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COSBE lifts evangelism, laments funding cuts
Norm Miller, Baptist Press
June 23, 2011
8 MIN READ TIME

COSBE lifts evangelism, laments funding cuts

COSBE lifts evangelism, laments funding cuts
Norm Miller, Baptist Press
June 23, 2011

PHOENIX – The

need for renewed evangelism, concerns about Calvinism and comments regarding

North American Mission Board budget cuts were voiced during the annual

evangelists-sponsored worship service prior to the SBC

annual meeting.

The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ gathering June 12, with the

theme “Ageless Urgency,” featured three preachers: Eric Fuller, Harold Hunter

and Brian Fossett.

“If there was ever a time that evangelism needed to be at the forefront, now is

that time,” COSBE president’s, Braxton Hunter, told the assembly. “There is

little concern for evangelism in our convention.”

Fuller, an evangelist based in Fort Worth, Texas,

preached a sermon titled “Not on Our Watch” from Ezekiel 3:16-19.

Photo by Matt Miller.

Eric Fuller, an evangelist based in Fort Worth, Texas, preaches during the opening session of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix Sunday, June 12. The conference was held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Fuller equated the role of a contemporary evangelist with the role of the

prophet Ezekiel and the watchman in Old Testament culture, saying: “Failure to

warn people of God’s judgment results in death,” and that pastors and

evangelists “will be held accountable. Their blood will be on our hands if we

fail to tell them.”

Pastors and evangelists “must remember that we are not defined by the numbers

of souls that are saved in our ministry, but by our character, integrity and

obedience to God …,” Fuller said.

Calvinism is “a big problem today in our country, and among Christians,” Fuller

said.

“If you are a Calvinist in this place this morning, stop trying to convert

Christians to Calvinism and begin sharing the Gospel with lost people so that

the Lord can convert them to Christianity,” Fuller said. “If you are a

non-Calvinist this morning, stop talking about sharing the Gospel and get out

there and actually do it.

Brian Fossett, a former COSBE president and member of Liberty

Baptist Church

in Dalton, Ga.,

preached from Ephesians 4:11, encouraging attendees to get back to “the three T’s”

of evangelism – “tracts, training and testimonies” – that he said would “revolutionize

our churches.”

Harold Hunter, president of Trinity College

of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh,

Ind., and the father of Braxton Hunter,

said in his message he is “burdened about the direction of our Southern Baptist

Convention,” noting that Southern Baptists baptized 17,416 fewer people in 2010

than in 2009, representing the lowest number of annual baptisms in 60 years.

“Evidently this new wave of trying to be relevant to the people in the bars on

Friday night is not really working,” Harold Hunter said. “Either what you do at

your church and what this convention does is supernatural or it’s superficial.”

Referring to Acts 2, Hunter said Jesus’ disciples “were together in one accord.”

Though Southern Baptists are gathered in Phoenix,

he said, “We are together but, pardon my English, we ain’t together.”

“We’ve gotten into celebrity worship,” Hunter said. “Just look at all the names

on pastors’ conferences and state evangelism events. … They are not as well

attended as they once were, because to be a major speaker on the program you

must be a mega-pastor or else you’re a failure. Jeremiah would’ve never made it

on the program of the Pastors’ Conference.

“We have become a convention that is known for its concert divas, pulpit prima

donnas and academic elitists, and that is not the Southern Baptist Convention,”

Harold Hunter said.

“I hear those of Reformed theology say, ‘Well, the founders of our great

convention – all of them were basically Calvinists,’” Hunter said, adding that

for every Calvinistic founder of the SBC he

could name three who were not.

“Let me tell you something: It was not the giants, be they Calvinists or not,

who made the Southern Baptist Convention great,” Hunter said. “It was the great

host of people whose names are never mentioned: the evangelists, the

missionaries, the small church pastors, the laymen, and the women, bless God.”

