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“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” II Timothy 4:5


For over seventy years, vocational evangelists and pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have shared a common goal of reaching the lost and discipling the saved. Thousands of our churches have experienced the blessings and reaped the rewards of having experienced the preaching of God-called evangelists gifted with “drawing the net,” and “gathering the harvest.” The pastor and the evangelist have always been partners in obeying our Lord’s instructions found in Matthew 28:19-20.


A. Decline of Baptisms

The Southern Baptist Convention lost more than 200,000 members last year and baptized fewer than 300,000 new converts for the first time in 68 years, according to statistics compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources.

The loss of 204,409 members in 2015, followed on the heels of the loss of 236,467 the year before, the largest one-year drop in membership since the denomination started keeping records in 1881. Total membership of SBC churches now numbers 15,294,764, more than a million fewer than the 16.3 million reported in 2006. Paradoxically, it is interesting to note that the number of Southern Baptist Churches has grown for each of the last 17 years.

Baptisms, long regarded as a benchmark for denominational health, dropped by 10,000 to 295,212. It was the eighth decline in the last 10 years and the smallest number of baptisms since the 285,152 registered in 1947. The record year for baptisms was 445,725 in 1972. Southern Baptists reported 429,742 baptisms in 1980, the beginning of the decade of denominational controversy today known as the “conservative resurgence.”

B. Neglect of the New Testament Office of Evangelist

Facts Facing Evangelists Today

Recently, the Billy Graham organization conducted a survey of evangelists in 23 different denominations that had vocational evangelists within their ranks. What they discovered is disturbing and enforces what has often been said within a large circle of full-time evangelists in Southern Baptist life.

–Only 4 in 10 evangelists could afford to do evangelism full time, while the other 60% had to find ways to supplement their income to support their families and meet legitimate needs.

–Only 8% worked part-time as a staff evangelist in a church.

–About one-half had an annual income of $35,000 or less.

–The majority preached in towns of an average of 50,000 or less. (It is primarily rural churches use evangelists today.)

–Only 14% were spending most of their ministry time in cities of one-half million people or more. Because of this, the impact by evangelists on key cities is minimal. This is the opposite approach of the Apostle Paul, and could be a key factor in why our larger cities are becoming more pagan.

–The biggest challenges facing evangelists are how to deal with the loss of passion in the local church and how to encourage the local church to wisely select and make use of evangelists in the evangelistic task before them.

–When asked, “What is your greatest frustration?”, the answer was, “Why does the local church not use evangelists?”

–When asked, “What is your greatest hold-back?”, the answer was, “Finances.”

While this survey should concern us, of more particular interest for Southern Baptists is that in 1975 we had over 600 evangelists, and today we have fewer than 100.

Billy Graham has warned us, “I think the church through the years has been wrong in not recognizing the gift of the evangelist as much as the gift of the pastor or the gift of the teacher…the gift of the evangelist has often been neglected.” — Billy Graham


We have moved from face-to-face relationships to Facebook without relationships. We have a Snapchat superficial society, which after a few seconds, makes your relationships inaccessible. We have augmented reality, which alters one’s current perception of a real world. With such rapid changes in the way we communicate, or more accurately do not communicate, the challenge is how to connect the claims of Christ to a culture where information is altered at best and erased at worst.

Is there still a place for public evangelistic gatherings which are commonly referred to as revivals, crusades, and festivals? Yes! Individual personal evangelism, media evangelism and public proclamation have been present in every spiritual awakening for the past 2,000 years. We may need to rename these events, but the public proclamation of the Good News has endured through the ages. Special evangelistic events are needed perhaps now more than ever.

This is where God-called vocational evangelists can assist and support pastors in their evangelistic endeavors to reach the unsaved and strengthen the church. Southern Baptist Evangelists stand ready and more than willing to serve every pastor in the SBC in a variety of Harvest Events. While our vocational evangelists are trusted with the proclamation of the gospel many of them have expertise in areas such as international missions, financial, medical and family issues as well as other topics which are relevant to the church today. Harvest Events, whether corporate gatherings such as revivals and festivals, or affinity events always produce eternal results if proper preparations are made in advance. Mass evangelism is not a thing of the past, but refocusing its expressions will call for new methods.


It is suggested that the following recommendations be considered by both the pastors and evangelists in the SBC:

1) Develop a partnership between pastors, their churches and evangelists.

2) Schedule quarterly Harvest Events.

3) Develop creative and innovative evangelistic events which involve multiple churches, and/or the entire association on an annual basis.

4) Use evangelists in witnessing and discipleship training.

5) Create partnerships between strong churches and financially challenged churches with low baptisms and sponsor an evangelist who can lead a Harvest Event.


