A former atheist, who has emerged into a prolific Christian author, and a man who has planted and revitalized numerous churches will be two of the speakers at the State Evangelism Conference at Moore, First, Jan. 24-25.
Lee Strobel, the author of nearly 20 books, including four which received ECPA Christian Book Awards, spent much of his life as an atheist.
“To me, there was far too much evidence that God was merely a product of wishful thinking, of ancient mythology, of primitive superstition,” Strobel writes in his book, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence. “To me, the case was closed. There was enough proof for me to rest easy with the conclusion that the divinity of Jesus was nothing more than the fanciful invention of superstitious people.”
Yet, when his wife, Leslie, announced to him that she had become a Christian, and he saw changes in her character, integrity and personal confidence, he wanted to get to the bottom of those changes, and launched an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding the case for Christianity.
Strobel, a former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, dove head first into his quest for truth.
The result of his investigations is that he has become a New York Times best-selling author, has hosted a television program, “Faith Under Fire,” runs a video apologetics website and has been interviewed on numerous national TV programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News and CNN.
His award-winning books are The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator and Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary.
A graduate of the University of Missouri and Yale Law School, he won Illinois’ top honors for investigative reporting and public service journalism from United Press International.
After a two-year investigation of the evidence for Jesus, Strobel received Him as his Savior. He joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, and was a teaching pastor there from 1987-2000. From 2000-02, he was a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, who has planted churches on five continents and written dozens of articles and books, will also speak during the two-day conference. Stetzer will be sharing from his new book, Transformational Church, which he co-authored with Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Stetzer will have extended time to unpack the research behind his new book, which has two chapters on evangelism,” said Tim Gentry, BGCO evangelism group leader. “The three areas of focus from the book line up well with the conference theme of ‘Taking Him Personally.’ Stetzer will challenge Oklahoma Baptists with individual transformation, church engagement and community engagement, which is focused on serving others in Christ’s name.”
Speaking during two general sessions, Stetzer will speak on individual transformation in the transformation church and church engagement in the transformational church. The first will focus on how people are redeemed to be agents of reconciliation and how the people in your church can be encouraged to live out the mission in their contexts, Gentry said. The second will concentrate on how churches can be on mission in their context, thinking and acting like missionaries where God has sent them.
“Too often, 21st Century Americans want to talk about ‘spirituality,’ but are unfamiliar with the Gospel,” Stetzer said. “Some well-meaning Christians hear the spirituality talk and want to move people to the Gospel, but the unexplained theological language and the old evangelistic approaches that were targeting a different worldview amount to noise that leave the hearer in the dark trying to guess.”
Stetzer’s statement speaks to the MY316 witnessing tool.
“You can’t just jump into ‘Jesus died to save you, and His resurrection demonstrates that He is who He said He is’ because the person first needs to know about the one true God, their sin before Him, and who Jesus is and what He has done,” Stetzer said.
And using John 3:16 in the MY 316 program explains that.
“It’s one thing to know the Gospel, but it’s another to make the Gospel known,” Stetzer pointed out. “And making the Gospel known is more complicated in America today than it was in decades past. Fewer people today have a general Christian orientation, or even a shared Judeo-Christian ethic. This means truths like sin, death and hell cannot be assumed. So when we want to communicate the Gospel and deal with categories like God, man, Christ and faith, we must not only know them well, but also know how to effectively make them known to the people God has sent us.”
Stetzer will also speak on “Community Engagement in the Transformational Church” during a Tuesday workshop. This will cover how churches are showing and sharing the love of Christ in their community and will include an overview of Transformational Church and then a look at the specific aspect of community engagement.
In addition to his articles and books, Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, and a columnist for Outreach magazine and Catalyst Monthly. He is also a visiting professor of research and missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, visiting research professor at Southeastern Seminary and has taught at 15 other colleges and seminaries.
Also speaking during the conference, which begins Monday afternoon and concludes Tuesday night, are Nelson Searcy, founding pastor of The Journey Church in New York City; Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas, First; Kevin Hamm, pastor, First Church, Gardendale, Ala.; Ken Ellis, team leader, North American Mission Board; Bob Waitman, pastor, Cross Brand Cowboy Church, Waurika, and Afshin Ziafat, Dallas evangelist.