Evangelists encouraged to embrace the call, seek visionby C. Walter Overman
Although Frank Page is thankful for the gospel of second chances, he also believes that nations and individuals experience irrecoverable moments, or times when decisions lead to eternal consequences.
“I believe our nation is at that moment now. God help us,” said Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “I believe that men and women, boys and girls, come to irrecoverable moments. None of us can guarantee that we’ll have another chance to get it right.”
Page recently spoke during the annual North Carolina Vocational Evangelists Conference at Caraway Conference Center. The two-day conference featured plenary sessions and times of prayer and worship. In addition to Page, plenary speakers included Michael Sowers, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships; Alvin Reid, associate dean of proclamation studies and evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Alex McFarland, director of the Center for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University; and Albert Long, evangelist and motivational speaker.
Page encouraged attendees to be attentive to opportunities to witness to people, noting that no one is guaranteed to live another day and that all Christians should make every effort to share the gospel when the opportunity arises, whether from the pulpit or in everyday conversations.
“As an evangelist, as a pastor, as a preacher, as ministers of the gospel, it is incumbent upon us to preach the gospel and to share the gospel because none of us know when we are sharing with someone who desperately needs that word at that moment for that reason to make a decision at that time,” he said.
Page said that vocational evangelists must recognize that their calling to share the gospel is a divine calling, and when life is difficult, only the true call of God will sustain and encourage them to remain in ministry. He reminded evangelists to be faithful to what God has called them to do because much is at stake.
“If God called you where you are, then you better rest in that. You better have clarity of call. You need to understand when God called you and what God called you to do,” Page said. “The call must not go unheeded. We are in desperate days.”
Reid also challenged evangelists to stay true to their calling and to be initiators of revival among God’s people. Revival in its purest form always begins with God’s people and not with the lost.
“Revival is something God does to the church that overflows in the harvest of souls. It is the people of God coming alive to God for the mission of God,” he said. “You don’t seek revival for what God will do; you seek revival for a fresh vision from God.”
Instead of seeking a fresh vision from God, Reid said believers often desire a return to the norms and practices of previous decades. He encouraged the audience to seek a fresh vision from God that will impact lostness in this generation.
“Thank God for the past, remember the past and the work of God, but move forward,” he said. “I believe Christianity is advancing a movement of God and not maintaining the institution of God.”
A fresh vision from God does not involve changing the core message of Christianity. The great revivals of past generations share several common traits, the most important of which is a true understanding of the gospel.
“If you go back and read the sermons of the great awakenings they did not preach three steps to revival. They preached the gospel,” Reid said. “Don’t preach a cross-less gospel. Don’t preach a gospel without substitutionary atonement. In the middle of our faith is a bloody cross and a beautiful glorious resurrection.”
Reid said another characteristic common among the great revivals of the past is that young people were always the catalyst. Despite growing numbers of young people leaving the church in recent decades, Reid is encouraged by the hunger of today’s younger generation for spiritual truth.
“If they are learning trigonometry in high school they can learn theology in church. They want it,” he said.
Reid told the audience that the key to reaching the younger generation is to teach them the depths of God’s Word, be honest and truthful with them, love them unconditionally and give them grace to live out their faith.
“When you are in churches be very careful not to just criticize teenagers but also encourage them,” he said. “Young people need encouragement, they need a vision and they need permission to live for God.”