Winter 2013/14 Issue
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A few responses will be printed in the next issue of SBC LIFE.
This issue's Open Meeting:
Jerry Drace, past president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) and current bivocational pastor, recently shared some thoughts with SBC LIFE about the use of vocational evangelists in ministry:
"Recently, I was in a conversation with a number of young pastors when the subject of evangelism came up. When I told them I have been in full time evangelism for thirty-nine years, longer than some of them had been alive, they couldn't believe it. One asked, 'What does a full time evangelist do?'
"It was confirmed at that moment what many of my itinerant evangelist friends have known for the past few years. We have a generation of pastors who have neither been exposed to the ministry of evangelists nor encouraged to use those who are called by God into this specialized ministry.
"I mentioned the Billy Graham training center at the Cove to a pastor in his early thirties, whose church runs more than 2,500 in worship. He had never heard of it. Jokingly I said, 'Of course you know who Billy Graham is.' He looked at me seriously and said, 'I've heard of him.'
"Not only do we have a new generation of Southern Baptist pastors who place revivals in the same category of brush arbor meetings and circuit-riding preachers, but who speak of Billy Graham and his ministry in past tense.
"The present membership of COSBE is 125. When I entered itinerant evangelism in 1975 there were approximately 600 men and women who served in some area of full time evangelistic ministry. Many of the experienced evangelists are conducting the vast majority of their ministries overseas where revivals and area wide crusades are drawing enormous crowds with tremendous results.
"I agree with Al Gilbert, vice president of evangelism at NAMB, when he said, 'Our baptismal trends are all headed in the wrong direction. With a burden to penetrate lostness in North America, we must pray and think through what we can and should do to turn around this decline.'
"May I suggest one option? Encourage pastors to revive the revival meeting. And use God-called evangelists who are men of integrity to conduct those revivals. Don't just ask a pastor buddy who will in turn ask you. Ask someone with a proven track record and an impeccable reputation for effective evangelism.
"Trying to improve our evangelism statistics without using evangelists is like trying to plant a church without a planter."
Are mass-evangelism revival services still effective today? Does your church host such events? Have you brought in vocational evangelists as part of your efforts? How are you encouraging revival in your church and your community?