[img_assist|nid=5969|title=With uplifted arms, worshippers at the 2010 Evangelism Conference sing praises to God during opening session|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]
By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
BATON ROUGE – Soaring music, impassioned preaching, and warm fellowship all were part of the Evangelism Conference 2010, orchestrated Jan. 25-26 at Istrouma Baptist Church by the Evangelism and Church Growth division of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
The pre-event luncheon to honor the top-baptizing churches of 2009 featured Mike Walker, in his 25th year of his first pastorate, at East Bayou Baptist Church in Lafayette, as guest speaker.
The church’s goal had been to baptize 1,000 people between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 30, 2009, Walker said. That didn’t happen, but many more were baptized than would have been if the church didn’t have a plan to reach out to them, he said.
Before he shared his plan, Walker preached the Apostle Paul’s prayer in Romans 9:1-3. Paul knew the glory of Jesus, but he was willing to give up heaven if only by doing so the people he loved would see heaven, Paul prayed. Walker challenged his listeners to love that much, to care that much, to pray that much.
He asked each member of East Bayou Baptist to pray for three specific people to make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ during the church year. That was his method to increase baptisms, Walker explained.
Theme of the 2010 Louisiana Evangelism Conference was “Sharing the Peace of Jesus with Louisiana,” but repeatedly participants heard of the difference made when one person reaches out to one other person.
[img_assist|nid=5961|title=Kyle Thomas sings of First Baptist Church Orlando sings during worship services.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Kyle Thomas, whose rap sheet was five pages long, now is on staff at First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., where he leads the Celebrate Recovery ministry and regularly sings during worship services. That happened because one person reached out to him.
[img_assist|nid=5956|title=Michael Franzese speaks during a session of the LBC Evangelism Conference|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Michael Franzese was a “made” [blood covenant] member of the mob in New York City, until his heart melted and he turned his life over to Christ, because one person reached out to him.
The Evangelism Conference 2010 consisted of five sessions and an afternoon of breakout seminars designed specifically for senior adults.
[img_assist|nid=5921|title=Thomas Hammond opened the Monday afternoon of the LBC Evangelism Conference|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Thomas Hammond, interim group coordinator of the evangelization group at the North American Mission Board opened the Monday afternoon session on a somber note.
“We are in a rut,” he preached from Mark 2. “We have baptized 400,000 or below for 20-plus years. Most of our churches will not baptize a teenager this year. Even fewer will baptize people between the ages of 18 and 29. …
“We’ve planned and funded ineffectiveness,” Hammond continued, after getting his listeners to say they planned each year’s budget and calendar on the basis of the previous year’s, despite the fact that they hadn’t been effective then either. “Our communities have changed drastically. Too many of our churches haven’t.”
While it’s possible for people to forgive each other, only Jesus cleanses, Hammond preached. “Jesus wants everyone to know He has the power to forgive sins. … He’s present when He’s worshipped. We’ve allowed something amazing to become ordinary, boring, predictable. … We need Jesus in the house. Jesus inhabits the praise of His people.”
Hammond reminded his listeners of the New Testament story of the four men who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof to see Jesus. They were carrying, caring, cooperative and creative friends.
“Let’s be faithful to do whatever it takes to get paralytics to Jesus,” Hammond concluded.
[img_assist|nid=5925|title=David Uth, pastor of FBC Orlando and former pastor of FBC West Monroe, speaks during a session of the LBC Evangelism Conference |desc=|link=none|align=left|width=67|height=100]David Uth, former pastor of First Baptist Church of West Monroe – First West – and now pastor of First Baptist Orlando, Fla., was the second of three power-packed preachers during the Monday night session, and mention must be made of Marvin Matthews, whose voice, countenance and sign language led Evangelism Conference participants in the inspired praise of Almighty God.
“One life poured out for Jesus can change the world,” Uth preached before introducing Kyle Thomas.
Wayne Chaney Jr., pastor of Antioch Church of Long Beach, preached from Exodus 25:8-9 on the tabernacle God designed. The altar represents sacrifice; the laver – a type of bowl – the cleansing work of Jesus; lampstand, the light of the Holy Spirit; table of shewbread, the Word of God; incense represents prayer, praise and worship; and the Ark of the Covenant: the presence of God.
His – and all the speakers’ messages – are available online at www.lbc.org/evangelismconference. Listen to Chaney with pad and pencil in hand. He packs a lot into each point and subpoint.
The Monday evening session opened with worship by Marvin Matthews and the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church choir from both the New Orleans and Baton Rouge campuses.
[img_assist|nid=5936|title=Keith Manuel looks at several books authored by Jim Garlow |desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Keith Manuel, LBC Evangelism Associate, explained Sharing the Peace of Jesus with Louisiana. SPJ is about praying over every home in the state and giving a gospel witness to every person in the state, inviting them to a Southern Baptist church for Easter Sunday.
SPJ also is about mobilizing every member in every church affiliated with the LBC to give a gospel witness, Manuel added.
[img_assist|nid=6034|title=Sharing the Peace of Jesus doorhangers were distributed in a targeted area of New Orleans for a church plant|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Jim Louviere, pastor of The Rock church start in Metairie, talked about how he used 800 of the Sharing the Peace of Jesus doorhangers last March to reach out in the target area for the church plant.
“I got 80 phone calls,” Louviere said. “I think it struck a chord that we said [on the doorhanger] we wanted to pray for them. …
“Sharing the Peace of Jesus with Louisiana helped us grow in the right direction,” Louviere continued.
Sharing the Peace of Jesus with Louisiana is calendared to start statewide television advertising March 20, which is two weeks before Easter. At the same time, members of LBC-affiliated churches will be prayerwalking – praying onsite with insight – as they hang “This home has been surrounded by prayer” doorhangers in their neighborhoods.
