Evangelism Conference 2014: Passing the Truth of the Gospel to the Next Generation

Like most of the speakers at the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s annual Evangelism Conference, held Feb. 18-20 at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, Michael Catt emphasized sharing Christ and reaching the next generation.

Talking about the large numbers of people being saved and filling the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, he noted, “They have never gotten over being saved. We [Baptists] have.”

Catt, who is the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., spoke to one of the larger crowds at this year’s conference. His message, “Where Do Your Feet Take You?” was based on Matthew 9:35-38.

He noted that 75 percent of Jesus’ ministry was in the area of Galilee. He emphasized the compassion Jesus had for people and the compassion Christians must have to reach people with the gospel.

“Christ didn’t sit around Starbucks having a latte and wondering how to connect with people. He just did it,” Catt said. “Jesus saw people in a crowd. We see crowds of people.”

Lamenting the apathy of Christians — especially Baptists — toward evangelism, Catt pointed out that “we have made Jesus boring.”

“A church that is not aggressively committed to the Great Commission is nothing more than a nonprofit country club,” he said.

Catt also shared some of the things Sherwood is doing to more fully integrate the church by reaching into needy areas of the community and conducting ongoing ministries in the community, as well as being involved in global outreach.

Sherwood Baptist is the church that produced such Christian films as “Courageous,” “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.”

In addition to Catt, speakers at this year’s conference included father-son preaching teams Don and Rocky Purvis, Herb and Josh Reavis, and Don and Brad Whitt. Other speakers included David Gallamore, pastor of the host church, and evangelists Phil Hoskins and Jeff LaBorg.

The conference’s theme, “Legacy,” focused on challenging the church to be intentional about passing on the truths of the gospel to the next generation, said Lee Clamp, SCBC evangelism director.

“We are one generation away from a people who know not the Word of God nor our charge to make disciples,” said Clamp. “It is our responsibility to raise up a generation that seeks to keep evangelism at the forefront and heart of relational discipleship.”

Clamp said 1,070 people attended the Wednesday night session when Michael Catt spoke, and that about 225 pastors attended the morning sessions. Tuesday and Thursday night sessions averaged around 600, he said.

During the Wednesday morning session, Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., encouraged pastors to be “men of God who will not whine even though their people whine.”

“[Don’t] waste today hoping tomorrow will be better. Moses left an unfinished task,” Reavis said, noting that Moses died within sight of the Promised Land. “God doesn’t want you to leave behind a tombstone. He wants you to leave behind a legacy.”

Josh Reavis followed his father on the platform and said he was “thankful for the men of God” who have discipled him.

The younger Reavis, who serves on staff at his father’s church, said he is a member of a generation that has “seen churches chew up preachers and spit them out,” and that many men have resisted a call to ministry as a result.

He encouraged older pastors who have experienced the trials of ministry not to “temper the fire” of young ministers set on winning souls for Christ. “Don’t underestimate God’s ability to use them,” he said. “Don’t throw cold water on the fire of young guys coming up in your church.”

Speaking Thursday morning, Rocky Purvis, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in West Columbia, exhorted pastors to “stop shooting each other” and instead encourage others “who may be baptizing more than us.”

Purvis told of a congregation that opened its doors within a mile of his church. “In the first Sunday, we lost 100 people,” he said. “We blessed them, and kept sharing the gospel and reaching the lost, and in a year we were up 20 percent, and the other church was growing, too.

“We need to come together and work together to reach our communities rather than be in competition with one another. If we don’t stop shooting ourselves, we will create denominational suicide.”

During the conference, father-and-son pastors were recognized, and SCBC executive director-treasurer Jim Austin offered up a prayer that “these young men take on the boldness of their fathers.” Also recognized during the meeting were men who have served in the ministry for 50 years or longer.

Clamp expressed appreciation to Rock Springs pastor David Gallamore and music minister Don Gibson. “They did an exceptional job hosting us,” Clamp said. “Their choir was amazing, and their staff was so hospitable.”