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Souls stirred at evangelism conference


Gerald Harris/Index

Evangelist Rick Gage preached at Ephesus Baptist Church in West Metro Association on Harvest Day just prior to the evangelism conference. At Ephesus, 17 people made professions of faith and 13 joined by transfer of letter.

DOUGLASVILLE — The 2013 Georgia Baptist Evangelism Conference had the flavor of an old fashioned camp meeting. The music had elements of being contemporary, but inspiring renditions of “Midnight Cry” and “I Bowed My Knee and Cried Holy” by Daniel Crews seemed to make the balance perfect.

All the sermons were both inspired and inspiring and generally punctuated with a chorus of exclamations like “Amen,” “Glory to God” and “Preach it brother!” Vendors who came to set up booths to promote their ministries found very little traffic in the area designated for them. No one seemed to want to leave the worship center of First Baptist Douglasville where a double portion of the Spirit was being poured out with every prayer, song, and sermon.

On Feb. 24, the Sunday before the Conference began, many of the local churches had evangelists preaching in what was called a “Harvest Day.” More than 75 professions of faith were reported from those churches and scores of other commitments were also recorded.

For several years now a “Lifetime Achievement” in the area of evangelism has been awarded to one of God’s most stalwart and steadfast saints. This year’s award went to 85-year-old Fayiz Saknini, who was born both physically and spiritually in Nazareth, Israel.

Saknini, who had heart surgery 11 days before he accepted the award, was pastor of the first Baptist church in Beirut, Lebanon for 16 years. More recently he has represented the Georgia Baptist Convention as a missionary to Arabic-speaking people, Mid-Easterners, and Africans.

Gerald Harris/Index

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, preached a powerful message on "Three Reasons for a Renewed Mind."

When Saknini first came to America he stated, “I’d rather died with starvation doing the will of God than to be wealthy without Him.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award is best known for his fervent prayers, passionate preaching, and desire to see the lost come to faith in Christ.

The evangelism conference came to a grand climax on Tuesday night with powerful sermons by Robert Smith, who teaches preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL, and well-known Georgia Baptist preacher Jerry Vines.

After Vines’ sermon Joel Southerland introduced a video highlighting the revival that swept through sections of east Georgia in 1802. Jesse Mercer was one of the primary catalysts in that revival and after the video Mercer’s pulpit was placed at the altar of the Douglasville church, where pastors were invited to come kneel around Mercer’s pulpit and pray for a revival in the state.

White led in the prayer and concluded by having those present to sing “Lord, Send A Revival.” One pastor stated, “I don’t know if our churches will experience revival, but I have experienced one.”

Gerald Harris/Index

Newly elected officers of the Conference of Georgia Baptist Evangelists are, left to right, Brian Fossett, vice president; Joe and Kim Stanley, prayer coordinators; Erica Branch, worship leader; Jon Reed, president; and Jeff Cleghorn, secretary/treasurer.

Gerald Harris/Index

Steve Parr looks on as Fayiz Saknini expresses thanks for having been awarded the evangelism "Lifetime Achievement" award. Saknini's wife, Emilia, proudly holds the award.

Gerald Harris/Index

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White intercedes on behalf of Georgia Baptists as many pastors kneel by the Jesse Mercer pulpit and beseech God for revival.