On Jan. 30-31, Oklahoma Baptists gathered at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills for the 2012 State Evangelism Conference. With more than 1,200 attending the first day and nearly 1,000 the next, participants were challenged in a set of inspiring messages and songs to “Teach Him Personally,” an extension of the My316 Evangelism thrust of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Know Christ to teach Christby Bob Nigh The Monday afternoon session of the State Evangelism Conference Jan. 30-31 began with greetings from Tim Gentry, evangelism specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Gentry gave a brief update on the travels of the convention’s “MY316” car, which he has driven more than 38,000 miles during the past two years.
Gentry announced that he has passed the car on to Ron Clement, prayer & evangelism team leader with the Colorado Baptist General Convention. Oklahoma Baptists began a new three-year partnership with Colorado Baptists this year.
The conference’s first speaker was the pastor of the host church, Doug Melton, who also is president of the convention. Melton was charged with speaking about biblical evangelism.
“We are talking about teaching Christ personally and to teach Christ personally, you have to know Him personally,” he said. “It has to be your story. If you think about it, all of our lives are lived in the context of stories . . . . the key, then, is understanding that all of our stories are all under THE big story. There is the much bigger story that we’re all a part of . . . . whenever we think about that bigger story, we go back to the beginning.
“A person’s view of that big story will greatly influence how they view their own life story. A person’s understanding of how it all began impacts how they view their own life story. We will never fully understand ourselves or what we are supposed to do until we understand our place in the big story.
“That’s why I’m so thankful that we have the story. The Word of God tells us the story. I want you to hear today THE story.”
Melton then presented a dramatic monologue titled, “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” beginning in the book of Genesis and telling the redemptive story of Christ’s love through our Savior’s death, burial and resurrection.
Former BGCO president Emerson Falls, pastor of Oklahoma City, Glorieta, was next, and he asked the audience, “Do you think the Gospel could be effectively lost in one generation?”
Letting that thought sink in, he then asked, “How many of us are actually concerned that the Gospel could be lost in one generation?”
Using Judges 2:6-11 as his text, Falls reminded those present that the Gospel could be lost in one generation because it happened before when the generation after Joshua strayed from the Lord—The Lost Generation.
“The elders knew the work of the Lord, but the next generation didn’t get it,” Falls exclaimed. “They got so focused on the work of the Lord that they forgot the Lord of the work!
“It’s true for some of us today. We get so busy, we don’t hear God when He speaks. But, we’re experts at doing church!”
Falls bemoaned the rise of mega churches that have smaller impact.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end of my ministry and find that I have been successful at the wrong thing,” he said.
“We need to ask ourselves: Is what we’re doing now going to produce disciples in the next generation? I doubt it.”
Falls said making disciples is at the heart of the Great Commission.
“The Great Commission is about teaching Christ personally,” he said. “And to be teaching, we need to be doing, We need to learn how to spend time with lost people.”
He pledged to do two things in his own life.
“I’m making two commitments today,” he concluded. “One, I’ve got to personally win lost people to Jesus. And to do that, I’ve got to spend more time with lost people. And two, I will personally teach a small group of people to do the same thing. Then, the Gospel will spread.
“Then those people will each teach a small group and then each of them will teach a small group, and so on. And, soon we will have an army of God taking it to the streets.”
Wrapping up session one, Jeremy Freeman, pastor of Newcastle, First, spoke on “Making the Mist Matter Missionally.”
The “mist,” referring to a human lifespan, which is referred to as a mist in James 4:14 that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
“We are in need of a fresh move from God,” Freeman declared. “We have a short time when compared to eternity. What will we do with the mist God gives us?”
Focusing on that passage in James 4:13-17, Freeman said, “You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. He quoted a line: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last,” which is from a poem written by missionary C.T. Studd, and gave a list of five points to help his listeners make sure their “mist” matters.
- We must be intent on seeking God.
“Presumptuous thinking leads us to forget our ignorance, forget our frailty and forget our great need and dependence on God,” Freeman said.
- We need to be intentional.
“We need to live with the end in mind. Only what is done for Christ will last.”
- We need to invest in others. “Most people would rather build a building than invest in a life; it begins in our homes and extends into the lives of the people God puts around us.”
- We must take the initiative. “Baptist churches are full of spectators. We must expect, push and motivate our people to take the initiative. It’s a sad reality we have to beg people to serve.”
- We, as Christians, must insist on doing God’s will.
Monday Evening Sessionby Dana Williamson One would not have wanted to be an interpreter for the deaf, though two women signers tried valiantly to keep up with the fast-paced messages from Roc Collins and Fred Luter Jr. during the Monday night session of the State Evangelism Conference Jan. 30.
