It only takes a spark

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There have been bigger evangelism conferences, but I have never been to a better one than this year’s in Rockwall. This was a special experience.

I don’t know the final registration count yet, but the reality is that a few hundred people rattled around in a large auditorium. I sat there tonight (Tuesday) thinking how great it would have been to have 2,000 Texas Baptists in the room and then spreading out around Texas with evangelism on their hearts and minds. But that kind of thinking is not very helpful. We had what we had. There may have been only 100 or 200 there tonight, but God has shown through the ages that he can do unbelievable things through a very few people. And, of course, the people in that auditorium are not the only Texas Baptists who care about evangelism and are actually working to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

I’m glad Jon Randles had the passion and faith to secure a big place for this event. There really was no way of knowing how many people would come to a new evangelism conference, but Jon erred on the upside.

I remember a pastor telling me the story of when he first became pastor of a small African American congregation in the Chicago area. The pews were virtually empty, and he was very discouraged. He went to visit his father, a pastor in another state; and his dad told him to go back and pray in that auditorium until he saw angels filling the pews. The young pastor didn’t think too highly of the suggestion, but a desperate man will do things that seem a little crazy to others. He prayed. Finally, he told me, he began to see angels in every pew and around the walls of that small auditorium. Convinced that God was in that work, this young pastor continued to preach and minister. When I left Illinois eight years ago, that congregation was the largest Southern Baptist congregation in Illinois, with about 2,500 in worship every Sunday, if my memory serves right — it may have been more because the auditorium was huge.

Some people may want to focus on the empty seats at this year’s evangelism conference, but I think it’s much better to pray for those who were in the seats as they go home and pray that in the years to come God will fill those seats, no matter where the conference is held. Not so we can brag of a big meeting but so more people can be encouraged and inspired to spread the good news.

Texas Baptists have always been an evangelistic people. The conferences are only a means to an end. So whether or not you were at this year’s evangelism conference, my prayer is that God will stir all of us to a renewed awareness of the importance of spreading His good news.

Now there I go, for the second time in two days I’ve gone to preaching. Maybe I should ask to have that added to my job description.

16 Responses to “It only takes a spark”

  1. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Good sermon

  2. David Says:

    The Engage XP regional conferences will help fan the flame (though it’s a drive of hundreds miles for many Texas Baptists to participate in them).

    In the end, “. . . the love of Christ puts us into action . . . He gave us the work of bringing others to Him . . . We are Christ’s missionaries . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20, NLV). Just do it.

  3. Bob Cheatheam Says:

    Ferrell, What will the one day events be like? I am thinking of attending the one in Midland in Feb. My concern is what time it will start and end. Who is on the agenda and what will be covered? I haven’t been to an evangelism conference since I returned to Texas eight years ago. I don’t know what to expect. My funds for such a trip is gone, spent it going to Amarillo for convention.
    The only reason I didn’t attend the recent event, was lack of funds. Hotels being high due to paying for the new Cowboys stadium, meals and gas. Us small church pastors just don’t have the money to attend Convention, evangelism conferences, NBC in Atlanta etc. So we gotta pick and choose.
    Sounds like the Evangelism event in Rockwall went well.
    Numbers don’t mean diddly, just to those who like counting. God uses small and large groups. If success is measured in numbers, then us small churches are dust in the wind of west Texas. But then again there are enough of us that we can kick up a nasty dust storm for His Glory.
    Keep up the good work.
    Bob Cheatheam

  4. Ferrell Says:

    Bob,

    I’ll get some information on the XP events (the five around the state). My understanding is that these are not mini versions of the just-completed Engage event. Instead, they are something you can invited non-Christians to attend with you. Let me do some checking.

    You have given all who plan events a good reminder here. Attending events that require travel and an overnight stay must bow to the financial realities that everyone faces. As the guy in the movie Apollo 13 said, we need to “work the problem.” Your comment is helpful.

    And regarding dust, a grain of sand may not amount to much on its own, but put enough grains together and you’ve really got something.

    Thanks for your words, Bob. I’ll get back on the XP meetings.

  5. David Says:

    Example: Roundtrip from Amarillo area to Midland: 500 miles (@ $3.00 per gallon for gasoline) with one overnight stay (maybe two @ $50 for room and taxes), plus meals ($5.00 each) = minimum $150-225 total. Amarillo to Rockwall: 800 miles; to Belton: 1000 miles; to Universal City: 1100 miles roundtrip.

    Why no event scheduled anywhere near the Texas Panhandle? Texoma region folks, too, might have chosen to attend a one-day event in the Panhandle area, rather than the event in Rockwall (400 miles roundtrip from Texoma region; 800 miles roundtrip from Amarillo).

