Alabama Baptists are taking their annual State Evangelism Conference on the road this year, hosting four regional conferences to reach more than with one centralized event. The first regional Sharing Hope conference was held in Mobile.
Dozens of Baptists from across south Alabama convened Jan. 30-31 at Dauphin Way Baptist Church for worship and encouragement to share the gospel.
“Several people expressed appreciation that this conference allowed them to attend without traveling a long distance,” said Daniel Wilson, director of the office of evangelism at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “So I think a big win was that we communicated our desire to make the Sharing Hope Conference more accessible to all Alabama Baptists across the state.”
Terry Long, SBOM evangelism associate, said total surrender to Christ catalyzes evangelistic power.
“This is the power we’re missing in the church today,” he declared. “I don’t want to talk about commitment” because a believer can be committed to Christ and retain “a little bit of control.” With surrender, a believer is “totally at His disposal.”
Preaching from Galatians 6:14–17, Long said surrender was the power behind Paul’s gospel message as well as the “power behind the saving ministry of Jesus.” Without Christ’s surrender to His Heavenly Father on the cross, there would be no salvation.
Surrender also is the Church’s only hope for power today, he said.
“We’re not powerful with evangelism because we are not surrendered,” Long asserted. Until “you are willing to lay your life down” God “cannot fill you with His Holy Spirit. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that we’re missing.”
Lawrence Phipps, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulf Shores, presented The Simple Gospel, a method he developed for sharing Christ using a small plastic card. Each is printed with a four-point gospel presentation drawn entirely from John 3:16, along with a prayer of salvation seekers can use to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
“People want to come up with all kinds of theologies that take the pressure off us” in evangelism, Phipps said. “But I’m going to tell you something: it’s still on us — the pressure to share. The pressure to be saved, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit. But if I’m not sharing, that’s on me.”
God “accepts no excuse for disobeying Him” in the realm of evangelism, Phipps added, noting some Christians use COVID-19 as an excuse for not evangelizing. Phipps closed by inviting attendees to come to the platform and get a Simple Gospel card to share with a lost person. Dozens accepted the invitation.
“If anything, we ought to be turning up evangelism” during the pandemic, Phipps said, “not turning it down.”
Blake Newsom, senior pastor of Dauphin Way, said evangelism flows naturally from believers’ identity as the people of God.
“When we’re talking about evangelism, brothers and sisters, it’s not a hard conversation. Just do it because it’s who we are,” said Newsom, who announced his departure from Dauphin Way to become director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Caskey Center for Church Excellence beginning March 1. “We are people who have embraced the gospel.”
Preaching from 1 Peter 2:9–12, Newsom said believers should be transformed by the gospel, set apart and granted access to God. That identity, and not the surrounding culture, should determine their mission.
“If we would just wake up every day with the realization and reminder of who we are, we would not struggle to share the gospel with other people,” he asserted.
Noting Southern Baptists’ “incredible history,” Newsom warned against dwelling on the past instead of continuing to live as God’s redeemed witnesses.
“Who are we as Southern Baptists? People of the Book and people who proclaim the gospel — or at least that’s who we have been. The question is, will we be those people moving forward?”
Chuck Kelley, president emeritus and distinguished professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the Southern Baptist Convention is facing the worst evangelistic crisis in its history, with the most negative statistical changes of any decade in the 10 years prior to COVID-19.
The solution, Kelley said, is not immediately to employ an evangelistic strategy. First, Southern Baptists must recognize the weight of their personal sin as the prophet Isaiah did in Isaiah 6, comparing himself to a holy God and coming up short.
“The gospel has reached further now than it ever has before in the history of humanity because God always accomplishes His agenda,” Kelley asserted.
“But on the way to accomplishing His agenda, God has left people and churches behind.”
There is a future and a hope for the SBC if Southern Baptists will, like Isaiah, go to the temple and see God high and lifted up and receive fresh cleansing fire, Kelley said. “If we will go to that vision of Isaiah and see God as He is, we will be made fit for Him to use.”
J.J. Washington, evangelism catalyst with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, spoke from Acts 8:26–40 about the example of Philip the evangelist. To share Jesus, believers must be available, sensitive, ready and committed, Washington said.
Philip obeyed the angel of the Lord quickly and without receiving an explanation, Washington noted. Jesus already told believers to “go” in the Great Commission, so they don’t have to wait on an angel, he added.
Believers must learn to move at a more intentional pace in order to see the people God wants them to engage, Washington urged.
“The narrative shows us that God has already set up divine appointments for us with people who are open to the gospel.”
Have a method for sharing Christ committed to memory if possible, he encouraged, but don’t rely more on the method than on the Holy Spirit.
“Sometimes when we’re listening and not talking, when we’re asking good questions, what I’ve found is that God will open a door,” Washington said.