Arkansas Baptist pastors, pastors’ wives and laypeople worship during ECON. David McKinney, worship pastor at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and his band led worship during the event. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptists encouraged, refueled at ECON
LITTLE ROCK – Guest speakers from across the country shared with Arkansas Baptists during ECON, the statewide Conference on Evangelism and Church Health
Jan. 29-30 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Little Rock. Worship was led by David McKinney, of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and entertainment
was provided by The Skit Guys.
Below, each guest speaker is listed along with a summary of his message(s).
Preaching from Luke 19:1-10, David Allen, dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, exhorted ECON participants, “We have got to be more serious about reaching a lost world for Christ.”
He described how Jesus initiated a relationship with Zacchaeus, a “piece of scum” and a hated tax collector, as He was heading toward His final journey to Jerusalem. Although in the midst of a crowd, Jesus saw the individual.
“One thing that … Jesus is blind to – crowds. He only sees individuals,” said Allen.
Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home.
“Often in the Lord’s relationships with individual people, before He does something for them, He asks something from them,” said Allen.
Although others shunned Zacchaeus, Jesus saw him as a lost individual who needed to know God’s love.
“Lostness is not just a feeling. Lostness is a condition that is true for every unsaved person on the planet,” said Allen, adding, “Every human being is savable.”
He emphasized two kinds of lost: “lost beyond retrievable” and “lost and found,” explaining that “a soul that dies apart from Christ is lost beyond retrievable,” while “If you’re alive there is hope for you to be saved.”
As Zacchaeus, whose name means “innocent,” came to know Jesus, he recognized his sin and desired to live a changed life, said Allen, adding, “That’s the day that tax reform came to Jericho.
“People are not saved by works. There is a conversion, and then there’s a changed life,” said Allen.
Jesus’ favorite term for Himself is Son of Man, explained Allen. “He is the Son of all nations and Savior of all nations.”
Concluding his message, Allen said, “We are never more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than when we are seeking and attempting to bring lost people into an encounter with the Lord Jesus.”
In his second sermon, Allen preached from 1 John 4 on the love of God.
“In the book of 1 John the word, ‘love,’ appears 46 times,” said Allen. “John is all about teaching us three things: God’s love for us, our love for God and, then, our love for one another.”
“John traces the stream of love to its source, and when he does, he discovers God is love,” he said.
Allen said that love is the “essence and evidence” of the Christian life and that love is personified and proven by God.
Allen shared five statements that highlight the greatness of God and His love in 1 John 4: 1) God sent; 2) Whom God sent; 3) The greatness of His love is defined by its purpose; 4) Love didn’t originate with us but with God; and 5) Jesus was the propitiation for our sins.
“God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. For God so loved us, we are also to love one another,” said Allen.
Using Joshua 14:6-14 as his biblical text, Robert Smith, who serves as Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., urged attendees to embrace “the blessedness of secondness” as Caleb did in the Bible.
Joshua and Caleb were inextricably linked in seeing God move in miraculous ways, explained Smith, yet Joshua ascended to a primary leadership role while Caleb played a secondary leadership role.
“Caleb was satisfied, satiated, content to be second because he understood, number one, that he knew his place and would stay in that place. He knew how to play the most difficult instrument in the symphony orchestra – second fiddle. He could experience the satisfaction of secondness because he knew his place,” said Smith.
Suggesting that Caleb may have been bothered initially when Joshua succeeded Moses in leadership, Smith said, “Biblical characters do not primarily serve us as models for morality but as mirrors for identity.”
He identified numerous other biblical characters who, like Caleb, played “second fiddle,” even for brief periods, including David, Andrew and, ultimately, Jesus, who emptied Himself and took the form of man.
“God’s waiting room is the largest room in the world,” said Smith. “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
Playing second fiddle was Caleb’s “sacred space,” Smith explained.
Smith encouraged attendees to serve God faithfully where God has called them, even as they age, as Caleb, who was 85 years old in this biblical passage.
“God is able to give you what He’s promised, and He expects you and I to be faithful,” preached Smith.
In closing, Smith said, “You and I have a greater inheritance than Caleb. I’m grateful that my inheritance is Christ.
“All I want when I get to heaven is to see Jesus – to behold His face.”
Speaking from 1 Corinthians 9, Wade Morris, itinerant minister and founder and producer of The Journey Bible Study Series, said that when believers know Jesus they must have conviction and must learn to have connection in relating to non-believers.
“What’s it going to take for us to get to the place that we say, ‘No, we are going to do whatever we have to do to get to the place where our passion is so great that we are going to be all things to all people in order to reach a few’?” said Morris. “In order to reach the masses, we have to do that over and over again.”
Morris said that there is a difference between sympathy and empathy, and the Apostle Paul preached the necessity of empathy in the lives of believers.
“He (Paul) is saying that our calling is always more important than our convenience,” said Morris.
“In the end, all that matters is Jesus,” he said.