  6. Ken Coffee Says:

    Regional is the way to go these days. What about having the meetings at our Universities? Most of them have really nice auditoriums and rooms for break-out sessions. Except for South Texas, they would be accessible to most of the state. Also, I believe they would love having such activity on campus.

  7. Ferrell Says:

    This is good, helpful feedback. Keep it coming.

  8. Bob Cheatheam Says:

    I agree, having the regional events at the Universities is an excellent idea. It may well accomodate many more people. In the same vein, why not have regional BGCT Conventions? Could do a satelite hook-up from a “main” event and also allow for voting via internet or some other way. I realize this may not be as “personal” as the big event but it will offer more opportunities for those who are the working class in our churches to be involved, instead of it just being pastors and retired folks. Because of the rising cost of traveling etc. most small church pastors are having to make some real tough decisions. Churches may not be willing to raise the convention budget for pastors. So pastors may just stay home.

  9. David Says:

    “. . . My understanding is that these are not mini versions of the just-completed Engage event. Instead, they are something you can invited non-Christians to attend with you . . .”

    Not this one: http://fbcuc.org/templates/System/details.aspid=23116&PID=532918&Style=

  10. David Says:

    http://www.fbcuc.org; click on link at top-middle of home page marked “Engaged XP Evangelism Conference February 13” (blue box); list of topics on next page.

  11. John Says:

    Actually, you’re both correct. During the day, there are training seminars. At night, the large group session is an evangelistic service where people can invite their non-Christian friends.

  12. David Says:

    Got it.

  13. Lee Says:

    Bob,
    Great idea for both. If you’ll go over to my blog, I think you will find an article I wrote a couple of months back about having the convention in multiple locations. It isn’t a matter of expense, or ability, it’s a matter of will.

    It seems that the Baptist Building staff, in scheduling events, doesn’t like to leave the Metroplex very much, even though it is not centrally located. And have we lost the idea of helping each other out? Money is the bottom line, but I can’t imagine a church charging the BGCT for a meeting on its campus.

  14. David Says:

    Many years ago, didn’t the Texas convention split over–in part–sectionalism/geographic factionalism (“. . . too few convention resources in our area of the state . . .”)? Obviously, that’s ungodly and taking the concept too far.

    Still, I’m a Texas Panhandle native (God’s country). Amarillo is nearer to the capitals of 3 other states than it is to Austin (100+ miles closer to Denver!)–and if the BGCT sponsored an event in Topeka (Kansas), the drive from Amarillo would be the same distance as to Austin! Panhandle Texans and Texoma area residents especially may “feel” it (financially, emotionally, etc.) when it appears the convention’s leaders have overlooked that area of the state when planning events.

    Last summer, no “Executive Director Listening Session” was scheduled for north/northwest of DFW until I offered our congregation’s campus as a meeting place. If I remember correctly, I was told that the 15 or so who participated was equal in number to those who attended in the DFW area.

    My 2 cents.

  15. David Says:

    . . . Virtually same story for Texas Baptists living in the El Paso, Browsville, Orange, and Texarkana areas . . .

    A different approach–at least another option or two–might be necessary. Audio/video links between Texas Baptist university campuses . . . seems like a good idea and worth pursuing.

    On getting folks to attend: we attend what we request–maybe. We attend what we’re really passionate about: probably. We attend what we actually can/do work into our schedules: actually! A good question for the BGCT staff to ask Texas Baptists repeatedly: “What do YOU want to do? What will YOU do for the Lord?” Always seems to work better and go farther longer when laypeople have the passion primarily, rather than ministry staff. It’s leadership for us to try; many times, we’re out for a walk by ourselves, though.

    Now 4 cents.

  16. David Says:

    . . . 6th cent (can you tell it’s my day-off?):

    I serve as a minister of education in a BGCT-related church. One way I ensure that church folks attend marriage enrichment, basic Bible, experiencing God-type, and other discipling courses is also to offer evangelism training classes at the same time; people stay away from the evangelism classes in droves and run to the other courses! It’s clear where the next stop is if someone is receiving evangelism training: a stranger’s doorstep–scary to many/most saved folk!

    I believe in Hybel/et al’s “Becoming a Contagious Christian” approach: in the NT, 6 styles of evangelism–not everyone is Billy Graham or has to be (confrontational style folks seem least likely to understand that). Next Evangelism Conference (if not the one this year): invite folks to learn their biblical style, praise them for being present to learn more about it, and train for how/where to use it. People come timid but motivated; depart from the conference less timid, better educated, more motivated to serve well with others doing evangelism at home or abroad . . . ?

    We got 600 people this year; what’s to lose?

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