LAS COLINAS—Christians and churches must rely on God’s power through prayer and recognize their role in reaching friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and the nations with the gospel, speakers at the 2016 Empower Conference said Feb. 29-March 2. The three-day evangelism conference put on by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) at the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas drew pastors and church members from across the state and featured 15 main session speakers as well as breakout sessions.
Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church and SBTC president, spoke of what he called a “state of evangelism atrophy” in the majority of Southern Baptist churches today. Similar to muscle atrophy—a loss of vigor and strength due to lack of activity—churches and individuals are suffering from a lack of regular, intentional gospel witness.
“Everything left alone under the curse of sin ultimately reaches a state decay, even the most important things, like evangelism,” Lino said in the opening evening session of the conference.
Preaching from Ephesians 6:19-20, Lino acknowledged the great irony for the Apostle Paul to request prayer for boldness and clarity to speak the gospel, but Paul recognized that “past effectiveness is no guarantee of future effectiveness.”
“I don’t think what we need as shepherds in Texas is more statistics about evangelism and how urgently we need revival,” Lino said. “I think what we need is to return to intentionality in evangelism. Nothing good happens in this world for Jesus Christ without intentionality.”
Intentionality was the theme of Lino’s message as he exhorted pastors in particular to greater intentionality in personal and corporate evangelism.
“Intentionality looks like a plan,” Lino said. “So what is your plan to directly engage unbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
“We need a return to exhorting each other and our people to actually verbalize the gospel in its entirety to people who do not yet believe.”
International Mission Board President David Platt urged Christians to “recognize the reality of God’s wrath upon millions of people across this state and billions of people around the world” during his message, which followed Lino’s. Too often, Platt said, Christians are ignorant or indifferent regarding Scripture’s teaching on hell and the fact that people who do not repent will spend eternity suffering there.
Preaching from Exodus 32:1-14, Platt also called on believers to “realize the role God has given you to play in his relenting wrath.”
“Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you do, realize that God has put you where you are for a reason. … God loves the people around you so much, and he’s designed your life to be the means in his sovereign hand by which his wrath is relented and his mercy is made known to the people around you.”
Like Moses, who interceded on behalf of the Israelites for God to show mercy on them, Christians must regularly intercede in prayer for those unreached with the gospel.
“Pray to God like it matters; pray to God like your prayers affect the way God acts,” Platt told conference attendees and those who were watching the event via livestream.
“God wills to work through willing intercessors. When we pray, God responds. When we pray, we take our God-given privilege to participate with him in the spread of his mercy in the world. Moses prayed, and it had an effect. When you pray for people in Texas, it will have an effect.”
In addition to praying like it matters, Platt called on Christians to share the gospel like it matters.
“We’ll never reach the nations with the gospel if we’re not reaching our neighbors with the gospel,” Platt said. He concluded his message with a challenge to pastors in the room to commit to reaching homes in their communities as part of SBTC’s “One in a Million” evangelism initiative to reach 1 million homes in Texas with the gospel by the year 2020. Scores of pastors brought forth commitment cards and placed them on the stage.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd continued the call for prayer and bold gospel witness during his message, March 1. Too many churches, he said, are trying to accomplish God’s work apart from his power.
“Why do we believe so much in the power of God for New Testament salvation, but we struggle believing in the power of God to turn the deadest church in Texas upside down?” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, asked.
“Trust the God of heaven who was able to raise Jesus Christ from the dead is the same God who can raise up this convention of churches to take the gospel into at least 1 million homes in this state. We need to understand that none of that can happen without God.”
Floyd assured pastors and churches that God has a future for them individually and corporately and that faith-saturated prayer was the bridge between their current state and that future. Preaching from 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the account of a man named Jabez’s prayer, Floyd explained that the passage was not a prescription on what to pray but was a description of a man who cried out to a God who answered. Likewise, Christians should cry out to God as their only hope and the only hope for an unbelieving world.
Lifetime Achievement Awards
During the Empower Conference, SBTC evangelism director Nathan Lorick recognized two men for their faithfulness in evangelism. David Stockwell, a fulltime vocational evangelist from Katy with more than 50 years of evangelistic ministry, received the Roy Fish Lifetime Achievement Award for vocational evangelism. Lynn Crosslin, a bi-vocational pastor at Harmony Baptist Church in Weatherford, received the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for pastoral evangelism.
In 2017, the Empower Conference will return to the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas, Feb. 27-28.