The Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference (SEC) emphasized “Urgency” while meeting at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, Jan. 29-30. Those in attendance heard many speakers share how “urgently” important it is to evangelize because “the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
/// Senior Adult session: ‘Evangelism begins with the heart’
Junior Hill was the opening speaker during the Senior Adult Session on Monday morning. Speaking from Psalm 37, the longtime evangelist from Alabama shared how the church should act during bad times.
Hill said we should refrain from fretting, emphasizing that fretting corrupts our spirit, is contagious to the saints and is confusing to sinners or unbelievers. “They don’t have confidence in Christians,” Hill said about
the perspective of those outside the church.
Hill also said Christians need to rely on God’s faithfulness and rejoice in His fellowship, based on Ps. 37:4. “If you ever get your desires before your delight, there will never be any delight when you get your desires,” he said. “The reason why people are not satisfied is they got something they desired and never will get the delightfulness of God. That’s why we don’t tell people about Jesus. We put our desires before our delight.”
Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, followed Hill, sharing a message from Rom. 9 and 10, which he called “a powerful passage.” “Evangelism does not begin with our lips; it begins in our hearts,” he said. “When God wants to move in us and use us powerfully to win others to faith in Jesus Christ, it begins to stir in us. He brings a love and a compassion for lost people into our hearts, a burden that we cannot get free of, and drives us to our knees and moves us out into the community to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Jordan concluded with an appeal to Oklahoma Baptists. He said, “I’m asking you to open your hearts to let God place a burden in you for those who are facing an eternal hell. I’m going to ask you to let that burden drive you to your knees, and there, take the names of people who are lost and cry out, ‘God, bring salvation to them.’
Christian comedian Ken Davis concluded the Senior Adult Session with a message of real joy, which can be found with God who is the Author of joy. He said the world is desperate for real joy, and Satan “tries to take joy from Sunday because he knows it’s the Lord’s Day.”
Davis, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., said he speaks on comedy tours because he can “get into doors pastors cannot get into.” He said he shares an evangelistic message to people who may never hear it otherwise.
Davis also told a story about witnessing to his Muslim neighbor, offering him a Bible. The Muslim neighbor became interested in doing a Bible study and chose to study The Book of Romans because he liked the part, Davis said, that talked about God’s wrath. “So that’s what we did, (a study on) Romans, because I knew he didn’t read the second half,” Davis said, receiving a response of laughter.
/// Monday afternoon session: ‘Urgent’ need to share the Gospel
Hill opened the afternoon session, preaching on The Sower and the Seed from Luke 8. He emphasized, “We are living in a ‘seedless generation,’” and shared how the Devil takes the seed, which symbolizes the Gospel, causing Christians not to witness.
Hill said the Devil interferes with seed sowing or witnessing by intimidation, observation, evaluation and germination. “(God) has not called you to the observation business,” Hill said. “He’s called you to the proclamation business.”
Art Hallett, National Director of Prison Ministries at Evangelism Explosion International, also spoke during the Monday afternoon session, preaching on the different churches mentioned in Rev. 2 and 3 and what these churches symbolize. He also gave characteristics of a “Faithful Church,” which include receiving respect from outside the church, given opportunities that cannot be revoked, appearing weak by the world standards but strong by God’s standards and practicing God’s Word.
Evangelist David Burton concluded Monday’s afternoon session, emphasizing the SEC theme of Urgency. Burton walked throughout the sanctuary at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, in a fashion of leading a “pep rally” among SEC attendees.
“Inside the word ‘evangelism,’” Burton said, “is the word ‘angel.’ We are to be like angels, proclaiming the Good News. Teach your people the urgency of telling people about Jesus. We’ve got to be urgent ourselves.”
/// Monday evening session: ‘The harvest is right here,’ right now
Ed Newton, lead pastor of San Antonio, Texas, Community Bible, was the keynote speaker for the Monday evening session. A favorite speaker during the youth summer weeks at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, Newton’s message was titled, “The Harvest Is Here,” as he spoke from John 4 about the Woman at the Well.
