Full-time evangelists called gift from God
SALT LAKE CITY (BP)--Full-time evangelists are a gift from God, but many Southern Baptist churches either ignore or avoid these itinerant ministers, Bob Pitman, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., said.
Speaking to the 40th annual Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists in Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center June 10, Pitman noted that figures from the North American Mission Board indicate that only 7,000 Southern Baptist congregations held revivals during 1997.
"Some say the day of revival is over. ... The Scriptures do not teach the day of revival is over. This is one of the greatest days for revival there ever has been," Pitman said.
As a pastor, Pitman said he has used 25 full-time Southern Baptist evangelists in revival meetings. "I have never one time had a bad experience with an evangelist."
Since evangelists depend mostly upon "love offerings" for their income, churches should respond generously, Pitman said. At Kirby Woods, Pitman said he asks people to consider a love offering equal to at least one week's tithe. This usually generates a love offering of between $15,000 and $20,000.
Acknowledging that some people might see such a sum as exorbitant for preaching in a few revival services, Pitman commented, "I don't hire an evangelist for a week.. ... We invest in their ministries, and everywhere they go, everything they do, we have a part in it."
Mike Osborne, evangelist from Petersburg, Va., acknowledged many evangelists suffer from struggles and pain.
"Every one of us in here could name folks who quit, ... who have said it's not worth the struggle anymore," Osborne said. "We need to strip away the masks and let God work in our lives."
Wayne Bristow, evangelist from Edmond, Okla., challenged the group to remember the importance of evangelistic preaching.
"Evangelistic preaching is not ... telling people what they want to hear, but it's telling people what they must hear," Bristow stated. "We come to declare good news, and that good news is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ."
Bristow cautioned against discarding the practice of giving an invitation following evangelistic sermons. "We'll know that we're in the last days of effective evangelism in America when we give up our deep conviction about giving a strong invitation for people to come to Christ."
James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (formerly the Sunday School Board of the SBC), encouraged the group to hold forth hope in their preaching.
"You rob anyone of hope and you rob them of life," Draper said. "Though politics, science and philosophy have largely failed to bring hope in the 20th century, all hope is not lost.
"The source of hope is found in Jesus Christ. The source of hope is found in the glorious message of the gospel. The source of hope is found in the eternal, inerrant truth of the Word of God," Draper said.
Phil Glisson, evangelist from Memphis, Tenn., emphasized the importance of Christians acting like Jesus by being Spirit-filled, humble, patient, faithful and determined.
"Be determined that you will do what God wants you to do," Glisson urged. "Be determined that nothing will stop you. ... Pray and ask God to give you that spirit of determination in your heart -- no matter what happens, no matter what comes, that you'll do what God wants you to do."
Glisson said living a genuine Christlike life will fulfill a need for unsaved people. "When we act like Jesus, we're doing what this world desperately needs to see. The world needs us to go out of here and act like Jesus."
New officers for 1998-99 for the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists are president, Jerry Drace, Humboldt, Tenn.; vice president, Mike Osborne, Petersburg, Va.; secretary-treasurer, Pamela Valle, Bedford, Texas; music director, Ken Holland, Franklin, Tenn.; assistant music director, Les Snyder, West Frankfort, Ill.; parliamentarian, Larry Walker, Dallas; and pastor-advisors, Jerry Robinson of Florida and Ken Hall of Georgia.