Noting he wanted to “clearly preach about the ethics of those who aspire to

leadership in our convention,” Hunter said: “There is scarcely a week goes by

that in my office I hear of some church fallen

into disrepair because some man who was a Calvinist – limited atonement – and

didn’t tell the pulpit committee or the deacons until he became pastor, and

then it split the church. I believe you ought to be honest. If that’s what you

are, then tell them that’s what you are.”

Harold Hunter also referred to an action of the North American Mission Board

toward defunding the Baptism Assistance Project, a COSBE-NAMB partnership. That

initiative provided COSBE-certified evangelists a modest, pre-determined

honorarium with travel and lodging expenses to preach at any Southern Baptist

church requesting assistance to reverse a church’s lack of baptisms.

“I want to say a word that I hope gets back to NAMB,” Hunter said, noting that

he was speaking for himself and not COSBE. “You cut the funding of COSBE. These

evangelists are listed in the Word of God as a gift to the church. They were

laid hold upon by the hand of the Holy Spirit and are guided by the (Bible).”

Noting that Psalm 105:15 “categorically says ‘touch not mine anointed and do my

prophets no harm,’” Harold Hunter said he wanted North American Mission Board

leaders to know that “in my opinion, you sinned against God. You cannot

mistreat the only position in the entire Southern Baptist Convention that

exists primarily to bring people to Christ … and you had the audacity to cut

that funding in the face of a holy God. Shame on you.”

Hunter’s comments prompted two statements to Baptist Press, one by Dean

Forrest, COSBE’s vice president who will serve as the organization’s president

during the coming year, and the other by Mike Ebert, NAMB’s vice president for

communications.

Forrest, of Pike Road, Ala.,

stated:

“There is one statement that you can say about Southern Baptist Evangelists: we

are all passionate about sharing the gospel and seeing people come to a

genuine, eternal relationship with Christ. It should come as no surprise that

some of our members were upset when NAMB, under the directives of the Great

Commission Resurgence, essentially de-funded all three of the long-term

partnership initiatives with Southern Baptist Evangelists. Those three

partnerships were the Annual Evangelist Retreat which brought over 100

evangelists to participate in Crossover, the SBC

Sunday Morning Worship Service, and the Baptism Assistance Project; none of which

were fully funded with CP dollars.

“According to a member of the Baptism Assistance Project committee, Keith

Fordham of Fayetteville, GA, ‘Every Baptism Assistance Project that our members

conducted resulted in salvations and baptisms in churches that were categorized

as reporting ‘no or low baptisms.’ The partnership with NAMB had a 100 percent

success rate.’ In a day when thousands of our churches are reporting zero

baptisms on their Annual Church Reports, it is difficult for evangelists to

understand why the program funding was cut. That being said, Southern Baptist

Evangelists have a rich heritage in and with the SBC

and NAMB. With or without CP funded partnerships we will continue to proclaim

the gospel and be proud to be known as Southern Baptist Evangelists: partners

with the SBC, NAMB, and the local church in

the Great Commission harvest.”

Ebert stated: “We still have money budgeted to work with COSBE and we still

cover the cost for their website. Virtually every area of work at NAMB has seen

budget cuts as we re-allocate resources toward church planting. Travel budgets

for Alpharetta staff have been cut by half. So COSBE has not been singled out

in any way. We are just involved in a process of pushing as many dollars as we

can toward missionaries and toward starting more churches in North

America.”

COSBE also elected new officers June 12. In

addition to Forrest, Phil Glisson of Memphis, Tenn., was elected vice

president; Russell Johnson of Conway, S.C., worship director; Eric Ramsey of

Mountainburg, Ark., technical director; Cindy Hogue of Cullman, Ala.,

secretary/treasurer; Sid Peterson of Bakersfield, Calif., parliamentarian; and

Eric Fuller, recording secretary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Norm Miller is a freelance writer living in Richmond,

Va. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston

contributed to this article.)