is free but registration is required. More information, including online registration, is available at www.uu.edu/events/wter.