“He (Paul) is saying, ‘Understand this, you want to do everything you can to reach them, but what you need to be careful (about is) what you say and what you do,’ … because the life we live and the words we say always lead people toward Christ or away from Him.
“There is no in-between,” he said.
Speaking from John 4, John Meador, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, said that if we believe the gospel has the power to change the world, then we must share it with the world.
Meador gave four points from the text: 1) A gospel characteristic, 2) A gospel conversation, 3) A gospel conversion and 4) A gospel congregation.
Meador said that making and baptizing disciples is a gospel characteristic. He said that they are the “tube feed” of a healthy church.
Jesus had gospel conversations, and pastors must equip their congregations to share the gospel, said Meador.
Often the last people you think would want to hear the gospel are ripe for the harvest, said Meador adding, “If we are sharing the gospel, we will see gospel conversion.”
If you want to see your church change, Meador said, “infuse it with a good shot of the good news of the gospel.” Churches should be gospel congregations.
In his second message, Meador preached on Ephesians 2, which he called, “a benchmark passage of the New Testament.”
“According to God, the solution to all the problems of man are found in the gospel and His Son Jesus Christ,” said Meador.
He said it is important for congregations to have a firm grasp of the gospel and what it means and for congregants to be intentional about having gospel conversations.
Meador shared the acronym – G.O.S.P.E.L. – as a simple way of remembering all of the necessary components of the gospel when sharing one’s faith.
The acronym stands for G: God’s character (Eph. 2:1-4), O: Offense of sin (Eph. 2:5), S: Sufficiency of Christ (Eph. 2:5-6), P: Personal response (Eph. 2:5), E: Eternal urgency (Eph. 2:7), and L: Life transformation (Eph. 2:10).
Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened his first message by sharing that he grew up playing basketball, eventually becoming an all-city player in New York City and going on to receive an athletic scholarship to the University of Rhode Island.
Cymbala said he grew up in church, but the over-spiritualization, sloganeering and racism of the church he grew up in left him wanting more. He wanted to see God do something.
Sharing from 1 Thessalonians and Acts, Cymbala said that only one message brings conversion – “our gospel.”
If you read Acts 2, 10, 13 and 21-23 and analyze them sentence-by-sentence, you will see one common message, he said.
“This is the message that saves,” said Cymbala. “God doesn’t want any creative thinking. He gives us the gospel.”
In a word to the pastors in attendance, he said that while sermon series on the Old Testament and other less-gospel focused parts of Scripture can be helpful, preachers should “get to Jesus quickly,” because “the only name that makes demons tremble is the name of Jesus.”
Cymbala said that Paul’s description of the relationship between the pastor and his congregation is like a mother and her nursing child. He said that pastors should hold their congregation as their “crown” and not simply a necessary evil to doing ministry.
In conclusion, the pastor shared a story about the interaction that changed the way he does ministry. Following an Easter Sunday service, he saw a black homeless man who was intoxicated and smelled horrible sitting in the audience.
His first thought, he said, was to give the man a few dollars to get rid of him. However, when he walked up to give him the money, the man refused it, telling Cymbala that he did not want money, he wanted the Jesus he had heard preached during the sermon.
Broken by the interaction, Cymbala said it changed his perspective on ministry going forward. He led the man to Christ, and the man went on to work for the church’s housekeeping staff and later to become an associate pastor at a church in New Jersey.
In his second message during ECON, Cymbala spoke on the necessity of preaching with and “being with” Christ.
God’s supernatural power is necessary for the Church to be built and the “anti-supernaturalism that is a very strong current in the body of Christ is really going to do us, and is doing us, great harm,” he said.
Early in his ministry, Cymbala said he asked God to either use him in a mighty way or to take his life.
“I said to God … If You aren’t going to change me and if You’re not going to let me see fruit produced so that Your name would be glorified, … then take my life,” he said.
“The thought of just living, with no fruit and helpless, just yelling Christian slogans around … that just plagued me,” he said. “My late friend David Wilkerson one time said to me …, ‘Jim, did you ever notice that, if you study church history, God only uses people who get crazy first?’”
Speaking on Mark 3, Cymbala said that Jesus spent the night praying before choosing His disciples. Then He called the 12 and gave them power to preach and authority over evil spirits.
“The first calling on all of our lives is to be with Him,” said Cymbala. “Christianity is about relationship with Jesus Christ. … That’s our goal, we are to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Jesus called His disciples into not just relationship but into fellowship. You can have relationship without fellowship, but Christ calls us to fellowship with Him, said Cymbala.
“How can you preach effectively without fellowship with Christ?” he asked.
“Why would He (God) choose fishermen and tax collectors to represent Him? Why didn’t He choose rabbis and people who were well-trained and orators? Because they wouldn’t depend on the Holy Spirit, they would depend on themselves.
“Peter, for the rest of his life, would say, ‘Not only do I not know how to do this, but how could He use me when I denied Him three times?’” said Cymbala. “That will give you a burning heart when God restores you.”