Monday, December 19, 2005

Attending the Guilt-O-Rama this Winter?

In conversations with several of my friends I have discovered a growing lack of enthusiasm among pastors for the annual pilgrimage to Baptist State Evangelism Conferences. It seems that an increasing number of pastors including almost all of us “tulip-types” have a growing aversion to what is being promoted as “real evangelism” within the SBC.

Let me tell you about the best evangelism conference I ever attended and the worst.

The best I ever attended was in Kansas City, Missouri in 1983. Dr. Frederick Sampson of Detroit, Michigan and Dr. Peter Lord of Titusville, Florida were the main speakers. Dr. Sampson’s eloquence and Dr. Lord’s accent were overshadowed only by the content of their uplifting and magnificent sermons on the Holiness of God. I left the conference pumped and excited about sharing to a lost and dying world the God I had heard described for the last two days.

The worst I ever attended was in a western state that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. A local pastor of some renown took all of the less than 200 attendees on a long trip to “Guiltsville.” He ‘rassled our spirits down to about shoe top level and then he beat them black and blue, all for the sin of not visiting and witnessing enough on our collective church fields. After almost inducing a catatonic state on all within the sound of his discouraging words he capped off the sermon by laying all the blame for the numeric gains in hell during the previous year, at least from our state, squarely in our lazy and obviously non-evangelistic laps. I vowed silently after that experience to spend more time in the halls and in conversation with friends during those kinds of future meetings.

And here’s the bottom line with all this. We all know that the majority of churches in the SBC are plateaued and not growing. We’re all concerned about this. But the answer for the problem just may not be to have every SBC Church simply duplicate what Dr. Billy Blowhard has done in Houston or Tampa. Hasn’t the good Dr. and his type been blowing hard at these conferences for at least 20 years now?

INSIGHT ALERT! The problem hasn’t gone away, has it?

Could it be that in the annual evangelism conferences we need to hear more about God and less about men and their evangelistic programs? I could care less if the featured speaker’s church is growing numerically or not. The question is - Does he have a word from God for the hour and can he direct our attention toward Him?

But wait, we’ll never know for sure because the only way to get on the program is to have a lot of baptisms which “proves” that you’re a great evangelistic preacher. Don’t expect for this to change anytime soon for the Baptist state leaders are convinced they’re right about this.


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