NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Paige Patterson brought a word of encouragement to evangelists at their annual gathering before the Southern Baptist Convention, saying he fully expects evangelism to experience a renewal in America after a time of decreased interest in traditional revivals.
If the attendance at the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ June 17-18 retreat at the Sheraton Downtown hotel in Nashville is any indication, Patterson is most likely right. Keith Fordham, outgoing president of the conference, told Baptist Press 187 people registered for the event, which is double what they’ve ever had.
Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, spoke to the group on the office of the evangelist, which he described as a permanent assignment in the church.
And he also offered his perspective on the fluctuating popularity of evangelists.
“History is somewhat cyclical in nature. Things rise and fall,” he said. “Right now we are in a valley with regard to evangelism in this country, but stick around until tomorrow…. I rather suspect the increased attendance here has something to do with the fact that we’re ending a down cycle and I believe that we may well be about to step into a movement in this country.
“So just hang on. Don’t panic just because times get rough. There were rough times for the prophets of God, too, back in the Old Testament,” Patterson said. “But prophecy never left us. It would subside a little bit and it would come back under a burst of the Spirit of God and then it might subside a bit and here it would come again.”
Patterson mentioned Ephesians 4:11 as evidence that God meant for evangelists to be around until Jesus comes back. The verse states, “It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”
“If any of those categories have legitimacy, they all have legitimacy, which, it seems to me, establishes the office of the evangelist,” Patterson said.
Rick Stone, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., spoke to the group about being a music evangelist. He list three main things such evangelists must keep in mind as they travel from church to church: They must exalt Jesus and Lord and Master because He will usher in an atmosphere of praise and worship; they must be sure the people are prepared to hear the Word of God; and they must prepare the heart of the preacher to preach the Word.
Fordham, of Keith Fordham Evangelistic Ministries in Fayetteville, Ga., reminded the evangelists that they are commanded by God to call men and women to Christ, giving an invitation to accept the Gospel wherever they go. Preaching from 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Fordham exhorted evangelists to give an invitation urgently because time is short and the return of Jesus is certain. God can harvest souls no matter the circumstances, he added.
Junior Hill, of Junior Hill Ministries in Hartselle, Ala., spoke about the spiritual integrity of an evangelist, saying integrity is a lot like humility — when a person thinks about it too hard, he doesn’t have it. A person’s integrity and his reputation are not one in the same, Hill said. A reputation is the evaluation of a person’s life, but integrity is what that person is. The integrity of the heart is the origination of a life of integrity, he said, because the motives within a man’s heart make all the difference in how he lives.
Integrity, Hill said, manifests itself in four specific ways: It protects a man from sin in the forms of discerning grace and preventing grace; it preserves a man in suffering; it provides persistence in service; and it protects from backsliding.
Bud and Barbara Lee, of Bud and Barbara Lee Ministries in Blue Springs, Mo., presented a talk on the physical integrity of an evangelist, based on Romans 12:1-2. Barbara Lee gave evangelists a health IQ quiz, making her way through a vast list of foods and practices that are either good or bad for a Christian. She surprised some by telling the evangelists not to consume diet soft drinks because of the high amount of acid in a can of the carbonated beverages. Lee emphasized eating only foods that God created for food and avoiding all the rest in order for bodies to operate as He intended.
Jim Wilson, of the Jim Wilson Evangelistic Association in Orlando, Fla., preached from Luke 16 on the financial integrity of the evangelist. Evangelists must be trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, he said, urging them to maintain integrity with God, integrity with churches, integrity with the individuals who support them and integrity toward the government.
John Avant, vice president of evangelization at the North American Mission Board, spoke on becoming a “poured-out people,” based on John 12:1-11. Avant reminded evangelists that Jesus is enough, and they must be willing to pour out their pride, their plans and their passion in service to the Lord.
Fordham told Baptist Press the turnout at this year’s gathering of evangelists makes him optimistic that they are on the precipice of a movement of God. But their greatest need now is for a new generation to join their ranks, he said, voicing a hope that seminaries will train more evangelists with renewed intensity and that those who are active in evangelistic ministries will join the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists.
Closing out a tribute to evangelist Billy Graham during the evening session of the SBC annual meeting June 22, SBC President Bobby Welch offered support for Southern Baptist evangelists by calling on messengers to make arrangements in their church schedules for two revivals in the coming year as part of the effort to witness to, win and baptize one million people.
“You can call them what you want to call them, but we’ve got to have a harvest time,” he said. “I do not believe it is at all possible for us to have this harvest unless we dip into this harvester pool. We cannot do it without these men and women, and I implore you: Use these men and women in this next effort for us to go where nobody has gone before. They are God-called and they are able.”
Welch then called upon Fordham to pray for Graham and for Southern Baptist evangelists as they continue to reach souls for Christ.
The officers for 2005-06 are: president, Bill Britt, Compel Outreach International, Mansfield, Texas; vice president, Gary Bowlin, Gary Bowlin Evangelistic Association, Summit, Miss.; secretary-treasurer, Margaret Allen, The Allen Family, Edmund, Okla.; recording secretary, Jerry Chaddick, Spirit Truth Ministries, Lake Charles, La.; parliamentarian, Carl Carrigan, National Institute for Training in Outreach Evangelism, Shreveport, La.; music director, Joe Stanley, Joe & Kim Stanley Ministries, Fayetteville, Ga.; assistant music director, Jeff Anders, The Anders Family, Jennings, Fla.; pastor advisers, Scott Camp, pastor, Fellowship of Joy, Mansfield, Texas, and Jeff LaBorg, pastor, College Heights Baptist Church, Gallatin, Tenn.
For more information on the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, visit www.sbcevangelist.org.