The 2023 Revive Senior Adult Evangelism Conference, held May 8 at First Baptist Church Birmingham, was uplifting and inspiring as always but had a special surprise at the end.
Kevin Hamm, pastor of First Baptist Church Gardendale, and JJ Washington, director of personal evangelism with North American Mission Board, each brought a message. Gainesville, Georgia-based Karen Peck and New River performed the special music.
Hamm shared insights about Revelation 2 and how the Church has lost its first love. Though he didn’t make light of the topic, he included some funny anecdotes.
As an example of a “first love,” Hamm described his first date with his wife, Kim, when they went to the zoo in the middle of summer, excited about being together no matter the heat.
“It was 187 degrees that day,” Hamm joked. “It set a record high. It was incredible.”
He jokingly said, “We were going from exhibit to exhibit. There were no animals out there. They’d all died from heat exhaustion.”
The majority of the sermon was serious, however.
“The Church has lost her passion,” Hamm said. “The Church has lost her energy, her enthusiasm. We’ve kind of gotten to the point that as long as we can pay the bills, then we’re okay.”
In Revelation 2, Jesus brags about how hard the church in Ephesus works and how it has sound theology.
“But just because we work hard doesn’t mean we have the presence of God and the power of God and the anointing of God and the favor of God on our lives and on our churches. You cannot tell if you’ve left your first love by working right,” he said.
“We can be doctrinally correct and theologically sound and still be as dead as a doorknob.”
Hamm revealed how to rediscover and keep that passion.
“Go back and remember the day He saved your soul. That gives your passion back, gives you your praise. Remember the day you got saved. Go back and remember.”
The Good Shepherd
JJ Washington spoke about Psalm 23.
“The 23rd Psalm reveals how the Lord shepherds His flock every day of their lives. Sheep that are in the care of the Good Shepherd boast of the benefits of a relationship with Him,” Washington said.
Washington emphasized how much the Good Shepherd takes care of us. He personalizes His care. He provides what is needed — water, food, protection and rest. There is two-way communication. He leads.
The main point he discussed concerned the last verse of the Psalm as he emphasized “ALL the days of my life.”
“He’s the Good Shepherd — you can see it in the text. He provides. He leads. He restores. Empowers. Blesses. Sustains,” Washington said.
“There’s a longing of the soul for a sense of the continual presence of God and the realization of constant communion with Him,” he said.
“I don’t understand why people would not want a relationship with such an awesome and wonderful God. I don’t understand why we don’t want to tell people about Him. Why would we not want to brag on Him? Why would we not want to share Him?”
At the end of the meeting, Sammy Gilbreath, former director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, was recognized for 27 years of ministry. In early 2020, he began serving SBOM as event evangelism specialist until fully retiring on April 30 of this year.
Calling Gilreath a “leader par excellence,” Rick Lance, executive director of SBOM, said that they wanted to recognize the partnership he had over the years with state missionaries, pastors and church leaders, associations and churches training people for evangelism as well as Gilbreath’s friendship with Lance and many others.
“God has used Sammy to reach a lot of people. Truthfully, he’s the greatest soul-winner I’ve ever known. He lives evangelism; he doesn’t just talk about it,” said Daniel Wilson, current director of evangelism for SBOM.
More than a decade ago, Gilbreath was told he has an extremely rare heart condition and that very few survive and no one has survived with his particular issues.
Several years after his doctors told him he had six months to live, Gilbreath said to a reporter, “So, it’s no question really and medically that I’m going to die. It’s just when. [The doctors] say that’s going to come very quickly.
“But that’s been several years now and I’m still going. I’m still preaching every day, still traveling. I can’t lose,” he said.
“If I wake up tomorrow, I get to host this conference. If I don’t wake up tomorrow, I’ve gone home. So, I win either way — I can’t lose.”
During those bonus years, Gilbreath touched even more lives.
“[Gilbreath’s] optimism and enthusiasm for life is incredible. He’s definitely one of a kind, and my life is richer because of his influence and friendship. Personally, Sammy’s always believed in me, and he’s stood behind me one hundred and ten percent in my role as his successor,” Wilson said.
“This was a momentous day for all of us,” Lance said. “We can celebrate how the Lord has used Sammy. His life has been lengthened even when we feared it may be shortened. He is one who ‘lives like he is dying.’ He lives for Christ.”
Hear more about Gilbreath’s amazing story in Season 1 of Stories with Grace Thornton. Click here to listen or find Stories with Grace Thornton wherever you listen to podcasts.
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