Darryl Strawberry says he’s thankful he had a praying mother.
He had a life many would call the definition of successful — a major league baseball career and four World Series wins. But the former right fielder uses a different adjective to describe what his life looked like at the time.
He said he was a “broken, heathen, womanizer, alcoholic, drug addict, sinner.”
But then Strawberry’s mom died, and he and his sister found her journal. She had written a prayer there — “God, knock my son off his throne and save him.”
She saw what he really needed, he said — not fame, and not money, but Jesus.
From pit to pulpit
“God did exactly what she was praying for me,” he said. “He got me from a pit and was calling me to a pulpit.”
That’s the message Christians have to share, Strawberry told those listening at the Sharing Hope conference held Feb. 21 at Valleydale Church, Hoover. Sharing Hope — the State Evangelism Conference put on by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions — offered limited seating with social distancing and masks and also streamed live online.
About 220 attended in person while an additional 120 met for a Spanish-language conference at the same time.
Strawberry, who closed the evening, said God’s perfect plan for His people is for them to share the gospel with others.
“May we never forget that we were broken and lost at one point,” he said.
Mac Brunson, Valleydale’s pastor, had kicked the evening off with a visual representation of that message — he baptized Ray White, a man he had spent two years praying for, that White would be open to the gospel.
Then Brunson preached from Acts 15, setting the scene of what it was like for the Apostle Paul and other Christians at that time and how they were winning many people to the Lord without all the technology available today to spread the word.
“They had no cell phone, no libraries. How did they win so many people when they had nothing? And today we have everything, and we are losing people,” Brunson said. “We’ve lost a sense of call to take the gospel. We’ve lost any passion we had to take the gospel to a world that is lost and dying and going to hell.”
He encouraged pastors to be soul winners themselves and change the culture of their church that way.
Need for evangelistic pastors
“An evangelistic pastor will have an influence on his church,” Brunson said. “If we are evangelistic and we teach this to our people, it will strengthen them and give them the courage to go out and share the gospel. If you’re not going to be evangelistic, what are you doing being in the ministry?”
He challenged pastors to encourage each other to share the gospel and lead their church to do the same.
“An evangelistic church will impact the culture it’s in,” Brunson said.
During the conference, Frank Jones provided pre-session music, and Kirkwood Bullis and Valleydale Worship led the conference in singing. Daniel Wilson, director of the SBOM office of evangelism, organized the evening, and Sammy Gilbreath, SBOM evangelism event and training specialist, led an altar call at the end and asked everyone in attendance to pray specifically for one person they know who does not know Jesus.
For more information about the Sharing Hope conference, visit evangelizeal.com/sharinghope.