We are now in a creative time of envisioning the future pattern and structure of the public evangelistic gathering. A number of our evangelists are already using online resources in various ways to reach both Christian gatherings and unreached people groups in numerous international countries. Whether these are valid forms of public proclamation is not the question. Not using evangelists and scheduling evangelistic events has contributed to our present-day crisis of declining baptisms. The concern is developing the forms which are most effective. As has been proven in recent years, the decline in revivals and other Harvest Events is in direct correlation to the decline in baptisms in the SBC.

Church planting, the current emphasis in our Convention, has been effective in increasing the number of new churches, but has not proven effective in increasing the number of new converts. Church planting is not evangelism in place of soul-winning; church planting is the result of evangelistic soul-winning. As is recorded in Acts 2:47, the Lord added to the church only after salvation took place. Church planting as the only growth strategy of the SBC also neglects the evangelistic needs of our 47,000 existing churches.

There is a desperate need for evangelistic expository preaching followed by an invitation given clearly, honestly, courteously, urgently, expectantly, and with complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. The Vocational Evangelists in the SBC are available to assist the pastors in drawing the net whatever the Harvest Event.

Is there reason for concern about the lack of personal and corporate evangelism in the SBC? Absolutely! Is it too late to reverse these downward trends? Absolutely not! Vocational evangelists in the SBC are eager to serve any pastor, anywhere, at any anytime. Together, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we can once again hear the voices of those who have been cut to the heart cry out as on the Day of Pentecost with the question, “Brothers, what must we do?” Acts 2:37.

“God, rekindle a fire within your servants that You might ignite those who hear Your Word.”

Visit to find your Southern Baptist Evangelists.

Submitted May 17, 2018 by Jerry Drace, Convener and Editor of White Paper Report at Evangelism Summit ’18 in Jackson, Tennessee. Dr. Hal Poe, Consultant, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.

The following evangelists were present at Evangelism Summit ’18: Gary Bowlin, David Burton, Keith Cook, Jerry Drace, Phil Glisson, Michael Gott, Richard Hamlet, Ron Herrod, Jay Lowder, Glenn Sheppard, Frank Shivers, Bob Smith, David Stockwell, Sammy Tippit and Marion Warren.

Evangelistic Preaching: Another Arrow in Your Quiver of Sermons

The greatest joy a Christian can experience is seeing a new believer come to faith in Christ. Evangelistic preaching, especially when proclaimed by a vocational evangelist, is never out of style.  

Just the thought of preaching an evangelistic sermon sends some pastors running for counseling and others to a PA (Pastors Anonymous) meeting. After 37 years in full time evangelism I think I have heard all the shallow comments about evangelists and their preaching.

What’s so sad is the element of truth in many of these off handed statements. The image of the multi media evangelist and his/her preaching style combined with their lack of sound biblical content has caused many pastors to shy away from incorporating evangelistic sermons in their sermonic quivers.

Why? Because most preachers, including evangelists, do not fully understand what constitutes authentic evangelistic preaching.


First, evangelistic preaching by its very meaning must be Christ-centered. The preacher is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus who walks through the entire Bible. From, “In the beginning,” to “Surely I am coming quickly,” His foot prints are on every page and in every chapter.


Second, evangelistic preaching must be Cross-centered. Regardless of our topic or text, our aim should be to point people to Jesus. He alone is their source of hope and encouragement. The only way to do this is to lift up the Cross.

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself,” (John 12:32). The Cross and its meaning for all mankind for all eternity should be inserted into every sermon. When you omit the Cross it is like offering a thirsty man an empty water bottle from which to drink. When you embrace the Cross you will embrace the hurting needs of humanity.


Third, evangelistic preaching must be Culturally-centered. If you do not relate to your audience you end up preaching to yourself. Even some preachers are not sure what they have said when their sermon is concluded. After preaching over 5,000 sermons throughout the United States and in numerous international countries I have come to understand that the scriptures remain unchanged, but my content must relate to the culture I am addressing.

Sound biblical evangelistic exposition has several benefits: (1) It strengthens your audiences’ faith in the authority of the scriptures; (2) It affirms the testimonies of the great preachers of the past; (3) It makes the entire Bible live in the present by meeting the needs of your audience; (4) It sharpens the sword of apologetics by helping our listeners defend their faith; (5) It appeals to both the intellect and the emotion rather than one or the other; (6) It challenges the proclaimer to stay fresh in his study and in his skills of communication and creativity; (7) It keeps the focus on the destination of the sermon without taking detours; and (8) It calls for a decision on the part of everyone who has listened including the preacher. It is called the invitation.

The invitation is often the least thought out and least prepared part of the evangelistic sermon. It is not an appendix, but the final chapter. It is not a suggestion, but a mandate given by our Lord as illustrated in His first sermon in Mark 1:15. It must be given with complete dependance on the Holy Spirit. It must be given clearly. It must be given honestly. It must be given courteously. It must be given urgently. It must be given with integrity. But it must be given.

