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Evangelists aim for greater international reach

PHOENIX (BP) — Increasing international evangelism and diversity were the focus of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists when it gathered in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.

Southern Baptist Evangelists held a retreat and business meeting June 9-10 at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and a Sunday worship service June 11 hosted by First Southern Baptist Church in Phoenix. A “Southwest Supper Sing-A-Long” June 12 gave pastors an opportunity to connect with evangelists.

At the worship service, Southern Baptist Evangelists President David Stockwell said the conference has made progress in diversity, as evidenced by the service’s diverse attendees.

“This place feels like heaven to me because I see people from different tribes and tongues and nations, and that’s what God is doing,” observed Stockwell, a Houston-based evangelist. “He is bringing people to Christ in this nation and around the world. It is wonderful to be a part of it.”

Stockwell noted, “Our group preaches the Good News of Christ all around this nation, and all around the nations of this world.”

Richard Hamlet, former Southern Baptist Evangelists president, delivered a sermon urging greater international focus among evangelists. Hamlet has preached in 76 countries since leaving his job as a Wall Street banker to pursue fulltime evangelism.

“God is an international God and the Bible is an international book, and you and I as Christians are the body of Christ, which is an international church,” Hamlet said. “We are all together in the unity of the faith because God not only did the impossible, He did the improbable.”

Hamlet said the International Mission Board has calculated the number of unreached and unengaged people groups globally at 3,216. A people group is considered unengaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, is not underway among it.

Some people groups, while not unengaged, are still hard to reach, Hamlet said. The evangelist recalled time he spent in Albania, a former communist nation that struggled under an oppressive regime.

In Albania, Hamlet met a former military officer who described himself as a “man hater” and a “God hater” and said he killed those who did not worship the dictator. That man came to know Christ after a missionary told him God loved him, Hamlet said. Today, the man leads mission efforts within the country and abroad.

Two evangelists were honored for long tenures in fulltime evangelism.

Dean Forrest was recognized for serving 25 years as an evangelist. A ministry he works with in South Carolina had led six people to Christ earlier in the day, he told worship attendees.

Richard Green was celebrated for serving 50 years as an evangelist across the globe. Green cited the urgent need for international evangelism, stating, “This is harvest time, and how glorious it is to be on a team of evangelists that are bringing in the harvest.”

Stockwell said Forrest and Green “are faithful, God-gifted, God-anointed men who have faithfully served God through many trials and tribulations.”

Stockwell told Baptist Press he senses “a great burden” among Southern Baptist Evangelists’ leaders “to see … God move.”

There is also “a greater passion for reaching more people with the Gospel,” Stockwell said. “I sense a greater compassion to see people called to preach and to see people called as evangelists.”

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  • Daniel Woodman