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Evangelism Conference challenges about 600 senior adults to be creative fishermencomment (0)

May 15, 2014

By Julie Payne

Evangelism Conference challenges about 600 senior adults to be creative fishermen

Shortly after taking the stage at the 2014 Senior Adult Evangelism Conference, Harper Shannon admitted to the audience that a particular sermon message had been on his heart for many months beforehand.

And at the conference, held at Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham, on May 5, Shannon delivered that message to the approximately 600 participants.

A former director of the office of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) from 1985 to 1997, author and current supply preacher for Shorterville Baptist Church in Judson Baptist Association, Shannon guided the audience through three key passages in Scripture when Jesus said, “It is.” 

Quoting Scripture

In the first key passage, Shannon shared from Matthew 4 when Jesus was severely tempted by Satan in the wilderness three times after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. In these particular instances, Jesus always responded to the temptation with Scripture, Shannon said.

“Our Lord is quoting the written Word. He, being the Living Word, is pointing us that don’t hear the Word and obey the Word to pay attention,” Shannon said.

Shannon noted that for the 68 years of his own ministry, the core of his preaching philosophy is that “the preacher and the teacher is responsible” for studying God’s Word and addressing the meaning and significance of what God’s Word is. “And our task first and foremost is to preach the Word of God ... which always reveals the Living Word of God,” he said. 

The second key passage Shannon introduced was Matthew 14:27, where Jesus said to His disciples, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

In this passage, while Jesus was on a mountain praying, His disciples were on a boat as a storm began brewing. “His disciples were awakened by this storm ... and thought surely they were going to perish until they spotted a figure in the midst of the storm coming toward them, walking on the sea,” Shannon noted. “It was Jesus saying ... ‘Don’t be afraid. It is I.’”

He added, “When the storms of life are raging look ... to the Lord, look to the Master of the sea, the One who calms the waters and calms the waves. The written Word reveals the Living Word of God.”

The third key passage of Scripture that Shannon highlighted was when Jesus was hanging in near death on the cross. 

“He received the sponge of a little liquid, water and a touch of vinegar, giving His parched tongue and dry lips ... human strength to say these words from the cross of Calvary ... ‘It is finished.’ ... The work of redemption, the work of providing personal salvation to all ... who will believe ... it is finished,” Shannon said.

Anyone can repent and be saved, he added, noting Jesus rose from the grave and ascended back to the right hand of the Father. “He now intercedes for us ... and your work and my work is not yet done,” Shannon said.

And the vital work of serving as fishers of men is something believers need to be intentional about, said Jay Wolf, speaking from Matthew 4:19 when Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

“Did you know that in the last three years ... our Southern Baptist family has been significantly declining?” asked Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church, Montgomery. “Did you know that in 2013, we baptized the same number of people that we baptized in 1948; a 60-year low?” 

With many more people and churches in existence today, Wolf said he thinks it’s legitimate to ask the question, “Why?” “Could it be that we have either lost our passion for fishing or just become keepers of the aquarium?” he asked. 

Dressed in outdoor clothing and holding a fishing rod to emphasize his message, Wolf noted fishermen have two common characteristics: they are consistent and they are creative.

He then shared a story about an unbeliever he had consistently “chipped away” at for three years. “I’m not fancy but at least I can be faithful. ... 80 percent of success is just showing up. ... I could keep on loving on my brother,” he said.

Then one day, Wolf happened to notice a change in the man and sure enough the man told Wolf he was ready to receive Jesus as his Savior. “There are people out there who want to be caught, but we have to go fishing for them. We can’t give up on them,” Wolf noted.

And a fisherman is not only consistent but he’s also creative, he said. “A fisherman ... will do whatever is necessary” to get a fish. 

He explained, “If your personality is winsome, you’ll win some. ... If you will be creative in connecting with people and see people through the eyes of Jesus, well you can’t help but win some because if your faith is real it is inherently contagious.”

And churches can either be of a fort or a factory mentality, Wolf added. “A fort simply protects, a factory produces. ... If we enter the posture of defense and we’re just trying to protect, we become a holy huddle; we’re ... no longer producing people who look like Jesus and are making a difference in the world like Christ commanded.”

He added, “We are called to connect people and do what it takes to connect those people who are lost. Why? Because there is so much on the line.”

Sharing with loved ones

Wolf then pointed to the motivator: heaven and hell are real. “Do you want to stand before the Lord and your family be missing? It’s incumbent upon you for you to use your influence, your resource(s) to see your loved one come to Christ,” he explained.

Another motivator is obedience, he added. “Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ — that’s an imperative ... that’s not a suggestion.”

And senior adults have more time to win souls than they ever have before, said Ray Newcomb, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Millington, Tenn., and a former president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

“Folks, you’ve got more time than any generation to share Jesus. ... Wherever you are, witness for Jesus ... Jesus said the fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few.”  

Newcomb spoke from Philippians 3:9–14, where Paul writes of three things we need.

First forget the past of guilt, Newcomb said. “The older we get we look back and we see things in our life that we don’t like, things that we did that we’re not proud of. And the devil ... keeps us looking back.”

Some adults are living in the past of their guilt, he added. “Is your past guilt keeping you from looking forward?”

And not only is there past guilt, there also is past grief. “Let me tell you something folks, you’re not finished yet,” he encouraged, advising not to let it consume you so you aren’t serving God now.

Second focus on the present, Newcomb said, sharing the story of Florence Chadwick, a swimmer who accomplished a tremendous feat in 1950 by swimming the English Channel in 13 hours and 20 minutes, breaking the record. Then in 1952, Chadwick was inspired to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California, Newcomb said. 

“She ... swam 15 hours before (the) fog set in,” he said, adding that she eventually quit. When they lifted her into the boat, she was less than a quarter-mile from shore, he said, noting it disappointed her so much that she tried it again later and, when the fog set in again, she made it because she had readjusted her focus. 

Newcomb noted, “Fog sets in when we get older sometimes — the fog of disappointment, (the) fog of discouragement. ... But where’s your focus? ... The Bible says look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.”

Third, Paul said there is a future prize. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v. 14).

“The world’s not calling me, God is calling me,” Newcomb said. “I’m not just going to a place, I’m going to a Person. I’m going to Jesus Christ.”

In addition to the messages by the three speakers, the conference — organized by the SBOM’s office of evangelism and made possible by gifts through the Cooperative Program — was further accentuated by special music from pianist Frank Jones and southern gospel singer/songwriter Squire Parsons. 

Parsons, accompanied by his son, Samuel, sang in both the morning and afternoon session, singing several crowd favorites that spurred the audience to sing and clap along. A particular favorite they sang was “Sweet Beulah Land.” 

The 2015 Senior Adult Evangelism Conference will be held May 4 at First Baptist Church, Prattville. 

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