Renewed commitment to personal evangelism highlights Phoenix convention
Resolutions approved, Gaines re-elected, Patterson named 2018 convention preacher
June 19th, 2017 / By: Keith Collier | Managing Editor / comments
PHOENIX—Recognizing a decades-long decline in baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches, this year’s annual meeting in Phoenix emphasized the need for personal evangelism among pastors and church members.
“We need a gospel conversation resurgence,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell told messengers during his convention report.
In an effort to encourage and equip churches in personal evangelism, Ezell said NAMB’s “Three Circles” evangelistic conversation guide app has been downloaded more than 2 million times. He added that 732 new SBC churches were planted in 2016.
“We do not plant churches to do evangelism. We plant churches from evangelism,” Ezell said. Church plants, he noted, baptize on average 74 percent more people than existing congregations.
SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., delivered his convention sermon from Acts 13:1-12, emphasizing that “every person in this room that knows the Lord Jesus Christ is a minister, a servant of the gospel.”
Ministry comes full circle when Christians minister to others with the gospel, Gaines said. “I want to encourage you to be a soul winner. Be evangelistic,” he exhorted. “If we will share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost, people will be saved.”
In the convention sermon, Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., challenged pastors to make the gospel central in every sermon.
Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., echoed this as well in his convention message, emphasizing the need for pastors to lead out in personal evangelism.
A preacher can test whether he cares about the lost by asking how long it has been since he engaged a non-believer in a personal conversation about the gospel. Teaching and preaching about evangelism “is not a substitute for evangelism,” Laurie said.
Evangelism Task Force
Messengers approved a motion to authorize Gaines to form a task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in personal evangelism and evangelistic preaching. NAMB President Kevin Ezell made the motion. The task force will report back to the convention during the 2018 annual meeting Dallas.
IMB Commissioning Service
IMB trustees approved 31 new missionaries, who were appointed during a Sending Celebration June 13 during the evening session. Following a message by IMB President David Platt, the newly appointed IMB missionaries shared their testimonies of being called to the nations and then dispersed throughout the meeting hall, as messengers gathered around them for prayer.
Messengers approved 10 resolutions addressing a number of topics, including “alt-right” white supremacy, Planned Parenthood, prayer, substitutionary atonement, gambling, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and others. (Click here to read full story on resolutions.)
Gaines was reelected by acclamation to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He will lead a diverse slate of officers including Walter Strickland, an African-American leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, first vice president; Jose Abella, a bilingual church planter from Miami, second vice president; John Yeats, who has served as recording secretary for the past two decades; and Don Currence, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., registration secretary. Jim Wells, who has served 15 years as registration secretary was unable to serve at this year’s convention and was not renominated for the position due to his battle with cancer. Yeats reported that doctors told Wells he had only a few days or weeks of life remaining, and then he offered a prayer for Wells and his family. Wells passed away June 18.
Patterson Named 2018 Convention Preacher
Messengers elected Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson as the 2018 convention preacher, with Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, as the alternate preacher and Mark Blair, minister of music at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., as the convention music director.
This year’s annual meeting drew 5,018 registered messengers to Phoenix. The unofficial total is 31.6 percent fewer than last year's 7,321 messengers in St. Louis but 164 more than 2011 when the convention last met in Phoenix. When registered guests, exhibitors and others are included, the count of those at the SBC annual meeting rose to nearly 8,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
—This story compiled from reports by Baptist Press.