Oklahoma Baptists will experience a new name this year to a traditional event that maintains its consistent purpose. What has been known for many years as the State Evangelism Conference will now be called the Advance Conference, which will convene Jan. 27-28 at Del City, First Southern.
Alan Quigley, associate executive director of Oklahoma Baptists’ church resources group, explained the purpose behind the Advance Conference and gave information to what should be an exciting and refreshing agenda.
“As Oklahoma Baptists, it is our desire to advance the Gospel,” Quigley said. “In relationship to that, we are making this lead event, which has been traditionally known as the State Evangelism Conference, an opportunity for training and equipping pastors and church lay leaders to advance the Gospel. This is why it has been renamed to the Advance Conference, so that we can address advancing the Gospel throughout our state.
“’Advance’ is a New Testament word,” Quigley continued. “Paul said, ‘These things happened so that the Gospel might be advanced’ (Phil. 1:12). We are adopting New Testament language, and we wanted to make sure that people understood that advancing the Gospel is even more than just personal evangelism. It includes meeting the needs of broken people, regardless of what their brokenness might be, with love and compassion, but also with the message of the Gospel.”
‘Immerse’ is the theme
The Advance Conference will be addressing the importance of baptism, as the conference’s theme is “Immerse.” Quigley said conference speakers will be elaborating on why baptism is important and why Oklahoma Baptists should have baptism as an emphasis.
“We want to make sure that we are clear about what the Great Commission says about baptism,” Quigley said. “It says ‘baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,’ which is more than just that moment in which they step in and out of the baptistery waters. Immersing them begins with introducing them to the Gospel which leads to making a commitment of a life to Christ. Believer’s baptism is a significant part because it’s publicly displaying your first time to give pubic declaration that your life has changed.”
What baptism represents, though, does not end with this observance, Quigley said. The Advance Conference will address the full purpose of the commitment behind what baptism publicly displays.
A flexible schedule
The Advance Conference will feature a unique schedule. Both plenary sessions and breakout sessions will meet simultaneously throughout the event. The purpose behind this new schedule, Quigley said, is to provide flexible opportunities for the many approaches to learning.
“We all have different learning styles and preferences,” Quigley said. “For some, the ‘large room’ is a place that they prefer to find their inspiration. For others, they like the more intimate small group setting where they have interaction and discussion about the subject. We are going to provide the best of those opportunities throughout the entire conference.”
The new schedule also will be favorable for those who cannot attend both meeting days. Usually, a conference will have set times when breakouts occur or when main sessions are scheduled that do not work for those whose time is limited. Quigley said those who can only come one day will have the opportunity to experience both plenary and breakout sessions.
National speakers and local leaders
The Advance Conference will have nationally-recognized speakers such as Greg Stier, Ed Stetzer, Adam Greenway and Shane Pruitt. Oklahoma favorites such as Tom Elliff, Nick Garland and Heath Thomas also will speak at the Advance Conference. The conference also will have both national and Oklahoma pastors speaking, including Noe Garcia, Sammy Lopez, Doug Melton and Stephen Rummage.
“We will have speakers who have written and helped shape our thinking about evangelism and culture,” Quigley said. “We wanted to have a good mix of national speakers and Oklahoma leaders.”
Quigley said seven pastors will give testimonies in the plenary sessions of what baptism means to their congregations. Also, Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer of Oklahoma Baptists, will give an interpretation of the conference’s theme “Immerse.”
Leading times of worship through music will be Matt Roberson who is best known for leading worship at Men’s Rewired and during the summer youth weeks at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center.
Earnest to share testimony of baptism
Mona Earnest was born and raised in the Middle East, lived in England and went to school in Pakistan. She moved to the United States and made a profession of faith in Christ as an adult.
Many Oklahoma Baptist women have heard Earnest’s story, but she will be sharing during a plenary session at the Advance Conference what her observance of believers’ baptism meant in her life.
“Mona’s story is unique,” said Amy Cordova, Oklahoma Baptists’ women’s missions and ministry partner. “She is from a Muslim background, and when she was baptized, she had to count the cost. For many in our churches, baptism is something to be celebrated, but for her, it meant losing her family.”
Earnest and her husband are church planters who are sponsored by Oklahoma Baptists.
The Advance Conference is made possible by the generous gifts of Oklahoma Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program. For more information on the Advance Conference, visit oklahomabaptists.org/advance or call 405/942-3800.