Persuasive pulpit evangelism is accomplished when we as pastors and evangelists clearly, simply, and spiritually, “Preach Jesus,warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” (Col. 1:28). If we truly want to reverse the downward trend of baptisms in our convention, let me suggest you take an evangelistic sermon from your quiver place it on the bow of proclamation and let fly.

The target you hit will be well worth the effort. And by the way, pray about using someone who has been called to the New Testament office of evangelist. These are men who take seriously their responsibility and their obligation to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

July 21, 2016 Jerry Drace

Jerry Drace is pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Friendship, TN, and president of the Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association. He served two terms as the president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, 1998-2000.

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Jerry Drace is president of the Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association and the senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Friendship, TN. He can be reached at:

Evangelists reflect on culture, integrity

Posted on Jan 11, 2008 | by Michael Chute
JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Cultural issues facing the church, as well as lack of integrity by some evangelists, are undermining the effectiveness of Southern Baptist evangelists, participants in a Jan. 7-8 evangelism summit in Jackson, Tenn., said.

Jerry Drace of Humboldt, Tenn., called together 15 prominent Southern Baptist evangelists, representing more than 450 years of ministry, to take stock of the challenges they face and address possible solutions to diminishing opportunities among the Southern Baptist Convention’s 44,000-plus churches.

An opening question for the summit considered whether the days of mass evangelism are over in Southern Baptist life.

“The public proclamation of the Gospel always works,” said Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson. “For 2,000 years, in every time, place and culture, the public proclamation of the Gospel works. From Peter in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, to Francis of Assisi gathering a crowd in the plazas of Italy as he preached to the birds, to the Puritans ‘lecturing’ in the town halls, to [John] Wesley and [George] Whitefield preaching in the fields and coal yards, to the Methodist circuit riders at camp meetings, to D.L. Moody preaching in great urban settings, to Billy Graham preaching in stadiums, the public proclamation of the Gospel always works, because ‘the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe.'”

A key theme of the summit was integrity among evangelists to safeguard their ministries and maintain the image of the office -– dealing with finances, reporting results, maintaining relationships with pastors, nurturing their families and even crediting others if using their material in preaching.

“When pastors say, ‘Evangelistically speaking,’ you know what they’re saying -– we’re going to exaggerate,” lamented Drace, who, as president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) in 2000, led the group to adopt “Affirmations of Accountability,” a code of ethics.

“What we preach, we better live; what we sing, we better live. So many of the Southern Baptist evangelists are just outstanding men and women of integrity — the vast majority are. But I lose respect from somebody when they have sold out themselves,” Drace said.

“When you’ve got evangelists like Wayne [Bristow] and Sammy [Tippit] and Glenn [Sheppard] -– these men whose ministries are solid as a rock -– those are the models that we need. These guys have a proven track record with their ministries and with their families.”

Participants chaffed over the negative image of evangelists in today’s secular culture but acknowledged some in their ranks have contributed to that view of the church office outlined in Ephesians 4:11.

“We are fighting against the media because of televangelists,” said Tippit of San Antonio, Texas, a leading international evangelist and author of “God’s Secret Agent.” He said the late Jerry Falwell was known worldwide as an evangelist because of his TV ministry but noted that he was a pastor. He pointed out that Jim Bakker was a televangelist, alluding to the “PTL Club” scandal that led to his resignation from the ministry. “In everybody’s mind they’re thinking of us this way and we need to redefine that [image].”

Keith Cook of Nashville, Tenn., said America’s postmodern culture sees an evangelist as somebody they’re afraid of. He called on evangelists to “de-emphasize the person and emphasize what we’re doing. We have to be wise in our culture. Not diminish the message, but to get on stage we have to be creative.”

Michael Gott of Keller, Texas, defined a Southern Baptist evangelist as “a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can change anybody. That’s exactly who we are and exactly what we’re doing.”

Drace asked Baptist churches in the Jackson area to invite the evangelists to preach in worship services on Sunday, Jan. 6. They came from ministries based in eight states: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. He then brought the pastors and evangelists together in a roundtable discussion Jan. 7.

Several pastors spoke to the cultural challenges facing churches in trying to host evangelistic events. Ken Story, pastor of Malesus Baptist Church in Jackson, said that “in the 1950s, you could open your door, put up a shingle that said ‘church,’ and the world came. Everything in the culture pressured people to go to church. You had to be a Bible-toting Christian or you couldn’t get elected to office or have a successful business.

“It’s not that way today -– they’re running from you as hard as they can go. Not only evangelism but churches are tarnished by our culture. Words like ‘revival’ are passé that people laugh at if you advertise it. You have to find some way to present the Gospel to where it meets a need.

