Crestview Baptist Church had the wonderful privilege of hosting an Engage Evangelizing Texas Conference early this year. We also were asked to lead breakout sessions at conferences in San Antonio and Victoria. Having the opportunity to participate in three of these and also have inside information about the other locations, I think I am in a great position to give a pastor’s perspective on them.
The Content was excellent. My only regret was that I did not get to visit every breakout. Any pastor or leader who could not get helpful ideas from these events would have had to sleep through them. The personal contact with people who were doing effective evangelism is far more helpful than reading a book or an article on the internet. If it were just as easy to be shaped by a book, God should have sent a book instead of sending his Son. There will never be a substitute for the Incarnate Son of God, and there will never be a substitute for the incarnate testimony or conference. Disciples are made face to face and hand to hand.
The attendance was disappointing. I am astonished at the lack of interest in seeking greater effectiveness in evangelism that exists in our day. I am personally aware of hundreds of churches that are weaker than they have been in thirty years. It is incredible to me that the leaders of these churches are so apathetic that they would not take advantage of an opportunity to consider new and fresh ideas. I am left to conclude either that they arrogantly assume that they know all that needs to be known, that they are reduced to reading books or copying megachurch ideas, or that they just don’t care. If the statistics mean anything, the third assertion is probably correct. I have actually seen more ministries destroyed by copying megachurches than I have seen success stories. The statewide leaders tell me that Crestview was the most successful Engage event of 2010 and even it was not nearly so well attended by pastors as I would have hoped. I am sure these leaders would say they had more important things to do, but I must ask what is more important to our Lord than reaching people? If they were engaged in an actual evangelistic event at the time of the conference nearest them, then I would heartily agree that this would be more important.
There was one very bright spot. The Hispanic Engage Conferences were a huge success. Thousands attended and several hundred salvations were recorded. Maybe God is going to raise up a new set of leaders in Texas. Maybe they just care more than those who have led in the past. In my personal opinion we have a very narrow window of opportunity to turn the state of church life in Texas around. I am praying earnestly for a new day for evangelism in Texas.
One final note. I want to heartily commend the churches in Victoria who are committed to making 13000 personal home contacts as a part of Hope 2010. They have challenged me to consider expanding our own vision from the current 10000 visits we are involved in.