RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Wanting ideas for starting a men’s ministry at his church, Bill Morris was typical of those who attended the annual National Evangelism and Discipleship Conference at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.
Morris, however, came away with much more for Mount Moriah Baptist Church in the central Alabama community of Weogufka.
He met people who use horses in ministry -– something else he had been praying about, because a number of people in his church ride horses and he was looking for a way to make a connection.
Describing the conference as “one of the best I’ve ever attended,” Morris noted, “Not only was it very uplifting and inspiring but very practical. I have a lot of information that I’ll take back and contacts I can use to help in the ministry.”
The five-day conference sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources in July had 11 different study tracks ranging from youth ministry to a new chaplaincy track this year. Noted Bible scholar T.W. Hunt conducted taught his “Mind of Christ” discipleship study for the first time in nearly 10 years, while Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, were the keynote speakers.
Wilton’s four messages explored why people attend this type of conference. Some people are looking for miracles from God, but that doesn’t have to be a grandiose act, Wilton said; it can be as simple as healing a relationship or fixing a marriage in trouble.
Everything should point to the “functionality of the local New Testament church,” Wilton said, describing it as pastor-led, deacon-served, team-organized and body-approved.
In his concluding message, speaking from 2 Timothy 1:6-8, Wilton stated that “Timothy knew God called him and he embarked on what God called him to do. Paul gave Timothy four mandates: Settle up, stir up, stand up and step out.”
Wilton then asked conference attendees, “What has God done to you this week?”
Fish looked at what happens when the church is a “praying church,” one in which the members are intent on immediately discipling new believers because “Satan enjoys devouring the testimony of new believers.”
“I believe the first 24 to 48 hours in the life of new believers are the most crucial hours in the Christian life,” Fish said. “We know all about justification but know little sanctification. Our churches are filled with spiritual babies, if they are there at all.”
Fish, in another sermon, said the church is “shaken” when people pray, citing the early church’s experience in Acts 4:29-33.
“The presence of God is manifested in and through His people,” Fish said. “The power of God is received and the purposes of God are accomplished. There are lost people all around us and the time has come when we just can’t sit there. Jesus said that to His disciples. The harvest is today.”
Claude King, editor in chief of LifeWay’s leadership and adult publishing group, conducted classes from “Abide in Christ,” the second of seven parts of LifeWay’s Growing Disciples Series. Abide in Christ is a Bible study based on “The True Vine” by Christian writer Andrew Murray in 1864 from Jesus’ parable of the true vine in John 15 about experiencing love, joy, power and friendship in relationship with Christ. King and Bo Stevens, a pastor of discipleship and administration at Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane, Alberta, helped update the study to modern language.
King went through the nine steps used in the book for believers to “abide in Christ,” ranging from entering the relationship with Christ (“graft you on to the vine”) to being transformed, obeying Him, relating to Him through prayer and His Word, resulting in “bearing much fruit.”
In the men’s ministry track, Sid Woodruff, men’s ministry specialist at LifeWay, conducted a workshop on “The 10.5 Commandments for Ministering to Men.” Many churches lack a well-planned evangelistic men’s ministry, struggling to figure out what makes men tick, he said.
“We spend too much time organizing a ministry. We don’t spend enough time creating a culture for ministering to men,” Woodruff said.
His 10.5 Commandments are:
1. Thou shalt remember God will not speed up to catch up with you.
2-3.5. Thou shalt create a culture for ministering to men. “This one is so big it takes up more,” Woodruff said.
3.5. Thou shalt get the right people on the bus.
4.5. Thou shalt start with the end in mind.
5.5. Thou shalt consider the fourths. Woodruff listed four types of men in every community: High fliers, participants who don’t get everything from a ministry, disillusioned men and lost men.
6.5. Thou shalt practice S.T.P.Q. (Safety, Transformational, Predictable, Quality).
7.5. Thou shalt remember the one thing men want more than truth is results.
8.5. Thou shalt accept the fact that men live their lives in seasons.
9.5. Thou shalt ride the ragged edge of creativity.
10.5. Thou shalt pray high-risk prayers.
Ross Mowery, discipleship chairman for Middle River Baptist Church in Baltimore, sat in on the intentional discipleship track with Dennis Rogers, discipleship and family ministries specialist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, and came away impressed.
“Too often there is a lack of depth of discipleship in the local church. The cornerstone of any discipleship program is prayer,” Mowery reflected. “You have to have a good foundation to build a program.”
Jerry Higgins is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.