By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE (LBM) – After two years of praying and preparing for the largest joint evangelistic effort in the state among Louisiana Baptists, the time for Harvest has arrived.
This year-long statewide soul-winning effort will launch with the 2018 state Evangelism Conference, known as ECON, Jan. 22-23, at the First Baptist Church in Pineville.
“God truly has blessed us with the largest number of Louisiana Baptist churches ever to commit to work together on a specific evangelistic initiative,” Keith Manuel, evangelism associate for Louisiana Baptists, said. “Whether it is through a church participating individually or in a group through their association, we are praying for the lost to receive prayer, hear the Gospel, be saved, baptized and become a vibrant, growing disciple of Jesus in these congregations. The enlistment was great. Now the real joy comes as we meet, pray, and share the Good News with our neighbors.”
The groundwork for the initiative to “pray for every home and share Christ with every person” began in the fall of 2015 with a small group of leading pastors. Strategy development and the enlistment of churches were undertaken in 2016. Statewide evangelism training sessions were held in 2017 and different methods were piloted.
Now, there will be a concerted push by nearly 900 Louisiana Baptist churches in concentrated prayer and soul-winning activities. The cooperative effort includes a diversity of approaches such as multi-church crusades, door-to-door outreach, one-on-one evangelism, single-church revivals and other activities which leverage compassion ministries to share about the love of Christ.
The vision has caught on, with church participation far-exceeding the original goal of 700 partnering congregations.
ECON will feature inspiring messages by speakers from Louisiana and beyond. Each message will center around the theme verse, John 4:35.
The first two sessions on Jan. 22 will feature Ron Herrod, founder of RHEMA ministry; Iris Blue, co-founder of Duane and Iris Blue ministries; Sammy Tippit, founder of Sammy Tippit Ministries; and Brent Crowe, vice president of Student Leadership University.
Prior to Crowe’s message, students will gather inside the church family life center for a pizza party and entertainment. Organizers are encouraging churches around the state to host simultaneous similar events – including the showing of the live Internet broadcast of Crowe’s message – to broaden the geographic reach of this Harvest event.
The remaining sessions of ECON will be broadcast over the Internet as well.
Steve Maltempi, youth strategist for Louisiana Baptists, said youth ministers and students learned more about the pizza party outreach event during the Youth Evangelism Celebration, Nov. 19-20, at the Cajundome in Lafayette.
“We are privileged and honored to have leadership that understands the importance of youth ministry enough to highlight it at the State Evangelism Conference,” Maltempi said. “As far as I know, Louisiana Baptists are the first to do this.
“This is important as we continue to focus efforts on reaching the next generation and show churches how to ‘grow young,’” he continued. “Last year, 20 students were saved at Student Night at ECON. It was not just high energy, but it was spirit-filled and God-honoring as students considered their salvation condition. We are praying God will bless ECON again with a harvest of souls — both young and old.”
The final day of ECON will feature Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention; Duane Blue, co-founder of Duane and Iris Blue ministries; Rick Gage, founder of GO TELL Ministries; Karen Abercrombie, an actress on the movie “War Room”; Greg Frizzell, founder and president of Gregory Frizzell Prayer and Renewal Ministries; and Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and a former Southern Baptist Convention president.
Ray Jones will return to the ECON for a second consecutive year to lead music and will be joined by: the Community Bible praise team from San Antonio, Texas; Larnelle Harris, an award-winning Gospel artist; and a combined mass choir from local churches.
The conference also will feature breakout sessions and the senior adult lunch, both on Tuesday, Jan. 23.
Topics for the sessions will be geared toward equipping leaders for the Harvest initiative. Topics include how to pray for every home, coordinating a small town crusade and holding an effective simultaneous revival.
“Harvest has the potential to be the largest evangelistic effort LBC has ever led out in,” said Wayne Jenkins, evangelism and church growth team leader for Louisiana Baptists. “It is still not too late to be involved.”
The senior adult lunch at 11:15 a.m. Jan. 23 will feature messages by Abercrombie and Frizzell and music by Harris as well as Voices of Louisiana College.
Tickets for the lunch are $12 and should be ordered no later than Jan. 17.
For more information about ECON, visit LouisianaBaptists.org/ECON.