The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina focused on evangelism March 20-21 at its annual General Assembly.
The meeting at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville included an evangelism track of breakout sessions, testimonies and sermons stressing the need to tell people about Jesus. More than 1,100 people registered for the weekend meeting with about 925 attending a worship service the first night.
Fred Craddock, who was called one of the country’s best preachers by Newsweek magazine, was keynote speaker. The meeting’s theme was “Use Words if Necessary: Embracing Authentic Evangelism.”
Craddock preached at both worship services and answered questions during a dialogue session the first afternoon. His sermons and responses stressed the importance of telling people about Jesus.
“Faith comes by hearing, but how can they hear unless someone is saying something?” he said.
Christians who say they just witness with their lives are copping out, Craddock said. Many Christians think that it’s enough to just “walk the walk,” he said.
“There’s only one problem with that — it’s not the truth,” he said. “Somebody has to talk the talk.”
Craddock talked about Jesus' words in Matthew 12, which says that by words people are justified and by words people are condemned.
“In my experience, there is nothing more powerful than the right word at the right time from the right person,” Craddock said.
Talking about something important is hard, he said.
“Nervousness is the way the body honors the seriousness of what you’re doing,” he said.
Craddock said Christians have gotten scared of using the word evangelism because of charlatans who are “always boiling water but never making any soup.”
“So we’ve avoided the word and also the activity,” he said.
In a breakout session, Rendell Hipps, minister of education and discipleship at First Baptist Church in Hickory, suggested that instead of tossing out the word, churches should work to reclaim it. Hipps and Todd Blake, pastor of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Fayetteville, led a workshop on “Nurturing the Conversation of Evangelism in Your Church: a Local Church Discernment Process.”
Hipps and Blake are both members of CBF-NC’s Evangelism Task Force. The task force is an outgrowth of CBF-NC’s 2007 Strategic Plan, which listed evangelism as a common concern or need among CBF-NC churches.
The plan called for the formation of a group “to explore evangelism needs, to develop a healthy philosophy/theology for evangelism; to develop a strategy for congregational evangelism; and to explore the relationship between being a missional church and evangelism.”
Hipps and Blake presented a “coaching approach” to helping churches with evangelism that doesn’t tell them how to do it, but helps them “ask the right questions.” They said outreach must be about spiritual formation as well as evangelism or “it won’t work.”
Hipps and Blake said working through a process is more difficult that using an evangelism program bought from a Christian bookstore.
“You have to listen for God to speak,” Blake said.
Also during its General Assembly, CBF-NC adopted a 2009-10 budget of $1.19 million, an 8.87 percent increase over the previous year. The organization also expects to receive another $1.6 million through its Mission Resource Plan to be passed on to N.C. Baptist agencies and institutions and other Baptist groups.
Most CBF-NC related churches also support the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina through the Cooperative Program.
Mack Dennis, who presented the budget on behalf of the CBF-NC finance committee, said the organization is in a “very solid’ financial position as designated and undesignated giving continues to grow through record levels. The current economic crisis has caused CBF-NC to hit a “slight bump,” leading the committee to recommend the smallest percentage budget increase in the group’s history, he said.
CBF-NC Executive Coordinator Larry Hovis said in his report that CBF-NC has experienced double-digit financial growth over the last five years, but he remains concerned about whether the group will have resources to meet ministry expectations.
“There is a limited amount of growth we can expect from church budgets, so we must explore alternative avenues for resources,” Hovis said.
CBF-NC also took up an offering for Living Faith Ministry in Lebanon at the meeting. More than $7,000 was contributed, which is $2,000 more than the offering at any previous CBF-NC meeting.