The two preachers, one black and one white, possessed similar deliveries as they expounded on the Word with an enthusiasm that brought cheers and amens from the crowd, which filled the auditorium of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills.
Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Church in Kingsport, Tenn., was the first to take the podium with a message on The Man Christ Jesus.
He noted he finds the expression “The Man Upstairs” to be irreverent, but Scripture declares there is a man in Heaven—the Man Christ Jesus.
And there are some specific activities the Man takes part in, he explained.
First, He desires all men to be saved.
“Man cannot save himself, and man is not born saved,” Collins said. “God is interested in people being saved, because you have to be saved.”
To be saved, he said, you have to come to a knowledge of the truth, and today, not many people believe in truth.
“People say there is no absolute truth, but when they make that statement, they have just made an absolute statement,” he pointed out. “There are absolute truths—death is an absolute for all people; there is a Heaven and a Hell, and Jesus desires all men to be saved.”
Collins emphasized that God doesn’t desire anyone to go to hell.
“Hell was not created for people, but for the devil and his angels,” he said.
Collins acknowledged that the Man Jesus is our mediator.
“Why do we need a mediator?” he asked. “Because God is three-times holy and we are unholy. We couldn’t talk to a three-time holy God. We need a mediator—the Man Jesus Christ. He paid a ransom so we could be free. Unless Jesus becomes our mediator, we can’t pray. The only way I can get to the Father is through Jesus. We have a Man on the inside.”
Third, revealed Collins, Jesus is to be preached.
“I’m a called preacher, but there is not one of us saved by the blood of Christ who has not been called to proclaim Jesus,” he exclaimed. “If people breathe, they need to hear about Jesus. We know how to bicker and complain, but we have not yet learned to have a zeal for Jesus.”
And finally, Collins stressed, Jesus is to be praised.
“He ought to be praised because He is worthy,” he underscored. “He’s enduringly strong, eternally steadfast, impartially merciful. He’s the greatest phenomenon. He is God’s Son, the Bread of Life. No one is worthy to stand with Him. He is the miracle of all ages. No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessings. He’s the God of fat chance, slim chance and no chance. I wish I could describe Him, but He’s indescribable. I can’t outlive Him, and I can’t live without Him.”
Next to take the stage in the final message of the night was Luter, a self-described street preacher from New Orleans.
In the quiet before the storm, Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Church and first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, thanked Oklahoma Baptists for their part in the recovery work after Hurricane Katrina.
He then launched into a message talking about the handful of believers in Acts who “turned the world upsidedown.”
“How did they pull this off with such a small group?” he asked. “There were 120 believers and 11 apostles, yet they were so effective, they turned the world upsidedown. People looked at them and said, ‘See those people, they are shaking stuff up.’”
He observed that there were no Bible colleges to train them, no seminaries, no associational or state meetings, no evangelism conferences, no women’s or men’s conferences, no how-to workshops.
“They didn’t worship in beautiful sanctuaries, have praise teams, Sunday School or cell groups,” he noted. “They didn’t have any of the stuff we claim we need to reach the world, yet they turned the world upsidedown.”
The reason, he said, was they were empowered by another. They were able to do what they could not do of themselves, by themselves.
Luter reminded the crowd that Jesus told them not to depart for Jerusalem, but to wait for the power.
“We don’t like to wait for anything,” he pointed out. “But there is a blessing in waiting. If you wait on God, He will empower you to do what you can’t do by yourself.”
He added when you wait on the Lord, you become a new person.
“When you are empowered by the Holy Spirit, that’s how you become victorious,” he said. “We cannot do this on our own.”
When you wait, he continued, you have a new purpose.
“You begin to realize it’s not about you,” he revealed. “Once you have an assignment from God, your purpose is to testify about the One whose name is Jesus. You can’t help but tell it wherever you go. He’s the answer for the world today.”
And finally, he observed, when you wait on God, you have a new power.
“God will give you not only power, but boldness,” he exclaimed. “If we’re going to save the lost at any cost, we’ve got to be filled with that power.”
Luter concluded that he is praying when people see Oklahoma Baptists, they will point and say, “There are the people of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention who are turning the world upsidedown.”
Tuesday Afternoon Sessionby Bob Nigh and Brian Hobbs The Tuesday afternoon session of the SEC was kicked off by evangelist Bob Pitman from Muscle Shoals, Ala., who has been preaching for 47 years.
A pastor for 33 years, Pitman exclaimed, “We serve a living savior; a dead Savior is a worthless Savior!”
