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‘Real Evangelism’ draws SBC leaders

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Four Southern Baptist Convention presidents were among the “Real Evangelism” speakers at a conference hosted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The conference, sponsored by evangelist and former SBC president Bailey Smith, featured preaching and teaching on reaching the lost by two other former SBC presidents, Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines; Johnny Hunt, the convention’s current president; SEBTS President Daniel Akin; evangelist Junior Hill; and several professors and pastors.

Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas and a former president of Southeastern, opened the three-day conference in mid-October by preaching from the Genesis 22:1-19 account the willingness of Abraham, who “spent most of his life doing all he could to do God’s work,” to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Patterson said the story of Abraham and Isaac is a precursor to what the Lord knew would happen to Him on the cross, as He would be a willing sacrifice.

“Why, then, are we so unconcerned about the millions who die without Jesus Christ?” Patterson asked. “In light of what Christ did, why would we hesitate to go anywhere in the world or pay anything for the one who gave Himself for us?”

SEBTS evangelism professor Alvin Reid reminded that discipleship includes taking the Gospel to one’s own neighbors and the people within the boundaries of the United States.

Reid, who holds the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, said Southern Baptists need “an influx of passion” to reach America -– what he called the world’s fourth-largest unreached nation. “You and I are sitting here today,” Reid noted, “because a handful of people met Jesus and never got over it.”

Discussing various aspects of “real evangelism,” Reid emphasized that American Christians must be willing to look at their own country in the same way they would a foreign country by reaching those who are unlike them, especially those living in large urban areas.

“This is a different day, but the Gospel is the same. The application of the Gospel is different,” Reid said. Speaking specifically about methodology and unwillingness to compromise on methods in order to reach those who are different, Reid said, “Some of us are sacrificing our children on the altar of our preferences.”

Hill, of Hartselle, Ala., told students that to be effective soldiers in the fight for people’s souls, Christians must recognize their call to the ministry and be willing to do battle for Christ despite cultural pressures.

“If you don’t know that it’s a hard job being a preacher of the Gospel, you’ve got a lesson coming,” Hill said. “God didn’t call us to comfort. He called us to hardship. We’ve lost sight of the fact that living for Jesus is not easy.

“We’ve got a generation today that want to forsake the Gospel and won’t pick up their cross. The proof in the pudding is that we may have more people in churches, but we’re adrift in a sea of heresy.”

Comparing Christians to soldiers in the trenches, Hill said, “May God give us grace to get in our trench and aim our guns in the right direction and not get entangled in the world.”

Vines, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., encouraged students to keep their eyes focused on heaven and the riches of someday being in the presence of God.

“Sooner or later all of us get very interested in heaven,” Vines said. “Every born-again, blood-washed believer will populate heaven. If you know Jesus as your personal Savior, you are just as good in heaven as if you’d been there 10,000 years. Heaven means we will be in the presence of Jesus. The five sweetest words in the Bible: They shall see His face.”

Smith, during his address, described today’s Baptist churches as captive to the world’s agenda and in need of returning to the foundations of Bible study and prayer. He preached from Luke 16, Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus, and noted several lessons churches need to learn from the story, including the priority of evangelism and the need for repentance for forgiveness of sins.

“We need to understand the torment of those in hell so we can be motivated to reach others for Christ,” Smith said.

Underscoring the theme of the conference, Smith said churches and pastors must make evangelism of the lost their primary aim. To do anything less, he said, risks threatening the integrity of the Gospel.

“The church that doesn’t make a priority of evangelism is making a mockery of the death of Jesus,” he said. “Young preachers, you must preach the truth of the Gospel.”

Akin urged students to know the One they serve.

“Many Christians do not act like Jesus because they don’t think like Jesus, and they don’t think like Jesus because they don’t really know Jesus,” he said.

Challenging believers to know the real Christ, Akin noted that He is portrayed in Isaiah 53 as the “suffering servant.”

“Who is the suffering servant of the Lord?” Akin asked, adding that the Old Testament prophecy in the passage pointed to Jesus Christ alone. “Christ is the suffering servant.”

Akin examined the contrast between the exaltation and humiliation of Jesus throughout his message.

“The Great Commission itself is embedded in Isaiah 53,” Akin said. “If real evangelism is going to take place, we have to get it right about Jesus.”

Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock, challenged leaders in the audience to pray and lead their people with the end in mind.

“We will be remembered by how we finish,” Hunt said. “Unless you’re godlier than David, stronger than Sampson and wiser than Solomon, ending well is a consequence of living well.”

Hunt spoke from Psalm 119:33-40 and taught that the commitment to live well must be made before the truth is revealed.

“Say ‘yes’ before God teaches you, then whatever He teaches you, obey,” he said.

Hunt said it doesn’t matter how much education a person has if they won’t obey the God-given wisdom from heaven, which will instruct them and enable them to live in a way that glorifies God.

“Lord, take me to a premature grave rather than bring reproach to Your name,” Hunt said.
Compiled by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary communications staff.

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