INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists utilized its 50th anniversary celebration to inaugurate a “Hall of Faith” of individuals who have dedicated their lives to vocational evangelism.
The group inducted 30 evangelists -– both living and dead -– into the Hall of Faith during the opening evening of their June 6-9 sessions in Indianapolis prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
Living evangelists selected for the Hall of Faith are Cliff Barrows, Marvin, N.C.; Wayne Bristow, Edmund, Okla.; Sam Cathey, Oklahoma City; Clyde Chiles, Columbia, Mo.; Freddie Gage, Euless, Texas; Billy Graham, Montreat, N.C.; Junior Hill, Hartselle, Ala.; Homer Martinez, Dallas; George Beverly Shea, Montreat, N.C.; Bailey Smith, Atlanta; Jerry Spencer, Savannah, Tenn.; Bill Stafford, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Bette Stalnecker-Gibson, Memphis, Tenn.; Jay Strack, Orlando, Fla.; Leon Westerhouse, Birmingham, Ala.; Gene Williams, Covington, Ga.; and Don Womack, Memphis, Tenn.
Evangelists recognized posthumously were Hyman Appleman, Walter K. Ayers, Manley Beasley, E.J. Daniels, Ron Dunn, Mike Gilchrist, Vance Havner, Jesse Hendley, Rudy Hernandez, Eddie Martin, Angel Martinez, J. Harold Smith and T.W. Wilson.
COSBE members heard a variety of speakers during their meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel who affirmed the ministry of vocational evangelists and encouraged them to maintain integrity and faithfulness in their preaching journeys.
Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, urged the evangelists to live a life of moral purity.
“Absolutely nothing means more when you’re sitting on the platform and about to deliver your heart,” he declared in addressing the Hall of Faith recognition dinner Friday evening. “Bottom line is, if I cast off restraints and lose my witness … I have no reason to wake up tomorrow morning.”
Hunt also noted the need for “a revival of confidence in the Gospel,” saying, “You can’t get saved without the Gospel. … None of us is as good as we think we are. … We’re so bad that the only way God could keep us out of hell is to allow His Son to die.”
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told the group he believes “the gift of evangelist is the gift of the invitation,” which can be greatly used by God in the life of a local church.
“I can preach all year long but when you give that simple appeal –- ‘Come to Jesus’ -– people pour out into the aisle,” Chapman said. “I know you count it as a sacred gift from almighty God.”
Chapman acknowledged that many do not regard our time as “a day that favors full-time evangelists.
“I know it’s not always been easy, but I believe the invitation is going to make a comeback in Southern Baptist life,” he said. “So don’t you go anywhere. I think God is going to put evangelists right out in front of the parade.”
Geraldine Ragan, a ventriloquist from Sterrett, Ala., provided entertainment for the Friday event, prompting laughter as she interacted with members of the audience through her sidekick Ricky.
In more serious moments, Ragan thanked the evangelists for their impact on her life and her family.
“Our lives have been changed from people we know in evangelism,” Ragan said. “I wish there were a way to say thank you, because so many of you have touched my life, my husband’s life and our home in a special way.”
Elected as COSBE’s new officers were Ron Herrod of Sevierville, Tenn., president; Phil Glisson of Memphis, Tenn., vice president; Bob Smith of Huntsville, Ala., music director; Reggie Lafaye of Paducah, Ky., assistant music director; Eric Ramsey of Mountainburg, Ark., parliamentarian; Margaret Allen of Edmond, Okla., secretary-treasurer; and Braxton Hunter of Jacksonville, Fla., recording secretary.
Keith Hinson is an associate in communications services for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.