Jim Garlow, a Wesleyan pastor also from California, was the main speaker for the Monday evening session of the Evangelism Conference. An historian by inclination and by training, he presented a broad picture of Christianity since 100 AD, that contrasted sharply with his opening words about his decision Sept. 22, 2005, to quit his pastorate and the ministry.
“I’m here for that one person who’s ready to quit,” Garlow preached. “Don’t quit. I’m enjoying the best days of my ministry.”
By 100 AD, all the eyewitnesses to Jesus had died, Garlow said. The church faced external persecution and internal strife. And since then? Garlow cruised through 2,000 years of Christian history.
His message Tuesday morning was even more fascinating. He took a closer look at the last 400 years.
From 1607 to 1833, Christianity was the established culture of America. From 1833 to 1918, Christianity provided the predominant influence in American culture. It remained a subdominant culture between 1918 and 1968, which has been labeled the most turbulent year in American history.
Between 1968 and 1988, Christianity was one of many subcultures. Between 1988 and 1998 it became a counter-culture. The next 10 years Christianity could be called an apathetical culture, and in 2008, for the first time in American history, Christians were actively persecuted.
“Bottom line,” Garlow preached, “you and I are pasturing in a different environment, but we were made for this. … We see our role as the church as transformational. We’re set for another Great Awakening. What’s it going to take?”
Pastors must develop thicker skins, Garlow preached. A study of colleges founded upon Christian principles that had become secular showed “the desire for respectability drives compromise,” he said.
“I fully expected pastors to be thrown into jail for preaching the gospel,” Garlow quoted Franklin Graham as saying recently. He concurred, based on his experiences leading the one-man/one-woman marriage charge in California.
“Walking with Christ is a superior lifestyle,” Garlow preached. “We don’t emphasize this enough. Teach the people in your church to use social science data to promote traditional marriage.”
This brief report cannot begin to capture the essence of the exceptional work done by the Evangelism Conference speakers, and those who gave a testimony. Kathy Jenkins, for example, explained to Manuel how easy it is to use the EvangeCube to lead someone to make a profession of faith.
“God will never call you to something you can do by yourself,” Chaney preached in the third session.
“Sooner or later we’re all going to be in a foreign land” of change for whatever reason – health, death, economics – “something you’ve never experienced before,” Uth preached in the third session. “Life really is fair. Sooner or later it breaks everyone’s heart.”
The number one problem in churches is bitterness because of a perceived rejection by God, Uth continued. “Remember what God has done for you. Remember your Jerusalem and keep singing.”
These sermon snippets don’t do justice to the power of the preaching that took place during the Evangelism Conference. Listen to them in their entirety on www.lbc.org/evangelismconference or purchase high-quality CDs or DVDs from MasterSound Media Ministries. Contact them for more information: 866.430.8273 email@example.com.
“The spirit of fellowship and the evangelistic emphasis every year brings us [Louisiana Baptists] back to what it’s all about,” said Neil Everett during a between-sessions conversation. He’s pastor of First Baptist Church in Calhoun for the last 14 years, and in Bernice for the 10 years before that. “Evangelism is the key to everything.”
[img_assist|nid=5939|title=Scotty Sanders of Life Catalyst gave five life lessons during the fourth session of the Evangelism Conference.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Scotty Sanders quickly gave five life lessons during the fourth session of the Evangelism Conference. Formerly with First Baptist Church in West Monroe, Sanders now is president and CEO of Life Catalyst in the Dallas, Texas, area, a consulting firm churches can use to help in most aspects of church life: leadership development, strategic planning, creating an environment of excellence, building a volunteer base and connecting people to the body.
The life lessons: God uses the unexpected; God will honor humility and desperation; God expects his leaders to lead; God is still in the life-changing business; and Jesus came to start a movement, not an institution.
[img_assist|nid=5941|title=Humorist Charles Lowery spoke on Tuesday afternoon following his time with senior adults at their annual luncheon|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Humorist Charles Lowery – his column appears on the back page of SBC Live each issue – spoke during the Tuesday afternoon session, following his time with more than 600 senior adults at their annual luncheon.
“What you can’t control, you hollar at someone else to control,” Lowery said to general laughter at the close-to-home zinger. But his words quickly turned serious.
“Pastors, one thing in life you’re holding onto is beating you up,” Lowery said. “It’s time to let go.”
Breakout sessions at 2 p.m. and at 3 p.m. filled the afternoon.
All too quickly it was time for the fifth and final session, with acclaimed Gospel veteran Babbie Mason and Istrouma Baptist Church Choir, as well as Marvin Matthews, leading in exultant worship.
Michael Franzese, a former mobster in Brooklyn, N.Y., told of the change that has taken place in his life since he became a Christian.
“It’s my story, and God’s testimony,” Franzese said. “He pursued me until He got me. … I’ve experienced the long arm of the law, and the even longer arm of the Lord.” The Evangelism Conference participants appeared riveted to the words of a man with a pastor, but who today is a Little League manager in his California community, and a Christian speaker.
Monica Skiles, children’s minister at First Baptist Lafayette, was one of many who said they were energized and rejuvenated every time they came to an evangelism conference. For many, it’s the only LBC-related conference each year that they wouldn’t miss.
“I don’t always get to do corporate worship with fellow believers,” Skiles said. “This year it was the spirit of worship that refreshed me.”
[img_assist|nid=5930|title=Wayne Jenkins, director of the LBC Evangelism and Church Growth team responds at the conclusion of the Evangelism Conference|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66]Wayne Jenkins, director of the LBC Evangelism and Church Growth team, said he was pleased with the response of people who talked with him at the Evangelism Conference.
“I think God is doing a new work in a lot of our pastors and our people here,” he said in conversation between sessions. “So many good things have been said about what God is doing.”