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Evangelists look to Christ’s return

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–More than 700 people attended the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists Sunday worship service June 21 in Louisville, Ky., featuring Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.

Three evangelists, Sammy Tippit, Ron Herrod and Jim McNeil, joined Hunt and Caner to preach on topics highlighting the meeting’s theme, “Anticipating His Return.”

COSBE consists of about 200 vocational evangelists who meet prior to Southern Baptist Convention, which convenes June 22-23 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, preached on “Building the Last Days’ Church.” Reading from Joshua 16, Hunt recounted how Caleb relied on God’s promise for 45 years regarding the Holy Land. “Devotion does not have to die even when you are older,” Hunt said. “We are never too old to make new conquests of faith in the power of Jesus’ name.”

Hunt challenged the audience to hold on to the ministry vision God has given them. “Don’t you dare let church people steal your dream,” he said. “I’m amazed that I’m still so fired up, and that I didn’t let college take it from me, seminary take it from me, or my first, second and third church take it from me.”

Noting Caleb never forgot his past, Hunt cautioned listeners to not think too highly of themselves: “That’s what’s happened in [the SBC]. We think we’re a bunch of hot-shot preachers, and God needs to take us back to where He found us.” Summarizing what other evangelicals have told him, Hunt noted, “When Southern Baptists float higher in the evangelical world, all of our ships rise.”

Caner preached on “Engaging the Last Days’ Culture,” underscoring the importance of biblically based theological education and the impact successful graduates from such programs can have on secular culture.

Tour any of the SBC’s seminaries or affiliated colleges and universities, and, Caner said, “You run into this great cadre, this fired-up army of kids who are ready to charge hell with a water gun. They have not yet learned to be cynical or skeptical or sarcastic…. They’d crawl on their hands and knees on broken glass to tell someone about Jesus…. We have an entire generation of kids who know more Bible, memorized more verses and are more fearless than any other generation in history.”

If at some time later such students lose their “fearlessness, and the sense of expectancy, and no longer have that sense of God-can-do-anything, it’s the colleges and seminaries and professors who have failed,” Caner said.

“If somehow down the line … we lessen their faith, we are the enemies of the cross, not the servants,” Caner said.

Referring to students on secular campuses, Caner said there “are more people interested in Christianity than ever in history. This is not a horrible time to be a believer. This is the greatest time for believers to stand up in the midst of culture — not to give in to culture, not to acquiesce to culture, not to turn into culture, but for the church to be a clarion voice in the middle of culture…. The church is not called to be above culture, or oblivious to culture, or of culture. The church is designed to confront culture.”

Evangelist Sammy Tippit of San Antonio, Texas, preaching on “Reaching the Last Days’ Harvest,” said, “God is doing a great thing in Iran,” but noting that secular media are ignoring the “explosion of people in Iran coming to Jesus Christ.”

Tippet said he walked the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities in 1998 while praying the “Gospel of Jesus Christ would be unleashed” in the Muslim country. While there, Tippit noted almost every house had a satellite dish on its roof. Since then, Tippit has utilized satellite technology evangelistically, saying he knows of “hundreds of house churches” resulting from the broadcasts.

Tippit noted that Iranians who are without Christ are no different than much of the rest of the world’s population. “People are hungry for the Gospel because deep in the heart of every human being is a desire to know God,” he said.

“God is doing something amazing in Iran,” Tippit continued, referring to Iranians turning to Christ despite “impossible crises in their lives.”

“Each called upon the god of Islam, and he didn’t answer,” Tippit said. “But God has revealed Himself to them in a dream or vision, and they know it’s Jesus because of the nail prints in His hands.”

Recalling a trip to Russia, Tippit visited a university campus where he met a young man with whom he shared the Gospel through an interpreter.

“All of my life I’ve been taught there is no God,” the student told Tippit. “And I never believed in God until two weeks ago when I looked up into the stars and decided this cannot be an accident. So I asked God, ‘If You are real, will You reveal yourself to me?’ And He did that by sending you to me today,'” Tippit said in recounting the student’s words.

Officials later arrested Tippit as he preached to a group of students and charged him with illegal drug importation, telling Tippit they believed religion to be the “opiate of the masses.”

Tippit views the masses differently. “Communists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists — God sees them as people He created and loved so much that He sent Jesus to die for their sins.”

Evangelist Jim McNiel of St. Louis, who is known as “The Walking Bible,” lived up to the moniker by reciting from memory 121 Bible verses as the sole content of his sermon, titled “The Word Speaks.”

Beginning with Genesis 3:15 -– “And I will put enmity between thee and the women, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” — and concluding with Revelation 19:16, McNiel cited Bible verses that are allusions to, prophecies about, biblical fulfillments and the recorded ministry of Jesus Christ. Interrupted several time by applause, McNiel left the platform during a standing ovation.

COSBE President Rod Herrod, a vocational evangelist from Sevierville, Tenn., preached on “The Countdown to Armageddon.” Reading from several Bible passages, he noted several signs pointing to the imminent return of Jesus Christ, including:

— The moral sign: As in the days of Noah, society is immoral and exhibits spiritual ignorance.

— The miracle sign: The rebirth of Israel in 1948, which Herrod likened to a miracle.

— The money sign: Increasing numbers of people use debit and credit cards instead of cash, thus contributing to the escalation of identity theft. Herrod said economic pundits say the answer is to make the account number a part of the person.

— The Muslim sign: “We better understand that Allah is not god and the Koran is not a great religious book and Muhammad is not a great spiritual leader. Only Jesus has that privilege.

— The misery sign: Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, famine and earthquakes point to Christ’s return, Herrod said. “All of us know that an earthquake is a contraction of the earth. And ladies know the closer the contractions come, the closer the baby is to delivery,” he said.

“What does all this mean?” Herrod asked. “It means we ought all to be affected and come out of our cages. It should make a difference in our worship; it should evoke our witnessing and make a difference in the way we lead our churches….

“The devil hates you and everything you do for Jesus,” Herrod said. “May he walk the back alleys sucking on a Maalox bottle because the church of Jesus Christ has decided to share the Gospel boldly.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va. For more information on the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, go to www.sbcevangelist.org.

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