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Win a lost world, cast a vision, Pastors’ Conference speakers urge

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Southern Baptist conservatives have fought and won the battle for the Bible but it will be of small consequence if the convention does not follow the imperative contained in Scripture to win lost souls for Christ, Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., told the June 10-11 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference at the Louisiana Superdome.

“We have fought the battle for the Bible and we have won,” said Welch in one of numerous messages addressing the Pastors’ Conference theme, “Until He Comes … Go!”

“We have fought the battle for conservatism,” said Welch, originator of the popular FAITH evangelism outreach presently used in numerous Southern Baptist churches across the country. “Some of you were in that battle. But I ask you, what good is that battle won if we do not win these souls? We will but die with a mouthful of dry, dead orthodoxy.”

The world’s great pastors and congregations are not defined by massive building projects or gaudy attendance figures, Welch said, but by the fervor with which they proclaim the gospel to lost persons. To be successful in mere human terms and fail to carry out evangelism is to fail God, he said.

Welch quoted statistics demonstrating that a vast majority of Southern Baptist churches are failing to win any souls over a given year’s time and admonished pastors to assert the gospel with fervor to the communities in which their churches exist.

“We’re losing the battle for souls,” he said. “We may be winning the battle for buildings and we may be winning the battle for music, but bless God, we are losing the souls of this nation. If we fail in evangelism, we fail God; we fail souls; we fail eternally. We cannot fail and we should not fail. Never has there been a time like the day in which we live where souls are searching for the truth in Christ, searching for the truth.”

Welch said God is using the FAITH outreach to bring the message of salvation to lost persons. More than 200,000 persons are using it for personal evangelism and thousands are hearing the gospel, many for the first time.

“[Evangelism] is the greatest work in the world and the churches that do it and pastors that do it are the greatest in the world because they are being faithful,” he said.

Rick Gage, an evangelist from Atlanta, also recounted some of the less-than-proud statistics of the SBC to show how great a task remains. According to Gage, 82 percent of Southern Baptist churches do not have a soul-winning program. More than 11,000 churches last year did not report a single conversion.

“Can you explain to me how a church can go 365 days and not reach a single person?” he asked. “The soul-winning program is the life blood of a Bible-believing, New Testament church.”

National evangelical leader Jerry Falwell said a clear-cut vision and perseverance are vital to a ministry’s success.

The 68-year-old Falwell urged ministers to continue driving forward with their game plan “into your fourth quarter.”

“Don’t just fill up space. Don’t just draw your retirement,” he said. “We’re not in [ministry] for what we can get out of it.”

Falwell, founding pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., said God has given him a four-fold vision that has encompassed his 46 years in ministry and has led to the establishment of several institutions which have been used on a global scale for the kingdom of God. He said the four-pronged vision has entailed the local church, media, Christian education and a “salt” ministry.

Falwell’s four “dreams” first became manifest in his founding of Thomas Road Baptist Church 45 years ago, which began with 35 members and now numbers more than 20,000. They are also seen in his establishment of Liberty University and the Moral Majority in the 1970s along with his “Old-Time Gospel Hour” television show and dozens of appearances in the national media through the years.

Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., warned that even with all the proper priorities seemingly in place, even the most God-centered churches can fall prey to pernicious spiritual problems, recognizing their presence only after they have grown thoroughly ensconced.

Whitten identified three spirits which can creep into and poison a church: the spirit of the Pharisees, by which unbiblical, manmade rules prevail over relationships; the spirit of the Sadducees, which leads people to deny biblical miracles and the supernatural as well as the inerrancy and authority of Scripture; and the spirit of Herod, by which legalism, liberalism and licentiousness seep into the church.

“Any time those spirits prevail … you’ll have a church that doesn’t have any [spirit] after the meeting,” Whitten said.

Atlanta evangelist Bailey Smith noted, “There’s a lot of difference between being a good man and being saved. There’s an eternity of difference.”

Using the parable of the wheat and weed, Smith asked pastors and Christian workers to examine their conversion experiences. He related numerous stories of church leaders, relatives of pastors and longtime church members who, upon introspection, realized they had never truly committed their lives to Christ.

“There are people who won’t make it to heaven because their faith is in an experience,” he said. “It takes more than coming down the front to make you a child of God.”

At the conclusion of his message, Smith issued an invitation during which dozens of people came forward to accept Christ.

Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and Sam Cathey, an evangelist from Edmond, Okla., also addressed the conference.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BOBBY WELCH URGES PASTORS TO BE STRONG WITNESSES.

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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