Leader of evangelists group: Revivals still yield results

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)--Evangelist Gary Bowlin of Summit, Miss., was elected president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists at the group’s annual meeting in June in Greensboro, N.C. Rick Henson, pastor of Oakdale Baptist Church in Brandon, Miss., interviewed Bowlin after a recent mission trip to Romania.

Henson’s questions and Bowlin’s answers follow:

Q: What is the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and what will be your role?

Bowlin: COSBE is the national organization of fulltime Southern Baptist vocational evangelists. COSBE promotes evangelism and those called to that special ministry. COSBE works in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and is governed by its own bylaws, which determine member eligibility and policy. More information about COSBE is available online at www.sbcevangelist.org.

Part of my duties as president is to promote and encourage evangelism and the use of biblically gifted evangelists in churches, crusades and other evangelistic efforts. Statistics show that churches that use God-called evangelists baptize many more than those who do not. This year as president, I will be the voice for COSBE. The other officers and I are responsible for the convention-wide Sunday morning worship service preceding the Southern Baptist Convention next summer in San Antonio, Texas. Already committed are evangelists Phil Glisson from Memphis, Sammy Tippit from San Antonio and Randal Helms from Woodstock, Ga.

Q: Why are fewer churches holding revivals today?

The church in America has never had a greater need for revival and evangelism than today. Many pastors lament the spiritual poverty of their churches and lack of baptisms, but do not hold revivals or use those called to that ministry.... In our attempt to adapt to cultural changes, we decided that revivals no longer work -- but we tried to fix what is not broken. We blame revivals’ lack of success on cultural changes, when the real problem is lack of preparation and prayer. I have preached revivals and, when I arrived, saw my preparation packet unopened on the pastor’s desk. When you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. In over 26 years in full-time evangelism, I have observed that every church that prepares adequately for revival has excellent results. It still takes hard work.

A church should hold two revivals a year, one for church renewal and one for outreach. In addition, harvest days can really boost the church’s evangelistic efforts.

The Gospel still works and revivals still work. The Gospel cuts across every cultural, political and social barrier. Keith Fordham, an evangelist friend of mine, recently led an old-fashioned revival in an inner-city multilingual church that had not baptized anyone in 20 years. As a result, that church baptized 10, with seven others awaiting baptism. This was due to prayer, preparation and commitment.

This revival was the first in a pilot project of COSBE and the North American Mission Board to place vocational evangelists with churches that have low or no baptisms. I believe God will bless this project.

Q: In addition to revivals, crusades and one-day harvest days, you are heavily involved in international mission efforts. Where are you working?

We work primarily in Romania, having led two teams there this year. We also traveled to Japan and Peru this year. In May of 2007 we will lead an evangelistic team to Peru and will lead two more teams to Romania in July and October of 2007. We have worked in Romania for over 10 years. My wife Norma and I lead medical teams to provide much-needed medical care. We also take Vacation Bible School workers, soul-winners, women’s conference leaders, singers, preachers and others. We just returned from Romania with a group of 43, and the Lord blessed with 1,024 Romanians praying to receive Christ. On this trip we also dedicated a new church building in the village of Radila. We have been able to work with a local church in Romania to start three new churches and construct and dedicate three new church buildings to the Lord.

Usually 12 to 15 Southern Baptist churches are represented on our mission trips. God has blessed us with six Southern Baptist churches that consistently assist and participate in this work. Our trips to Romania are in cooperation with, and with the approval of, the International Mission Board. We seek to plug into the IMB mission strategy for Romania and other countries where we lead teams.

Reprinted by permission of the Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. For more information on the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, visit http://www.sbcevangelist.org/. To contact Gary Bowlin World Ministries, visit www.garybowlin.com.

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