Evangelists underscore 'power of God'
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Two former presidents and the new president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists focused on "The Gospel: The Power of God Unto Salvation" during the group's Sunday morning worship June 17 in New Orleans prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
Braxton Hunter expressed impatience with division over the sinner's prayer; Keith Fordham said "Christ's blood" is what's needed for "what's wrong with the Southern Baptist Convention;" and the group's new president, Eric Ramsey, said if Southern Baptists' entities and programs don't have the power of the Holy Spirit, "they are worth nothing."
COSBE inducted two new members into its "Hall of Faith," at the three-hour service at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside -- John Bos of Orlando, Fla., and Tom Cox of Mountainburg, Ark.
Braxton Hunter, an evangelist based in Evansville, Ind., drew from Acts 6 for his sermon, "Just Preach It."
"If there ever was a time when Southern Baptists have to decide to just preach it, now is the time," Hunter said. "We need to come away with a refreshed understanding of the power of the Gospel and a desire to just preach it."
Hunter noted when the biblical Stephen was persecuted and killed, the written Bible, conferences and resources did not exist. Though he had likely not intended to die that day, Stephen had received the challenge that all believers have received -- "Are you willing to just preach it or are you going to augment your message so it's more palpable and appealing to the human senses?" Hunter said.
"If you don't think that we're going to face this level of persecution where we may have to lay down our lives, then that is all the more reason to preach it," Hunter said.
Recalling a 1995 court case where a judge threatened incarceration for students who mentioned the name of Jesus during high school commencement programs, Hunter said believers may soon face persecution similar to that of Stephen.
"Are we really living like people who respect what these men and women went through for us to have [the Bible]?" Hunter asked.
Citing Acts 5 when the apostles were arrested, Hunter noted this represented the first time in history when Christians were prevented from sharing their faith.
"Does that sound familiar to where we are today in the 21st century?" Hunter asked. "Today, we're getting the same societal view."
However, no matter what the law stated, the apostles decided "to proclaim the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the power of the Gospel, both privately and publicly," Hunter said.
"In a day like this, when we have a choice to make, it is time to make the right choice and just preach it," Hunter said. "If the world is getting more evangelistic, and we're getting less evangelistic, what is standing in the future for us?"
Sometimes it is not the fear of persecution but laziness that subdues preaching the Gospel, Hunter said. Too many believers, he said, are not passionate about the things of God "because there is something wrong between us and Jesus."
Citing Stephen's last moments, Hunter said he is reminded that Christians don't just die.
"We just fall asleep and wake up in the presence of Jesus," he said. "The power of the Gospel is so powerful that I believe everyone can be saved."
Restating his conviction about the power of the Gospel, Hunter talked about Southern Baptists' discussion of the sinner's prayer.
"I think the fact that we are at the SBC right now and the SBC is experiencing difficult times in many ways -- the fact that we would begin talking about whether or not it is superstitious to lead someone to pray to receive the Lord Jesus Christ -- I find to be absurd ...," Hunter said. "No matter what we decide at the SBC this week, just preach it. Whatever we talk about, this is my message to my convention: Just preach it."
Keith Fordham, an evangelist in the Southern Baptist Convention for 35 years, in his message spoke of the importance of the blood of Jesus.
Christ's blood is the only source of spiritual life, he said. "Jesus did not spill His blood, He poured His blood. Jesus' death was not a tragedy, but a triumph. Jesus shed His blood on the cross on purpose."
Referencing Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22 and 1 John 1:7, Fordham spoke about the composition, the cycle, the conception and the contemplation of the blood.
"That's the only way we will get into heaven," Fordham said. "His blood cries out either for our damnation or, thank God, for our salvation."
Without the proper understanding and dependency on the blood of Jesus, Fordham said "we cannot work for God and we cannot have proper fellowship in this world."
"It's the blood of Jesus that's the cure for what's wrong with the Southern Baptist Convention," Fordham said. "It's the blood that's the cure for what's wrong with America."
Eric Ramsey, an evangelist based in Mountainburg, Ark., said he is "deeply burdened because North America for the last decade has remained the only continent in the world where Christianity is in decline."
