By Karl Burkhardt
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — With the central theme of “Oklahoma: My Place to Serve,” the Baptist General Conference of Oklahoma (BGCO) hosted its annual Statewide Evangelism Conference Sunday evening through Tuesday evening at First Baptist Church in Moore.
According to Tim Gentry, director of evangelism for the BGCO, this year’s Evangelism Conference featured all Oklahoma speakers.
“Our focus is always on Oklahoma. In the past, we have brought in national and even international speakers to challenge us. I believe this year is the time and season to hear what God is doing across Oklahoma and to hear what God has put on the heart of Oklahoma pastors,” Gentry said.
The key scripture verse chosen for this year’s conference was Matthew 10:45, in which Jesus clearly states the reason He came to earth as the Son of God: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Since the conference drew individuals primarily from Oklahoma, auto license plates in the parking lot render little insight into its participants. However, one can quickly grasp the scope of the annual gathering from identifying markers on the many church vans and buses. With 1,800 Southern Baptist churches in the state — representing cities, towns and rural areas — pastors, staff and laypeople of all genders, ages and walks of life descended on Moore to focus themselves on Christ’s Great Commission.
Monday morning’s opening session was led by the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (OCOSBE). Uplifting worship and hundreds of voices joined in and singing was layered with challenging preaching. Evangelist Charlie Keim of the OCOSBE shared his vision for spreading the good news of Christ.
“We (OCOSBC) cooperate with Southern Baptist churches and the State General Conference in promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ here in Oklahoma and around the world. Our evangelists have traveled to Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. We have shared the Good News in Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas. Wherever we go, whether it is on the street or in the pulpit, through radio or in printed material, we look for any opportunity to share Christ with people,” Keim said.
Four additional general sessions occurred Monday and Tuesday. These sessions featured pacesetting pastors from churches of various sizes and ministries. While there were one or two larger church pastors who spoke, the majority of these Oklahoma ministers represented medium-sized and smaller churches. The goal of these sessions was to highlight God’s workings among the Body of Christ throughout the state, while encouraging pastors with practical application on how to return to their service areas and see anew those people and groups that need to be reached for God.
In between these sessions, attendees were able to visit numerous staffed ministry booths addressing nearly every human need found across Oklahoma.
Tuesday morning featured numerous breakout sessions designed to give pastors, staff and lay people the vision, ideas, tools and implementation they needed to return to their churches and create evangelistic efforts on behalf of our Lord’s Kingdom. These sessions included teachings from hands-on leaders from across Oklahoma who have actually experienced success with these methods. Topics covered a wide variety of ministries, age-groups and programs.
During this same time-frame, a special women’s event featured seven inspiring speakers. In addition to the live presentations, the women’s sessions were videotaped and will be made available on the BGCO website for use by women’s ministries within and outside of church. Kelly King, women’s specialist for the BGCO, led a mini-session on Engaging Prayer, a practical approach that can be implemented in Sunday school classes or small groups to effectively pray for those who do not yet know Christ.
“Evangelism should be a part of our daily life. I desire to encourage women in their personal ministry of evangelism. I want to focus women on how they can build bridges with those whom God has placed in our lives and right where we live. I strongly believe that evangelism does not reside solely in sharing or speaking, but is also in living our lives in front of our world,” King said.
As the conference drew to a close, an overarching emphasis was placed on encouraging churches across the state of Oklahoma to return to their neighborhoods and commit to starting one new class or small group this fall. With a target date of Sept. 7, the focus of the statewide initiative is how the BGCO and their various ministry divisions can assist churches to start relational groups that will help people connect to a local church.
The theme for the initiative is “ReConnect,” and was kicked off Jan. 26 at a pre-conference prayer meeting. The initiative will gain ground in February through Town Hall #NewGroups on Twitter, and at a Transform Conference in late March.
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