Newton emphasized the opening word “Meanwhile,” in John 4:31. He said while the woman went back into town to tell people about Jesus, His disciples just came from that same town where they bought food and did NOT tell people about Jesus. “Do I see people as an interruption or an invitation?” Newton asked, emphasizing a mindset of being “mission-minded” instead of “meal-minded.”
The Monday evening session ended with two men making professions of faith in Christ. One man came with his wife who was invited by someone she recently met at a Celebrate Recovery meeting. The other man was recovering from an automobile accident and came to SEC by invitation of a friend.
/// Tuesday afternoon session: Don’t just talk about evangelism, do it
The Tuesday afternoon session featured Dave Edwards, president of Creative Force Live and Oklahoma City native, who preached on Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus. Emphasizing the “Urgency” theme of SEC, Edward said the church cannot afford to be patient anymore, but it is important to make “smart choices of urgency.”
“Jesus remained relevant to His agenda,” Edwards said. “He was there ‘to seek and save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).” Edwards pointed out how “the most despicable people were attracted to Jesus” and “it wasn’t that Jesus had a message. He was the Message.”
“We’ve got to keep our sense of urgency about connecting with the ‘Zacchaeuses’ around our life,” Edwards said.
John Sorenson, president of Evangelism Explosion International, spoke on the greatest challenge to world evangelization. He said it is finding leaders who don’t just talk the evangelism but do it.
Other problems Sorenson shared on why Christians don’t share the Gospel is they don’t believe it (Matt. 28:17), they don’t want to share it (Luke 10:30-32), they don’t like lost people (Luke 15:28-30) and they don’t know how to share (2 Tim. 2:2).
“We are for you,” Sorenson said about Evangelism Explosion International. “We want to assist you. We want to help you be successful in not only doing this yourself but training everyone in your congregation to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.”
Don Wilton, pastor of Spartanburg, S.C., First, was going to speak on Heb. 6, as the final speaker of the Tuesday afternoon session, but he changed his sermon and spoke on Gen. 12, sharing his personal testimony.
“What happens when one man gives his heart to Jesus?” Wilton asked SEC attendees, and then he proceeded to share what God did in his life as a young man growing up in South Africa. He shared about speaking in a church in New Orleans while he was in seminary, and when he gave the invitation, nobody came, until his own son came forward to make a profession of faith in Christ.
At the end of Wilton’s message, he asked everyone in the session to come forward and pray for God to move among the churches.
/// Tuesday evening session: Having a burdened heart for the lost
The Tuesday evening session featured Jimmy Stewart, director of evangelism and church development for Alaska Baptist Convention, sharing his testimony. Stewart survived a gas explosion in a vacation cabin in 2016 with 77 percent of his body experiencing third-degree burns. He said the many prayers from churches across the country were a major factor that he survived the explosion.
“Always give glory to God,” Steward said at the conclusion of his testimony.
Keynote speaker Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston, Texas, First, concluded the SEC, speaking on “Our Urgency Determines Our Legacy.” The text for his sermon was Acts 20, sharing Paul’s final words to the Ephesians.
Matte gave three principles of urgency of sharing the Gospel, which are: have a burdened heart, clarity of the Gospel and a surrendered life in sharing the Gospel. He also gave three principles of having a legacy of sharing the Gospel, which are: got to be on guard, drink deeply of Jesus and realize it is hard work.
Matte also explained how the deepest relationship are the ones God sends “We get the blessing of doing life together in ministry. Isn’t that great? Such a blessing” he said. “C.S. Lewis put it like this, ‘If you want nothing but approval, if you want nothing but friends, you will never have friends because friendship is always about something besides friendship.’ Friendship is when you realize that you are going together for the Gospel with the urgency for a legacy. It’s not who we befriend; it’s about we have a Lord and Savior (to whom) we are going.”
The 2019 Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference is set for Jan. 28-29.