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SEC features diverse speakers

Three out-of-state pastors with diverse backgrounds will speak at the State Evangelism Conference Jan. 24-25 at Moore, First.

Nelson Searcy, Journey Church of the City in New York City; Robert Jeffress, Dallas, First, and Kevin Hamm, First Church, Gardendale, Ala., will be among eight speakers during the two-day meeting.

Searcy is founder and pastor of a casual, contemporary church—The Journey Church of the City, which meets in four locations across the New York City metropolitan area: on the Upper West side, Village, Queens and Brooklyn. The church also has campuses in San Francisco and Boca Raton, Fla.

The church, which started just eight years ago, has more than 1,200 people attending one of the four Metro services each Sunday, and more than 1,400 are plugged into a Journey Growth Group each semester. Now meeting in schools, the church, over the years, has met in comedy clubs, church basements, off-Broadway theaters and hotel ballrooms. The church has been featured in Time Magazine, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

Searcy served with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and was pastor of churches in North Carolina from 1990-99. He serves as a consultant to churches across the country and is the author of articles and training resources on leadership, evangelism, church planting and church growth, as well as Christian books on church leadership.

Searcy was the founding director of the Purpose Driven Community at Saddleback Church in California, with more than 5,000 member churches, and a key architect for Rick Warren’s PurposeDriven.com.

One of his most popular books is Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups, in which he explains how the small group concept serves The Journey’s community.

“Our small group system is a ministry first,” said Searcy. “Beyond that, it is a simple, reproducible process that can be used year in and year out to see God-honoring results.”

Tim Gentry, BGCO evangelism group leader, said Searcy will preach on “Igniting Evangelism in Your Church.”
“Searcy builds on his disicple-making process from Fusion, one of his previous books,” Gentry said. “He is gifted in understanding and explaining systems. Most people would be surprised by how many systems they have built into their lives. Searcy helps pastors see the key systems that undergird a healthy church body.”
Searcy will also lead a Tuesday morning workshop on “Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church.”

“In Ignite, he focuses on evangelism and how to develop special evangelistic events to open doors for ongoing ministry and outreach into the community,” Gentry said.

Near the other end of the spectrum is the staid First Church of Dallas, a congregation which purchased its first building in downtown Dallas in 1872. Six city blocks, seven major buildings and many fruitful years later, that nationally recognized church, with 10,500 members, has Jeffress as its pastor.

Jeffress grew up at Dallas, First. He said his mother, who had earlier refused to go to the church, attended a Billy Graham Crusade, and later saw Graham join Dallas, First.

“She said if it was good enough for Billy Graham, it was good enough for her,” said Jeffress, who was born shortly after his mother joined the church.

Jeffress said he made a commitment to Christ in the office of legendary Dallas, First pastor W. A. Criswell when he was 7.

He was baptized, ordained, married and preached his first sermon at Dallas, First. Then he served as youth minister there for seven years.

After graduating from Baylor University, Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Seminary, Jeffress served as pastor in Eastland, Texas, then 15 years at Wichita Falls, First before becoming pastor of Dallas, First in 2007. The church is presently involved in a $115 million building project, which will include a new 3,000-seat worship center. The historic sanctuary will remain and be used for special occasions.

Jeffress is host of the weekly television and radio program, Pathway to Victory, aired on 1,200 TV stations and dozens of radio stations around the world; and has been featured guest on CNN, “Fox and Friends,” “The O’Reily Factor” and the “CBS Morning Show.” He is the author of 17 books, including The Solomon Secrets, honored as a 2002 Medallion Finalist.

Gentry noted that Dallas, First has a long history of community service with intentional evangelism in downtown Dallas.

“Jeffress will challenge conference participants with the biblical basis of and the transferable principles from First Church’s downtown ministries,” Gentry said. “Some of the church’s ministries include job search, workshops, job placement services, Celebrate Recovery and professional counseling.

Perhaps somewhere in the middle is Hamm, who has been at Gardendale, First since April 2006. He previously served nine years as pastor of Valley View Church in Louisville, Ky., which grew from 300 to 2,700 weekly worshippers. Gardendale averages 3,500 in worship and is consistently among state leaders in baptisms.
Hamm said he believes God blesses a church that will worship Him in spirit and truth.

“Celebrative, passionate worship combined with biblical, anointed preaching is a match made in Heaven,” he said.

In Hamm’s breakout session, he will deal with creative ways to touch your community and get them to your church, and will present a thorough follow-up process that can easily be implemented in any size church.

“It doesn’t matter how many acts of kindness we do in our community,” Hamm said. “If the people show up at the church and don’t have a God experience, we have missed our opportunity, and they will not return.”

Hamm said, consequently, he will deal with “making sure we have God experiences in our worship to make sure the people in our community we have touched experience God when they show up.”

Also speaking will be Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research; Christian author Lee Strobel; Ken Ellis, team leader at the North American Mission Board; Bob Waitman, pastor of Cross Brand Cowboy Church, Waurika, and Afshin Ziafat, Dallas evangelist.

Dana Williamson

Author: Dana Williamson

Dana Williamson is a Special Correspondent for the Baptist Messenger

View more articles by Dana Williamson.

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