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NAMB president urges evangelists: ‘Guard your heart with all diligence’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–It is in times of great responsibility and overconfidence that ministers and evangelists must be ever vigilant of the sinful lures around them, Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, said.

Reccord addressed evangelists at the Proclamation Evangelism Network’s E-School (evangelism school) at the Westin Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He joined others from various evangelistic organizations including the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (LPEA) March 20-23 for the annual conference.

“The moment we ever think we deserve where we are, we are just one step away from total tragedy,” Reccord told nearly 170 evangelists. “Be careful.”

Recounting his personal story of taking the helm of NAMB, a Southern Baptist entity responsible for several thousand missionaries who minister throughout North America, Reccord said his 1997 reaction echoed those who are in similar situations: “We don’t understand how we got here and we’re scared to death.”

Accountability becomes paramount in order to avoid letting the world in, Reccord said, comparing the slow moral compromise that can occur in a minister’s life to the small cracks which eventually caused the Titanic disaster. The huge ship sank because “it got close to something it should have avoided — and something made to stay outside [water], got inside,” he said.

Citing a divorce rate in the church that is slightly higher than that outside of the church, Reccord said temptation is “inevitable,” and has nothing to do with age.

“Guard your heart with all diligence,” Reccord exhorted, recounting a story about being alone in a hotel room. Flipping through regular television channels, he was surprised by inappropriate and immoral activity popping up on the screen in front of him.

“The two most important people in the world will know [if I watch what I shouldn’t], God and me,” Reccord said. “After 30 years of marriage, I am still grappling with the challenge that comes banging on the door. Lest you think you are strong enough to stand on your own, you are not.”

Using the example of Genesis 3, Reccord said the process of rationalizing one’s behavior is the same today as it was in the Garden of Eden: “We question God, we contradict God, and we replace God.”

Bible stories about David and Joseph have implications about immoral behavior, Reccord said. In 2 Samuel 11, David overestimated his strength, while in Genesis 39:7, Joseph resisted temptation.

Caught up in the challenges of war and aware of his own authority, David took what was not his. On the other hand, Joseph exercised caution.

“One irresponsibly abused his authority,” Reccord said. “One responsibly used his authority.” Gifted and busy people may be especially vulnerable to falling, he warned.

“As God honors you with leadership, understand you have full freedom in Christ, but that’s not the freedom to do whatever you want,” Reccord told the evangelists. “The more your responsibility increases, the more narrow your freedom becomes because you impact people by everything you do.”

Showing a short film clip from the Sandra Bullock movie “Hope Floats” as an example of the destruction caused by infidelity, Reccord became emotional along with others in the room when the father in the movie drove off, leaving his young sobbing daughter behind, yelling, “Daddy!”

“Submit yourselves to God,” Reccord implored. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw close to God and He will come near you. Stay close and you will stay clean.”

Other conference speakers included Luis Palau and Ron Luce of Teen Mania Ministries. Southern Baptist evangelists leading workshops included Jerry and Becky Drace of Jackson, Tenn.; Ken and Lois Holland of Franklin, Tenn.; Bob Boyd of Norfolk, Va. Drace is a former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and serves on the executive committee of the Proclamation Evangelism Network.

Travis Lewis, a member of the Conference of Florida Baptist Evangelists and First Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove, said: “For the solo evangelists it’s good to hear reports and things about what’s happening on a large scale, because God’s doing His job.”

Spending the last four years traveling through 19 states to sing country and gospel music, Lewis said he and others at the E-school were looking forward to pitching in to help with counseling at the March 22-23 Beachfest event in Fort Lauderdale.

Dan Owens, founder of Eternity Minded Ministries, encouraged the evangelists to join more than 700 other volunteer counselors at Beachfest. Owens emphasized the counselors’ responsibility in filling out cards to record a person’s decision regarding salvation or rededication.

“It’s very important we make them feel comfortable,” Owens said of people responding to an invitation. “If there ever is a time to talk to someone about the Lord, this is the time.
The Proclamation Evangelism Network can be contacted through the Billy Graham Center Institute of Strategic Evangelism at (630) 752-5904. Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness, at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ENJOYING THE EVANGELISTS.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan