A Remnant: Engage, The Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference 2008

Newspaper writers tend to be lousy historians. To be fair, it is not always their fault. It is difficult to understand, and explain the magnitude of a situation when you are standing in the “present”. Like the ol’ adage you cannot see the forest because of the trees. Interpreting the meaning of a “current” event can be as difficult as predicting weather in the Panhandle of Texas.

I attended the Texas Baptist Evangelism conference in Rockwall this week with a couple hundred of my brothers and sisters. Due to conflicts in my schedule and a bit too much fellowship in the hallways I was not able to attend all the sessions, and workshops, but what I did attend challenged, convicted, and encouraged me. John Randles too a big step of faith choosing the venue, and if you did not sit up front (Note: sitting up front as Baptists seems to go against the fundamentals of our faith) you felt like you were attending a late September afternoon Texas Ranger baseball game after the season is lost and the stands are filled only with vendors, and die-hard fans.

After the meeting I began to reflect on what it meant. Why did we have such a small crowd? We could point fingers at lack of promotion, or lack of high profile preachers, or division in our ranks. We could suggest the attention of our people is on the New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta later this month. You could declare like a prophet of old that this is a sign we have lost our evangelistic fervor and the demise of our once great convention is at hand. You could explain it away as another sign that we are out of touch with the post-modern world, and and we created an event even the gray-heads would not attend.

Since this is my blog let me share what I took away from the meeting. First I was personally blessed. I did not get to participate in as much of the conference as I would have wanted to, but the sessions I attended ministered to me, and challenged me to be more intentional as a pastor, and as a believer in sharing the good news. I was especially challenged by Jon Randles message, and I intend to blog on this in a later post. Secondly, I enjoyed being around my friends. One of the reasons I attend BGCT meetings is because they are like family reunions to me (and this one did not involve voting on anything!).

Finally, I learned what a “remnant” feels like. I have enough gray hair, and miles on my odometer to remember the “glory days” of the Texas Baptist Evangelism Conferences, especially the ones held in Ft. Worth. In fact, my baby daughter was born fourteen years ago during the conference. Her arrival followed my wife having to climb to the top of the Tarrant County Convention Center to find a seat!

In those days we took a great deal for granted. I assumed we were immune to change and decline. I was wrong, and I was living in the land of denial and I am not talking about Egypt. When I stared out over the hundreds of empty seats this week, I was disappointed and sadden, but not deterred from my convict that fresh winds of change are blowing among us.

As I reflected on what I sense God is doing among us I was drawn to the words of Isaiah 11:21-22.

20 In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will truly rely on the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
will return to the Mighty God.

Isaiah 10:20-21 (NIV)

It appears the lesson of the remnant is: RETURN AND TRUST IN THE LORD.

I fear that we corporately have wandered away from our trust and reliance on the LORD. I believe we must face the harsh reality we need to return to the LORD, if we are going to be all He wants us to be in the years to come.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “A Remnant: Engage, The Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference 2008

  1. I received some flyers and a phone call. All in all, it seemed like the promotion was pretty good. The flyers were really nice, high quality glossies. In my opinion, it was almost like the target was generation x.

    So, my question is this: How many young people did you see…say between the ages of 20-35? From the promo material, I would expect a pretty good showing.

    Tim

  2. Tim,

    I did not get to attend the Extreme Engage portion. I suspect that crowd which to may understanding was the largest crowd of the conference was much younger than the average BGCT event. I was told 400 attended that portion of the event, but I have no way to verify this information.

    As far as Monday afternoon, evening, and Tuesday morning goes it appeared to me that at least 1/3 of the crowd if not more were between 25-35 years old. It was a much younger crowd than I have typically seen at conventions.

    I agree the publicity pieces were sharp. I had no idea who the younger guys were who he was promoting–show my age and the fact that news still reaches the Panhandle by pony express–but I heard very good things about their presentations.

    On a side note: Shane and Shane often draw thousands of teenagers, college students, and young adults to their concerns. I wonder how much promotion of their concert was communicated to youth groups. A “free” mini concert I would think would have drawn a good crowd of youth, but of course there is no “free” lunch they would have had to stay for “preaching”!

    Thanks for your input.

    David

  3. David,
    It was so good to talk with you at Engage. I intend to work very hard to make the regional conference at Belton a success. We need these meetings for enriching our relationships as churches. We are part of a Kingdom and not local franchises. Spread the word. It is time to come together around the common cause of reaching people. The church is the only institution on earth that exists for people who are not yet a part of it.
    Dan Wooldridge

  4. Dan,

    I too enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for your leadership and investment in our convention. You have deeply impacted my life by your example and words of encouragement.

    Thank you for your challenge to look outside our walls, and to be the people we were created to be.

    David

  5. spiritualsamurai

    Dr. Lowrie,

    Thank you for your observation and most likely prophetic commentary.

  6. David,

    I too enjoyed the parts of the convention I was able to attend and was also challenged as I returned to Harlingen on Wednesday. I had no idea what lay ahead for me or for the opportunities the Lord was going to give me. I had prayed at the convention for the Lord to surround me with more people who need Christ.

    On Thursday morning I had a heart attack, underwent a heart cath, received a stint to clear up an artery that was blocked 100%. Needless to say, the very next day after the convention I was surrounded by people who desperately need Christ and they were coming to my door (all day and all night, ha).

    I came home today and am recovering well. I should experience a full recovery in a few weeks, with the addition of some new medications for the rest of my life. But all is well.

    I simply wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed our conversations and look forward to many to come. I do appreciate your honest evaluation of the event as I believe that you need to be in attendance if you are to offer any valid evaluation. As Ellis said in his sermon last Sunday, which I watched from my hospital bed this morning, reading a sermon or hearing about a sermon never carries the full impact of experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in a sermon (yes, Ellis, I took a little license as I could not remember the exact quote due to a lack of sleep and some strong medications).

    The Evangelism Conference was lacking in attendance, but not in its focus. We were drawn together in order to be inspired to evangelize Texas and the world, I must admit that even though the message was not always on evangelism, it was always about our focus not being on ourselves, but on the Lord and those around us. I needed to hear this message and I need to hear it often. I am grateful to Jon for calling us back to our common mission and I am saddened by those who have moved so far from the focus in their dialogues and their practice that they cannot hear the message.

    Hope you enjoy the panhandle, I will be in shorts again tomorrow and at the beach by next week.

    Wade

  7. David,

    I pray we will return to the LORD. He is the builder of the church with both a capital “C” and little “c”, so we need His favor and hand in all we do.

    David

  8. Wade,

    I am so thankful you are alive to write your observations. When I read your note I was shocked. As they say heart disease can be a silent killer.

    I appreciated your insights from the conference as well. There is truth to the fact that one cannot know the impact of a sermon or event from a reporter blog, or a written record. Being there is priceless. I met Jesus there, and I had a good time with some good close friends.

    I pray the LORD will call us to Himself so He can send us out as fishers of men.

    David

  9. Lee

    I was unable to attend the evangelism conference this year, due to my participation in another ministry related to the NAMB having our planning conference the same week. But I am not sure I would have gone anyway. One of the “turn offs” about attending “evangelism conferences” for me has been the way they have been promoted. The idea seems to be that you draw a crowd based on the celebrity status of the preachers in the lineup, and their oratorical skills. Personally, my motivation to attend would be to get some spiritual food and inspiration and that comes from the Spirit, not from the celebrity status of a well known preacher.

    I attended Cornerstone Baptist Church’s “Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit” last spring, and there really weren’t any “celebrities” in the lineup. However, it was the most inspiring, motivating meeting I’ve been to in a long, long time, and I am saving my resources for a return visit this spring, if they have another one.

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