WARNER ROBINS – The program for the Reach 2018 Georgia Baptist Evangelism Conference last week suggested there was something for everyone. But as it turned out, everything about the conference was for everyone.
The young preachers appealed to the older as well as the younger attendees; and the more seasoned preachers appealed to the young preachers as much as they did to the more mature saints.
The music had a contemporary feel, but it was more of a blended style and was presented in such a way that the Boomers and Builders loved it. Gerald Malloy and his worship team from Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC are known for their ability to minister to multiple generations by “encouraging more participation then spectatorship.” Malloy and his team were remarkably successful in getting everyone engaged in songs of praise and worship
The preaching was divinely anointed and hundreds of those who attended the conference were moved and changed by the spirit of God.
The Conference opened with Bill Purvis, pastor of Cascade Hills Baptist Church in Columbus, and his son Brent, co-pastor of Cascade Hills, speaking from their hearts. The father spoke on “Watch the Door” from Acts 16. His message dealt with the open doors and closed doors of Christian service.
Tony Sample, interim pastor of Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge, stated, “When Brother Bill stated that we need to recognize the closed doors, he spoke to my heart. He highlighted verses 6 and 7 where the Bible says, ‘They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit’ and “The Holy Spirit did not permit them.’”
Sample continued, “When they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit that was the internal closure and there was no peace. When the Holy Spirit did not permit them that was the external closure and there was no provision.
“The first statement that really spoke to my heart was this: ‘Just because you don’t know where you are to go doesn’t mean you are not in God’s will.’ The second statement was: ‘Be sensitive to the doors in your life.’ It was a message that challenged my heart to just simply follow His leadership and when God closes a door don’t kick it open and expect God to follow you. We are to follow him through the doors He opens.”
Don’t tolerate ‘unseen glory’
Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, challenged the people to reach the next generation. He declared, “We are not reaching our own children. If we just think about it, we will reach more children and youth for Christ.”
Using Exodus 32 as his text, White spoke about Aaron making a golden calf for the Israelites when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. He talked about Moses asking God for the privilege of seeing His glory. Moses could not look into the face of God, but he hid in the cleft of the rock and was permitted to see God’s glory as he passed by. The Israelites, however, were not permitted to see God’s glory, because of their rebellion.
The executive director indicated that he had seen God’s glory again and again when he had experienced the privilege of leading individuals to faith in Christ. White challenged his audience by saying, “Let’s not tolerate unseen glory.”
Johnny Hunt, pastor of Woodstock First Baptist Church, took his text from Romans 9:1-3 where the Apostle Paul indicated that he was willing to be severed from Christ if that is what it took to reach his people. The former Southern Baptist Convention president challenged the people to go after the lost with purpose and passion. He said, “Whatever is important to the pastor becomes important to the church. Church is more exciting if you have a lost person with you.”
Hunt exclaimed, “You may say that you are afraid you will offend people or run them off if you witness to them. Where are you going to run them off to? Hell number 2?
“When you witness you need to live a life that commends Christ to the lost, because when you witness to someone and they don’t respond, it may be that they will simply wait and watch.”
Average churches and influence in America
Hunt emphasized the importance of giving a Gospel invitation to the lost. He explained, “Why would you prepare a meal, put it on the table, and not invite people to sit down and enjoy the food?”
The fiery preacher spoke about unhealthy churches and church conflicts, commenting, “The average church can’t win people to Christ, because there are so many undercurrents in the church.”
D.A. Horton, 37-year-old pastor of Reach Fellowship in North Long Beach, CA, stated, “We need seasoned saints. We are not here to replace you, but to accompany you. We need you.”
The church planter declared, “People are going to evangelize (or talk about) what they are excited about. Our problem today is that Jesus doesn’t excite us.
Horton stated, “The Christian church no longer has the influence it once had in America. Therefore, we must function in a decentralized way as it was in the pre-Christian era. There are three simple things we must do: (1) Preach Jesus. (2) Do it with excitement. (3) Give an invitation for people to receive Christ.”
A committed heart
Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard, pastor of Piedmont Baptist Church in Marietta and president and CEO of MUST Ministries, spoke of the daring faith of Joshua and Caleb in Joshua 14. He declared, “The day your memories are greater than your dreams you are dead in the water.”
Reighard explained that Caleb was as strong at 85 as he was at 40 and indicated that he wanted to claim the hill country for Israel. He emphasized, “Caleb had a committed heart. A committed heart looks for solutions; an uncommitted heart looks for a way of escape.
“Caleb is known as a man of courage. Adrian Rogers said, ‘Courage is nothing more than fear that said its prayers this morning.’
“A.W. Tozer said, ‘Anything God has ever done He can do now. Anything God has ever done anywhere He can do here. Anything God has ever done for anyone, He can do for you.’
“Live your story now,” Reighard emphasized, “the way you want to tell it later without having to change a thing.”
Evangelist Junior Hill was the conference’s concluding speaker and spoke on the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8. Hill indicated that every believer has been given a bag of seeds – the Word of God.
He explained that Satan does not want the Gospel seeds to be sown in the hearts of men and so he has his strategy whereby he takes the seed by intimidation, observation, evaluation, germination, and hesitation.
Hill’s self-deprecating humor, his humility, his ability to artfully explain the Bible in the simplest terms, and his divine anointing always make him a favorite Bible/evangelism conference speaker for all time and any time.
Central Baptist Church hosted the conference and did so with great grace and hospitality. The conference was well-attended with more than 500 individuals in attendance. The evangelism ministry of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board deserves a note of appreciate for their planning and implementation of a great conference.
NOTE: A second article will be forthcoming on the conference featuring the insightful messages of Jason Britt, H.B. Charles and Ed Stetzer.