Published January 27, 2011
Our Georgia Baptist evangelists are focused, faithful and sometimes even appear to be fanatics, but unfortunately many congregations seem to be so satisfied with apathy and mediocrity that the enlivening ministry of an evangelist is not considered a viable option for the church. Could anything be more tragic?
Evangelists are God-called ministers who are, according to Scripture, gifts to the church. They mostly engage in itinerant ministries that are created to help churches reap a harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God, inspire a passion for evangelism and edify the body of Christ.
Some of the evangelists lead marriage enrichment conferences, soul winning training courses, men’s conferences, women’s retreats, prayer conferences and are equipped to serve the church in a variety of ways, but evangelism and reaching the lost continues to be the heart and soul of their ministry.
Each year in January the Conference of Georgia Baptist Evangelists (COGBE) has a retreat. This year’s retreat in Marietta attracted more than 50 evangelists along with their spouses and friends.
At this year’s retreat Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, and Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville and pastor-advisor for COGBE, brought inspiring and challenging messages. Dennis Nunn, COGBE’s president, led three sessions on “How to Fill Up Your Schedule.”
Joel Southerland, former pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton and new Baptist state missionary working in the area of evangelism, has served as pastor-advisor of COGBE in recent years. Southerland stated, “It is not easy to be an evangelist.
“It takes a tremendous amount of faith to be a full-time evangelist,” Southerland continued, “because most persons who launch out into the deep to become evangelists don’t know if they will have a full schedule or not. They certainly do not have the security of most pastors. At least the vast majority of pastors know they will receive a weekly or monthly income of a certain amount.
“Evangelists can never be sure from one year to the next if their schedule will be full or if their financial needs will be met. They must live by faith. They may have a certain amount of freedom, but they often have to forfeit financial security for that freedom.’
Richard Holden, one of Georgia’s full-time evangelists, served as a pastor for more than 30 years before God led him into full-time evangelism. Holden explained, “A pastor is always having to mediate problems, put out ‘brush fires,’ and deal with a variety of issues that surface in the church, but the evangelist doesn’t have to do that. However, many evangelists are constantly faced with financial problems. Many churches have no idea how much it costs for an evangelist to meet his financial obligations.”
One evangelist at the retreat explained that his ministry required multiple promotional mailings, advertising and newsletters that involved the purchase of paper, envelopes, postage and office equipment that often amounted to as much as $12,000 or $13,000. His expenses to several state Baptist conventions and evangelism conferences to highlight his ministry as well as the Southern Baptist Convention often exceed $3,500 annually. In addition to that he has books to purchase and his professional membership fees alone cost $250 each year.
Many churches may not realize that unlike many pastors, who live in a church-owned home or receive a housing allowance, evangelists must generate enough money through their ministries to pay for their housing, utilities, health insurance, disability and annuity expenses.
Nunn exhorted his peers by stating, “If you got into evangelism for money you made a big mistake, but if you don’t get money you won’t be able to stay in evangelism.”
One evangelist stated that in one revival he conducted he received $300 for his services. Another said he grossed only $200 for a four-day revival.
Nunn remarked, “Most pastors have had a bad experience with an evangelist at some point and I agree that if a pastor has had a negative experience with an evangelist he should not invite that particular evangelist back to his church, but that pastor should not abandon the use of all evangelists because of a bad experience with just one.”
In his message Cox challenged the evangelists to become individuals of excellence, ministers who will make a profound impact upon the world for the cause of Christ. He proclaimed, “Abraham was a friend of God. Enoch walked with God. David was a man after God’s own heart.
“Each one of you can make a great impact for God if you will walk in the full assurance of your salvation, if you will continue to surrender your life to God, if you remain committed to the Scripture and if you keep sharing your story.”
The evangelists who were present for the COGBE retreat responded positively to Cox’s message. They have been called. They are especially gifted. They are a present to the church. They need to be used; and they deserved to be properly remunerated for their services.
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