Published October 31, 2013
DULUTH — More than 200 pastors and spouses gathered as guests of the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center on Oct. 17 to hear evangelist and former Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith exhort them to evangelize.
J. Robert White, GBC executive director, introduced Smith by quoting several magazines, one describing him as “an inerrancy superstar” and another identifying him as “a formidable figure, a fiery, red-haired, old style prairie stem-winder.”
Smith demonstrated both graciousness and passion as he pled with his audience to lead out in a revival of evangelism. Smith noted the Southern Baptist emphasis on church planting, but proclaimed, “Not only do we need new churches, but many of our older churches must be made new.
“If you were lost and the people of your church witnessed like you do, what chance would you have of being saved?” Smith asked.
Smith continued, “Charles Finney said, ‘You are either a soul winner or a backslider.’ Jesus said, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ So, if you are not fishing, you are not following. And when you fish for men, you’ve got to bait your hook with love.
“There is a difference between religion and Christianity,” Smith declared, “Religion is man seeking God; Christianity is God seeking man. Baptists seem to be more religious than Christian. We major on fun, food, and fellowship rather than the souls of men.
“Baptists are getting an ‘A’ on everything that doesn’t matter. We get an ‘A’ on potluck suppers. We get an ‘A’ on our buildings. We get an ‘A’ on our organizational effectiveness. We get an ‘A’ on our recreational programs. However, most would get an ‘F’ on soul winning.
“We are not suppose to be in the business of doing nice things, but we are in the business of keeping people out of hell.”
Smith stated, “I like music that touches the heart. When the preacher gets up to preach the people should have already sung the kind of music that brings them under conviction.”
Smith concluded his plaintive appeal to win the lost by telling the story of John Harper. Harper, an evangelist from Glasgow, Scotland, was a passenger on the Titanic on its fateful maiden voyage. At 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912 the ship struck an iceberg. When the passengers became aware of their imminent doom, chaos ensued.
John Harper awakened his six-year-old daughter, wrapped her in a blanket, carried her up to the deck, kissed her good-bye, and handed her to a crewman who put her into a lifeboat. He gave his lifejacket to a fellow passenger.
Three hours after the collision with the iceberg the “unsinkable” ship disappeared beneath the North Atlantic. More than 1,000 people, including Harper, fought for survival in the icy water. Harper found a piece of the floating wreckage, made his way to every person he could find, urging them to put their faith in Christ. While death forced others to face the folly of their life’s pursuits, John Harper’s goal of winning people to Jesus Christ became more vital.
Soon, Harper succumbed to the icy sea, but even in his last moment, this tireless man of undying faith continued his life pursuit of winning lost souls.
One person recalled, “I am a survivor of the Titanic. I was one of only a handful of people to be pulled from the frigid waters that fateful night. The wail of the perishing was ringing in my ears when there floated by me a man who asked, ‘Is you soul saved?’
“There, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I cried out to Christ to save me. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
With that compelling story Smith concluded his remarks, gave an invitation – for which harvest evangelists are noted – and had three people (one deacon and two pastors) pray to receive Christ. The attendees returned to their homes with a greater desire to reach the lost in their communities.
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