June 2, 1999

Spinoff Texas convention
holds evangelism conference

___By Marv Knox
___DALLAS--A trio of Southern Baptist Convention presidents highlighted the first evangelism conference sponsored by the new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
___Southern Baptists of Texas formed last fall, when members split from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Supporters of the new convention have accused the BGCT of distancing itself from the national convention, which has swung more politically and theologically conservative during the past two decades.
___"From the Heart of Jesus to the Heart of Texas" was the theme for the evangelism conference, which drew several hundred people to First Baptist Church in Dallas.
___Current SBC President Paige Patterson joined two former presidents, Jerry Vines (1988-90) and Tom Elliff (1996-98) to headline the two-day conference.
___"We have become so prosperous, so well-to-do, so well-thought-of that we have ceased to reach the lost," Patterson said of Southern Baptists. "Do ... sinners feel comfortable with you, or are they put off by your churchiness and supposed righteousness? Jesus compelled the lost, and they felt comfortable with him.
___"We need to have more friends among those who are acknowledged to be lost," urged Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
___That's because non-Christians are valuable to God, he added, noting angels rejoice every time a sinner repents.
___"How about your heart: Is it cold or hot?" Patterson asked. "You can tell by the way it responds when a sinner repents."
___The bad-news world desperately needs to hear good news from Christians, insisted Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
___In the Bible, two words always are linked together--"sin" and "death," he noted, calling them "the twin mountains of man's misery."
___"The bad news is man is a sinner, and the wages of sin is death," he lamented.
___"But you and I have the good news," Vines stressed. "The gospel's answer to the problem of sin is Jesus Christ died for our sin. He paid the price for our sin.
___"The crucifixion of Christ is a fact of history. It also is a matter of theology: Christ died for our sins. ... He was buried and put away our sins. ... Then, he rose again and conquered death. He conquers death for every born-again believer.
___"We've got this message, and it's good news," he said. "Let's go out there and tell it."
___Christians will be judged by how well they tell that good news, warned Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla.
___"There are some callous reactions you must avoid" in regard to millions of non-Christians in the world, he said. "You may say, 'I can't lead people to Jesus.' But Jesus said you can."
___And Christians who refuse to lead others to faith in Jesus will suffer the consequences, he noted. "Christians will be judged too. God will ask, 'What did you do with what I gave you?' Each one of us will be tried as by fire."
___No excuse can cover for failing to share the Christian faith with unbelievers, he added, prompting, "Name one thing you've got to do that's more important than winning souls to Jesus. There comes a time in every life when you've got to prove what you believe by what you do."
___Southern Baptists of Texas honored W.A. Criswell, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who served the congregation for 50 years.
___The organization named the "W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for Pastoral Evangelism" in his honor and bestowed the first such award upon him.
___Criswell was in the hospital and unable to receive the award. Three Criswell proteges--Patterson; O.S. Hawkins, Criswell's successor at the Dallas church and now president of the SBC Annuity Board; and Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in suburban Dallas--delivered the award to him in the hospital.
___Graham, pastor of one of the largest Baptist churches in Texas, also praised the new convention.
___"I am very happy to identify with the Southern Baptists of Texas," he said before delivering a sermon.
___"If I'm going to be in a foxhole, I want to be in a foxhole with you guys."


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