Inauguaral event draws near-capacity crowd to Arlington
ARLINGTON?Strive to know God intimately. Seek his agenda. Let him empower you.
Those themes dominated messages preached during the inaugural emPOWER Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which drew near-capacity crowds Feb. 9-10 to the Arlington Convention Center to hear preachers such as Henry Blackaby, noted vocalist Larnelle Harris and others.
emPOWER, formerly the State Evangelism Conference, drew an evening high attendance of 1,400 and day crowds of around 750 for two days of preaching, music and celebration of Southern Baptist missions work.
The conference, preceded by Monday’s Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists (COTBE) meeting, included a Tuesday Cooperative Program Luncheon hosted by the SBTC that drew more than 600 people and featured International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin.
Another notable event was the presentation of the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for Pastoral Evangelism to Stan Coffey, pastor of San Jacinto Baptist Church in Amarillo and one of the leaders in the founding of the SBTC.
Blackaby, best known as the author of the “Experiencing God” Bible study, preached in two sessions, explaining God’s empowerment of his servants using Zechariah and Mary as examples and reminding those attending that the same power that raised Christ is available to believers to conquer sin and do God’s will.
Blackaby noted God’s enabling power is in the one he chooses, which includes every believer, for his specific purposes. He noted that in Luke 1 God sent the angel Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary, but has sent the Holy Spirit as a messenger to believers.
“What God assigns is more than you deserve and more than you can handle,” Blackaby said. But nothing is impossible with God, he said.
“Ask God, ‘What are you doing? What’s on your heart?'”
Blackaby said like Mary, Christians can have the “power of the highest order to overshadow” them. “In your ministry, are you living in the power of the highest overshadowing you?”
Like the creation in the beginning with God’s spirit hovering or brooding over it, “the power of the highest will literally brood over you,” Blackaby proclaimed.
“Don’t ever ask God to use you if you’re not ready for him to do it,” he said, recounting an example of God using a church he led in California to reach gang members who were threatening the nearby community. “He can bring harmony to a community when he broods over a community like he did at creation.”
Blackaby exhorted the conference to not only believe with the head but trust with the heart that God’s resurrection power is available to every Christian for accomplishing his purposes.
The conference also featured noted layman and motivator Zig Ziglar, a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.
Ziglar told how he became a Christian in 1972 because of the stubborn witness of an elderly black woman and then was warned by friends his speaking career was over if he intended to talk about his faith on the podium. Ziglar said he has not solicited a speaking engagement in 32 years and that the Bible revolutionized his public speaking.
In 2002, Ziglar related how he nearly died after losing six pints of blood; he believes an angel visited him during his bout, hand gesturing to indicate he would continue living for awhile.
“I have a sense of urgency now that I didn’t have when I was first saved,” he said, adding that he is more overt about his faith than before.
Ziglar said “preachers will not win this war” of a decaying culture. “We’ve got to take (the gospel) to the marketplace” and show a distinction between Christianity and all other ideas.
“We’re the only Bible some people read. ? What we say and what we do is so important.”
The conference honored baptism leaders among SBTC churches. In percentage of baptisms to Sunday School enrollees, New Life Complete in Christ Baptist Church in Fort Worth led with a 1