Churches are relying on resources more than relying on the missing ingredient: the power of the Holy Spirit, Ramsey said. When the disciples asked Jesus whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel in Acts 1, they were seeking "positional power."
"I believe the church in North America is spending too much time looking for positional power," said Ramsey, who noted that Jesus' promise of power referred to The Holy Spirit.
Though grateful for Southern Baptists' entities and programs, Ramsey said, God is allowing the evangelical church to be buffeted because of the absence of the power of the Holy Spirit.
"If those programs don't have the power of the Holy Spirit driving them, they are worth nothing," Ramsey said. "We don't have the Holy Spirit, therefore there is no power behind the Gospel that we're preaching.
"Without walking in complete honor and glory to God, we do not walk in the Holy Spirit," Ramsey said. "We don't need a new marketing strategy. We don't need a communications plan. We don't need a new program. We need to get on our knees."
The gift of the Holy Spirit employs believers to be witnesses, Ramsey said. "Way too many people today, in an effort not to offend somebody, are sitting silently on the witness stand.
"We're way too concerned about people coming and being like us," Ramsey said. "We need to be a lot more concerned about us joining others and others joining us on a journey to become more like Jesus Christ. That's what the Gospel is all about."
Ramsey talked about a bent woman in India who, after praying to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, laid her cane down and said, "Thank you for Jesus," and walked out.
The news of the woman's healing spread throughout the village. God needs believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and who believe that when they receive Jesus, things change, Ramsey said.
"Does your church need Jesus? Do you need Jesus? Let's walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and let's stop relying on our money, on our programs, on our agencies, and let's rely on Him," Ramsey said. "He wants to do it much more than we want to receive it. He wants to give it much more than we want to get it."
HALL OF FAITH INDUCTEES
This year's inductees into COSBE's "Hall of Faith" will join 33 who have been honored for devoting their lives to vocational evangelism. In 2008 COSBE created the Hall of Faith and in 2010 the North American Mission Board dedicated a room at their headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., where plaques are displayed honoring those evangelists chosen.
Evangelists -- both living and dead -- who have been inducted include Billy Graham, Junior Hill, Jay Strack, Vance Havner and Manley Beasley.
The 2012 inductees both are involved in international missions.
A Netherlands native, Bos, a member of First Baptist Church in Orlando, was on a mission trip to the Philippines at the time of the ceremony.
Bos' friend and partner in ministry, Harold Hunter, accepted the award for Bos, summarizing his ministry by reading from a written statement. "John's not able to be with us this year because he is out preaching the Gospel," Hunter said.
Entering the evangelism ministry in 1973 alongside friend and mentor E.J. Daniels, Bos has used his musical talents in crusades across the nation. Bos played the organ and piano for large crowds.
"I was amazed over the huge crowds packing the gigantic tent," Bos wrote.
In 1972 Bos joined Daniels' ministry, Christ for the World Inc. and served as associate director until Daniels' death in 1987. Bos became the acting director and in September 2000, Bos took on the role of executive director. The ministry focuses on evangelizing the world through overseas festivals, orphanages and other ministries.
Hunter said Bos is helping "bring America back to God" while conducting accessible crusades.
"On behalf of John Bos and his wife Shirley, thank you. They are serving God faithfully," Hunter said.
Cox, an evangelist from Mountainburg, Ark., who has been in ministry since 1956, said he was "greatly honored" by his induction into the Hall of Faith. He invited his wife and three daughters on stage with him.
Having celebrated 35 years as a full-time evangelist, Cox has preached over 1,500 revival crusades and served in ministry in more than 120 different countries. Each year he includes hundreds of individuals in short-term mission trips throughout the world.
"I love evangelists; they're my heroes," Cox said.
Elected as COSBE officers were Eric Ramsey, Mountainburg, Ark., president; Richard Hamlet, Memphis, Tenn., vice president; Russell Johnson, Myrtle Beach, S.C., worship leader; Eric Fuller, Fort Worth, Texas, recording secretary; and Dennis Nunn, Woodstock, Ga., parliamentarian.
Emily Grooms & Vicky Kaniaru are from Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.