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Georgia Baptist evangelists meet for inspiration & accountability


J. Gerald Harris/Index

Evangelists Dennis Nunn, left, and Keith Fordham, right, discuss their views on revival with GBC Vice President of Evangelism Steve Parr, middle left, and new GBC Evangelism Consultant Steve Foster, middle right, at the COGBE retreat at Winshape Center in Rome.

When the Lord created the church He decided how He would nurture it. Consequently, one of the blessed contributions bestowed upon the body of Christ for its edification and completion is the gift of the evangelist. The Apostle Paul is very careful to spell this out in his epistle to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 4:11-12).

These wonderful, gifted servants of God are essential to the health of our churches, for our Creator knew what the church would need to bring it into balance and maturity. Through the years these anointed servants of God have blessed the churches that are wise enough to take the perfect advice given in the Scripture and use the gifts that God has given to the body of Christ.

Keith Fordham, GBC evangelist from Harps’s Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville and former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), declared, “When a pastor believes in the office of the evangelist God blesses the church and their quest for souls.”

Through the years very few evangelists have fallen into disrepute or abused the office in some way, but Georgia Baptists have a cadre of God-called preaching and music evangelists who serve the Lord with honor and unusual effectiveness. Many of them have more accountability built into their lives than most pastors.

Brian Fossett, president of the Conference of Georgia Baptist Evangelists (COGBE) and member of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, stated, “I am determined to stay close [to Jesus] and clean. I have a quiet time every day, because I am completely dependent upon the Lord. You know, those of us who are evangelists are forced to live by faith 24 hours a day. We must have faith that God will show up, and we must believe God for miracles.”

“We are also driven to our knees to ask God to provide for our needs,” stated Fordham. “The only full-time, non-salaried people I know are evangelists.”

Bill Britt, one of the conference speakers from Gallatin, Tennessee and former president of the national organization, added, “Our first responsibility is to be with Jesus and then to preach out of the overflow of spending time with Him.”

The members of COSBE and COGBE have to agree to an affirmation of accountability and in that affirmation they commit: “First, to a disciplined devotional life, ensuring our personal spiritual development; second, to our families, demonstrating our commitment as companions and parents; third, to those with whom we minister giving evidence of the credibility of our message.”

In order to cultivate their personal walk with God, evangelists place themselves under the authority of their local church and pastor. Many evangelists have governing boards that hold them responsible for their personal integrity, doctrinal purity, and fiscal responsibility.

Many evangelists are devoted to encouraging and praying for one another. A recent COGBE retreat at Winshape Retreat Center at Berry College illustrated that perfectly. Almost 50 people, including evangelists and their spouses, gathered at the retreat center in Rome for instruction, inspiration, and accountability.

J. Gerald Harris/Index

COGBE President Brian Fossett, left, Georgia evangelist Keith Fordham, center, and Tennessee evangelist Bill Britt take a break at the COGBE Retreat.

Britt spoke to the group at three sessions and urged them to be spiritually prepared for God to use them in revivals and evangelistic crusades whenever called upon to serve. He also spoke about the biblical foundation for giving an invitation outlined the need to apply biblical principles for effective evangelism.

Fossett added, “I am going to do all I can and then trust God to do all I can’t.”

Although most evangelists have the unique ability to reach the lost and draw the net, the fact remains that some pastors and churches are hesitant about using evangelists. The story is told of a certain preacher who was skeptical of evangelists and was heard to say, “I don’t want any evangelist to come and mess up my church.”

His pastor friend, who believed in the spiritual office of the evangelist, replied, “Why dear brother, I understand your church has not baptized anyone in five years. What level of dead are you on? How could a God-called evangelist mess up your church?”

“We need to be on the same team with the pastor and the leaders of the congregation,” Fossett concluded.

Britt replied, “The evangelists I know want to complement the message of the pastor. We are not going to preach some new doctrine. We are just going to highlight and underscore what the pastor has preached, but perhaps in a different way.”

Fossett declared, “We are having an identity crisis as Southern Baptists. We have forgotten who we are. We have got to get back to the basics of soul winning and evangelism. We are not broken about people going to hell. When our Convention was in its heyday churches were having two revivals a year. Every church should have an evangelist to come and preach to their fellowship. In fact, every church should adopt, pray for, and support an evangelist in some way.”

The evening session of the retreat was devoted to a time of celebration and commitment. Joe and Kim Stanley from New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville led the worship and Babbie Mason, one of Southern Baptists’ most notable composers and recording artists, presented a concert of her music.

Former SBC Convention President Jerry Vines, who transitioned last year from pastor of First Baptist, Jacksonville, Fla. into an itinerant preaching and conference ministry, was the preacher for the evening. Using Acts 18:9-11 as his text, Vines challenged the evangelists to be true to their calling.

Vines proclaimed, “Our culture can have a depressing, discouraging impact upon your life and ministry, but it is too soon to quit. First, it is too soon to quit because we have the promise of Christ’s presence; secondly, we have the promise of Christ’s protection; thirdly, we have the promise of Christ’s potential.”

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