“We don’t know how to get people to come hear the evangelist. We’d love to have a revival but we’re embarrassed that they only come to hear us on Sunday morning. We have a hard time justifying a revival when nobody’s going to come.”

Participants called for building stronger pastor-evangelist relationships, identifying trust as an underlying issue.

Chuck Williams, pastor of Jackson’s Calvary Baptist Church, talked about the pressure he has felt from some evangelists. “If the love offering’s not there, it’s my fault. If the decisions aren’t there, it’s my fault,” Williams said. “That’s the bottom line.”

He spoke of one unnamed evangelist that Williams said he “couldn’t get him out of my church fast enough. It wasn’t what he did to the church; it was what he did to me personally. He demanded from me 10 references and chewed me out because I didn’t give them to him.

“We’ve had some great evangelists too, but I’m just telling you sometimes this is just the way it is. What you are doing here today is great because what [pastors] need are personal relationships [with evangelists].”

Glenn Sheppard of Glenwood, Mo., a former pastor who has preached in more than 160 countries over a 45-year evangelism career, publicly apologized to the pastors.

“We must walk with integrity, and not demand, but serve our pastors,” Sheppard said. “Forgive us. Forgive the heritage that’s done this kind of thing. There’s a generation of us who want to work and walk in integrity and are determined to so.”

Sheppard added what churches today are asking what’s his “bottom line” for a meeting -– whether he has a set fee.

“I want to cry,” he said. “I have no desire to tell you what I’ve got to have [financially] to come. If we’ve got to have X amount from you, then we’re in [evangelism] for the wrong purpose. I don’t have a fee; I have a Master and a call. If you’ll give a love offering, that’s great; if you won’t, that’s OK. But you’ll be more blessed if you do; I believe that’s a biblical priority and we leave it at that and trust God.”

Story said that when he was pastor of Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church evangelists learned it was an affluent church and called him to ask how large the love offering was going to be. But others talked about pastors or churches withholding a love offering because they thought the church had been too generous.

“What has been said on the side of the pastors can be said on the side of the evangelists, too,” said John Adams, pastor of East Union Baptist Church in Jackson. “Every coin has two sides and I know that has happened [on the pastors’ side].”

Tippit said evangelists need to address the financial issues but reminded the group that “a lot of guys who start off in evangelism are under pressure. They have small children. They’re trying to provide for a livelihood. They don’t have a congregation, and that pressure is on them and that needs to be understood.”

The evangelists expressed their burden for lost people and lamented the diminishing numbers of evangelistic opportunities. Sheppard asked if the North American Mission Board could not subsidize church revivals, in which the evangelist’s expenses would be paid but he would give the time without an honorarium. Brian Fossett, COSBE president who represented that organization, and Jim Coldiron, NAMB evangelism consultant, told the group about a pilot initiative -– Baptism Assistance Project -– to provide that kind of support.

“We’ve not put it in place, just one or two evangelists doing it here or there over the last year,” Coldiron said. “The response so far has been good. That’s an idea that’s in the process.”

But Fossett said “the opportunities are basically going to be mission trips. We don’t want evangelists in COSBE thinking these are large meetings because they’re not. They’re mission trips.”

He said he took one of these projects that was close to his home base in Dalton, Ga. The church had 20 people in attendance that Sunday morning and three were saved.

Fossett said he thanked God for those three professions of faith but reminded the group that “most people would hear 20 [people] and think that’s not very many, but that’s the kind of churches we are talking about.”

Cook added that the times may require evangelists to “partner with churches to do campaigns where we just tote it. We help them raise some funds for their communities and help them do some things in evangelism right now because the churches aren’t having revivals.

“This may be the prime time for us to go into smaller cities, towns and neighborhoods and do some united campaigns with three or four churches. But if the individual churches think they’re too small, it may be a time for some of us to work together and help some of these folks do things in evangelism they’ve never tried before.”

Darrell W. Robinson of The Woodlands, Texas, former vice president for evangelism at the Home Mission Board (now NAMB), told the group not to pay attention to myths about evangelism because a myth is something believed to be true but isn’t.

“We hear all this stuff that won’t work. Myths that revivals won’t work,” he said, adding: “They won’t if you don’t. Sharing Jesus with people, confrontational evangelism, door-to-door witnessing, sowing won’t work anymore; they can’t if you don’t. If we believe the myths are true, then it becomes true for us and we begin to act as if it’s true.

“If we’re talking about affluence, and [the] upper middle class, some of it might be true. But you get out there where these common, ordinary people are every day and they’re hungry for the Word, they’re desperate, they’re needy and they’re reachable. We just got to go get them.”

Drace said the initial goal of the summit was to get these men together “to share our hearts and minds about issues that really are vital to us. We have known each other for years, but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to sit down and really talk. We pass in airports.”

Michael Chute is a professor of journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee

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