'Revive, Renew, Restore,' evangelists preach
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Speakers at the annual Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists worship service underscored the theme, "Revive the Church, Renew the Nation, Restore Hope."
Bailey Smith, Jay Strack, Ron Herrod, Bill Stafford and Tim Lee were among those who led the service Wednesday, June 16, at the Orange County Convention Center in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.
Smith, an Atlanta-based evangelist and former SBC president, expressed concern that today's churches are not well-suited for revival.
"We're not going to have revival until pastors and church leaders reconfigure their churches," Smith said, citing three areas that must be addressed before revival can happen: compassionate witnessing, confrontational preaching and congregational singing.
Smith lamented that door-to-door witnessing has diminished, that television's Dr. Phil and Oprah are more effective than the church in confronting people with their issues, and that church worship has become less congregationally involved and more spectator-driven.
The downward trend in baptisms coincided with the decline of revival services, Smith said, adding, "It's not that revivals don't work. It's that the preachers don't work."
Smith urged evangelists to go back and do the things that were successful in the past.
"Unless we do, we'll continue to squander away the great gift that God has given to us," he said.
Herrod, a vocational evangelist from Sevierville, Tenn., and outgoing COSBE president, said churches that have revivals "baptize more folks, by far. Churches who use evangelists far exceed those who don't."
COSBE evangelists offer many ministry formats, Herrod said, from traditional weekly revivals to 24- and 48-hour impact weekends as well as unique approaches including drama teams, illusionists and one close to his heart -- a cancer support ministry.
Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001, Herrod has launched a "Learning from the Darkness" ministry that shares Christ with cancer patients and encourages them in their illnesses.
"Use what God has allowed you to go through to bless others and help them," said Herrod, who was elected June 15 as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Strack, in a message titled "Capture the Future," said leadership is the key to reaching the next generation with the Gospel message in a digital age and teaching them the traditions of faith.
"Knowledge is doubling every 16 months," said Strack, an Orlando-based evangelist and president of Student Leadership University. But, he noted, that "the Lord is not surprised by what is happening in 2010."
Strack, citing 1 Corinthians 16:9, said the Apostle Paul wanted to return to Corinth to see those he served years earlier but he remained in Ephesus to capitalize on the door for effective work which had opened.
As in Paul's day, Strack said he believes "there are tremendous doors of opportunity opening for us to reach the millennium generation."
Strack urged the evangelists to focus on four common attributes of peak performance: mission that motivates; integrity that inspires; adaptability to keep it fresh; and anointing that sustains.
The next generation has all the toys but doesn't know how they work, Strack said, stressing the need for today's leaders to share their wisdom and experience.
As a troubled youth, Strack said he didn't have a father until Jesus came into his life, and the next generation needs a father and a family who will be watchful and will stay true to their mission.
"Your grandchildren and children deserve men of God and women of God to be anointed and up to the challenge," Strack said.
Stafford, an evangelist from Chattanooga, Tenn., used 1 Corinthians 1 to urge fellow evangelists to stop worrying about their failures.
Pointing out that every believer is a sanctified saint, Stafford said, "God doesn't honor me. He honors only the Christ in me."
It is Christ's sufficiency, strength and security that leads Christians, he said, adding, "He entered me into a fellowship with Him. He's the One who leads me, regardless of what people see in me."
Stafford said evangelists shouldn't worry about their weaknesses, looks and inabilities. "God did not save you for what you can offer Him. He saved you for what He can offer you," he said.
Tiring of the competition between churches, much like the Corinthians who argued over Apollos' and Paul's efforts in 1 Corinthians 1:12, Stafford said, "Get over it. The only people who walk in victory are those who are not enamored by anyone but the One who lives in them."
"God will use any individual if that vessel can recognize that none of us can achieve the power of God by anything we produce.... You are never able to live the Christian life," Stafford said. "That's why God sent Christ. If some of you would stop worrying about your reputation and let go, we'd have revival."
Evangelist Tim Lee of Garland, Texas, in the closing message of the COSBE meeting, said America is plagued by a lack of truth, mercy and knowledge of God, like Israel in the Book of Hosea, and the only cure is a revival among God's people.
America cannot afford to lose its wars abroad, "but ladies and gentlemen, there is a war for the soul of our country" waged by secular humanists for decades, said Lee, who lost both legs as a Marine in Vietnam.
"We have another religion in America called humanism. Humanism is not new. It is as old as Cain," Lee said. Americans are enamored, for example, by the wonders of space exploration, "but we're not amazed at the God who made space."
Hosea 2:1-2 lists Israel's sins as a lack of truth, mercy and knowledge of God and swearing, lying, stealing, murder and adultery, Lee said. "There was total immorality with no shame," he said. Like Israel, "We parade our sins on the streets of America and we dare God to do something about it."
But as sinful as America is, "America's not going to hell tonight because of liberal politicians or nighttime comedians or abortionists or pornographers," Lee said. "America is going to hell ... because God's people just don't care."
The answer, Lee said, is not found in Tea Parties or the Republican Party but in Hosea 6:1's plea to return to the Lord.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there could have been a million homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah, and if God could have found 10 righteous people, Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared," Lee said.
Also during the COSBE meeting:
-- Evangelist Billy Graham, in previously video-recorded remarks, exhorted the evangelists to continue shining God's light to the world.
-- Officers were elected for 2011: Braxton Hunter, president; Dean Forrest, vice president; Reggie Lafaye, music director; Sid Peterson, parliamentarian; Russell Johnson, recording secretary; and Cindy Hogue, secretary/treasurer.
-- An offering for the Baptism Assistance Project, online at baptismassistance.org, was collected to connect evangelists with "no and low" baptism churches needing help.
-- Bob Smith and Reggie LaFaye led congregational worship with special music provided by Greater Vision, Lois Jane Wallace and Geoffrey Forrest.
Compiled by Shannon Baker with additional reporting by Barbara Denman and Jerry Pierce. For more information on the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, visit sbcevangelist.org.