By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
LAFAYETTE – Fervent prayer before the 2013 Louisiana Evangelism Conference prepared both participants and speakers.
More of the same during the Jan. 28-29 event at First Baptist Church of Lafayette contributed to what many said was one of the best evangelism conferences they had ever attended, said Wayne Jenkins, director of the LBC evangelism/church planting team.
“For the second year in a row, Louisiana Baptists began the year with 21 days of prayer and fasting,” Jenkins said. “When more people are united in prayer, God seems to move, and that’s what happened here.
“We had more than 450 churches with prayer ministries to assume responsibility for the conference and for individuals speaking or singing, so it was extremely well prayed over,” Jenkins said. “Our speakers commented specifically on the number of notes they received from Louisiana Baptist churches. … In fact, one commented that they had never experienced that kind of response from the people.”
First Lafayette staff estimated at least 1,000 people participated in each of the 2013 Evangelism Conference’s main sessions, and that with 200 people in the choir and orchestra, about 1,800 participated in the Tuesday evening session.
“That was unusual,” Jenkins said. “Usually attendance falls off the second night, but several pastors took advantage of it being in their area and got their people to come.
“That will impact their churches,” the LBC evangelism director said.
Messages by Charles Roesel, Tyrone Barnett, Thomas Hammond, John Bisagno, Gary Cobb and Dennis Swanberg each focused on some aspect of servant evangelism.
“O Lord, how much you must love me,” prayed Roesel, retired as pastor of First Baptist Leesburg, Fla., and now presidential ambassador for the North American Mission Board, as he concluded his sermon. “Lord Jesus, I love you back. … You can have my life back.”
He had preached on God and His personal, powerful, permanent and persistent love as Roesel told how First Baptist Leesburg grew to include more than 100 ministries – for drug addicts, abused women, pre-born babies among them.
“It begins when we understand how much God loves these people,” Roesel preached before breaking into scripture: “In as much as you’ve done it to one of the least of these …. I don’t know how we could have the love of God in our heart and not love the folk He loves.”
Thomas Barnett, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur (Metro Atlanta), Ga., spoke on how to take the church to the street.
“We’re really good at looking down from a distance [at the downtrodden] and making a wrong diagnosis,” Barnett preached from Acts 20:7 about the man listening to Paul who fell out a third-story window. “We’ve lost the intimacy it takes to make a difference. … When people know they’re loved and supported, they go higher.”
“Who is laying in the street in front of your church? … You can speak in a language he can understand,” Barnett aid. “The language of God’s love speaks volumes.”
Thomas Hammond, a vice president with the SBC Executive Committee, spoke from Acts 3 about Paul’s healings. “See the need,” he preached. “Get involved. We have to meet them at their point of need before we can take them to Jesus. Live your faith.
“The lame man didn’t touch Jesus, but he did touch someone touching Jesus,” Hammond continued. “We will never feel the power of God until we step out on faith. … I am so ready to do something I can’t do.”
John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, closed out the Monday evening session after a concert by Anthony Evans backed by the Louisiana College choir. He preached from Matthew 18, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 on The Big Picture.
“Jesus said, ‘Don’t miss anybody,” Bisagno preached. “In America, are we going everywhere or just to our own kind of folks? … Go from here. Start where you are. … One final thing: Be bold.
“Go go go,” Bisagno continued. “Go pastor, go church … go Louisiana Baptists, go. Jesus Christ is still Lord over Louisiana.”
For more synopses of the messages, see www.baptistmessage.com. The messages themselves are to be available online at www.lbc.org/evangelismconference or are ready for purchase through MasterSound Media: 806.852.2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Evangelism Conference included 11 breakout sessions Tuesday afternoon, and a concert by Larnelle Harris Tuesday evening before a final sermon by Swanberg on the planting of shade trees for the next generation and generations to come.
“This year’s evangelism conference was excellent,” Jenkins said. “We’ve gotten great response from people both email and verbal, saying they felt it was a blessing. … The emphasis on servant evangelism, ministering to the needs of people by having people bring a can of food … resulted in truckloads of food.” (See related article on this page.)
Upcoming evangelism-related events include One Cry – a nationwide call for spiritual awakening – set for Feb. 21-22 at Louisiana College (see related article on p. 16); regional pastor/vocational staff training for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s national My Hope thrust is set for March and April (see related article in Feb. 28 issue); and the revival services set for April 5-6 at Angola State Penitentiary.
The 2013 Evangelism Conference and all ministries of the LBC’s evangelism/church growth team are fueled by the cooperative efforts of Louisiana Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program.