Setting the scene, Pitman used John 20:19-23 as his text, where the disciples—the 10 who remained or had gathered together—were sequestered in a locked room because of their fear of the Jews following Christ’s crucifixion. Into that room where men sat paralyzed by fear, the Lord entered in and breathed new life into them as He filled them with the Holy Spirit.
Pitman’s message—“The Breath of Jesus”—is a reminder to us today, he said, that all of us need a fresh breath of Jesus in certain circumstances:
1. When you lose the sense of God’s presence.
2. If you have become gripped by a spirit of fear.
3. If you are no longer experiencing the peace of God.
4. If you have lost your joy.
5. If you have lost your passion for souls.
Pitman was followed by a testimony from Marian Jordan, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries. Jordan is a graduate of Southwestern Seminary, and lives in Houston, where she serves at her home church, Houston, Second.
Jordan told about how her early life was aimless and she did not have an earthly father to offer guidance and love.
“I never made the connection between how we live and Who we love,” she said.
Later, after attending seminary and surrendering fully to God’s will, while in London, she was approached by two backpacking women who asked her if she could tell them Who Jesus is. That led to the creation of her ministry, whose stated vision “is to see women redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ, transformed by His truth and who live for the glory of His Name.”
Following the testimony, Shane Hall, pastor of Lawton, First, preached a sermon using 2 Cor. 5 on the ministry of reconciliation.
“Pastors, before we were called to the pulpit, we were called to be ministers of reconciliation,” said Hall.
“In evangelism, we cannot let fear prevent us from sharing the Gospel,” he added.
“My life is most attuned to the lost when I am closest to Him,” concluded Hall.
Rob Zinn, pastor of Highland, Calif., Immanuel, preached a sermon to conclude the Tuesday afternoon session.
“We are not lacking for resources,” said Zinn. “We must share the Gospel enthusiastically. If we can get excited about football games, surely we can be even more excited about our Savior.”
Immanuel uses community outreach techniques, including a major harvest festival in late October, movie nights open to the community and other aggressive evangelism techniques.
“Ninety-three percent of (SBC) churches baptize 20 people or less each year,” Zinn said. “How can we rightly be called ‘Baptist’ if we are not baptizing more?”
Tuesday Evening Sessionby Dana Williamson The State Evangelism Conference concluded with more than two hours of praise and worship music and a message from Beeson Divinity School professor Robert Smith Jr.
Joining featured artist Babbie Mason were more than 100 singers and instrumentalists from Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, site of the two-day conference.
Led by minister of music Randy Lind, the choir and orchestra presented solo work as well as back-up for Mason, who sang some of the songs she has written as well as including the congregation in several numbers.
Presenting the final challenge of the conference, Smith spoke from Acts 8 on “The Alpha and Omega of Evangelism and Discipleship.”
Following the upbeat music, Smith acknowledged that “we are all rock and roll Christians.”
“We have our feet on the rock and our names on the roll,” he chanted.
He related the story of a young boy who wrote a message on a New York subway advertising poster. Although he misspelled the significant word, his message was clear. It read “I hate grils.” Someone came along later and corrected the message, writing, “It’s girls, stupid.” Then another added, “What about us grils?”
Smith then gave examples of grils: A young man who is overweight; a young woman who is dateless; a man who has worked for the same company for 40 years and receives a pink slip, and is too old to get another job; a woman married to a man for 50 years who looks across the breakfast table at an empty chair.
“All of us are grils,” he said. “Someone unwanted, pushed away, put down, rejected and unappealing. Before God found us, we were all grils.”
With the Ethiopian eunuch as his focal point, Smith said, although God has given the Great Commission, “we are willing to go, but not to all nations.”
“We are willing to go just to people who look like us,” he said. “But our commission is not just local, but global. When we get comfortable with people who look like us, we are shortchanging the Great Commission.”
He said evangelizing to our own kind is like isolation or quarantine theology.
“We cannot do like the priest and the Levite who saw the injured man on the road to Jericho and crossed over on the other side,” he noted.
Smith declared that the 8th chapter of Acts gives a glimpse of fulfilling the Great Commission.
“All the people in this chapter will be in the body of Christ,” he explained. “If that is what Heaven is going to look like, we ought to be about that now.
“Heaven is going to be about Jesus. If that’s my theme in glory, shouldn’t that be my theme here? Heaven should be an extension of what I’m doing here.”
At the conclusion of the message, the congregation was given the opportunity to come to the altar to pick up a small medallion with the shape of Oklahoma cut out in the center and the words “pray, share and serve” engraved on it to remind them daily of the command of Jesus to “go into all the world.”