Monday, October 31, 2011

Why SBC churches eschew evangelists: NAMB?

Most SBC pastors and churches do not use vocational evanglelists. Less SBC churches use vocational evangelists than did ten years ago, twenty years ago. It is one of the longrunnng trends in SBC life.

How come? One might ask.

Let's ask Jerry Drace, one of the SBC's most distinguished vocational evangelists. Last month he offered an interesting column in The Christian Index entitled, "The SBC evangelist - an endangered species" in which he listed five reasons that he thinks SBC vocational evangelists are an endangered species. [I'd link it but cannot.]

"First," he wrote, "there is an existing attitude toward evangelists in certain areas of SBC leadership."


I'm a pastor. I've had revivals most every year. I've used evangelists rarely but occasionally. I don't recall ever considering what any SBC leader thought about my choice or non-choice of a revival preacher.

Turns out that Drace had in mind for the "certain areas of SBC leadership" one Kevin Ezell and the North American Mission Board whose attitude towards evangelists consisted of their decision to cut funding for certain activities of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE).

What did they cut?

They stopped taking Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong money, over $100,000, and using it to pay for travel, hotel, meal, and conference expenses for evangelists to attend the COSBE retreat held immediately prior to the SBC's annual meeting every June.

NAMB quits cutting hotel, food, and travel costs and that is why SBC evangelists are an endangered species?

I rather think not.

I doubt most Southern Baptists knew that part of their CP and AA gifts went to pay for hotels and meals for Drace and his fellow evangelists.

Ezell responded to Drace's article by stating that "our decision to no longer cover travel, hotel and reception costs for evangelists to meet and greet at the annual Southern Baptist meeting is not intended as a negative toward them – it is a way of keeping as many dollars focused on missionaries and new churches as we can."

Sounds like a better use of the money to me.

But, back to the SBC evangelist being an endangered species. If you ignore Drace's first one he is quite reasonable in his other four reasons:
Second, the current fashion in many churches forsakes sound biblical exposition with an evangelistic fervor.

Third, the lifestyle and requirements of those in full-time evangelism is vastly different from any other Christian calling. Since our calling is referred to as a “Faith Ministry” pastors often make off-handed and ill-advised statements regarding the financial necessities of the evangelist and his family.

Fourth, we as evangelists are often guilty of the demise of evangelistic events in the local church and area wide emphases in the community. Those with unscrupulous methods and deceitful messages hinder not only the advancement of the Kingdom, but encumber evangelists who have ministries of integrity.

Fifth, the challenge for our young men and women to answer the call to itinerant evangelism is almost non-existent in our churches and Southern Baptist institutions of higher learning.

I'll generally agree with Drace on four of five, too bad he expends 40% of his words on the one he lists first.

SBC pastors and evangelists don't eschew evangelists because of Kevin Ezell, NAMB, or any other SBC person or entity. We may be afraid to ask one. We may feel that we cannot afford one. We may have been stung in the past by disreputable ones. But we don't take our cues from SBC leadership.

Vocational evangelists in the SBC have been declining for decades, but not because of NAMB.

The full text of Drace's first reason is below:
"First," he wrote, "there is an existing attitude toward evangelists in certain areas of SBC leadership."

The latest Convention meeting in Phoenix saw the smallest number of evangelists gather in the history of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE). This was due in a large measure to the action taken by the current leadership of NAMB.

The traditional financial assistance for the COSBE retreat held the weekend before each Convention was withdrawn. Pastors, staff, and agency personnel have their Convention expenses covered in their budgets, but the evangelist must cover all expenses out of his or her own personal finances.

This action taken at NAMB was a spiritual “slap in the face” to those of us in full-time evangelism. It is a clear declaration of the current trend in the SBC toward the men and women who have given their lives to answering God’s call to full-time evangelism.

Since 1975 I have sat in scores of meetings with denominational leaders listening to how much the evangelist is needed and appreciated. I have heard countless times, “If we can ever help, we are here for you.” When you are young and na├»ve you believe it, but when you are seasoned you know better.

Lip service without feet service is like church planting without evangelism.


Matt said...

I would add a 6th reason: the typical way that "COSBE-style" evangelists conduct revivals is becoming irrelevant.

I'm sure that's a hard truth for life-long vocational evangelists to accept, and it doesn't take the easy way out by playing the blame-game, but it's what I see happening. Revivals attract the saved, not the lost.

This doesn't mean that the job of an evangelist is irrelevant, but perhaps should be reinvented. After-all, revivals were patterned after a culture that he church was the center of. This is no longer the case.

Bill said...

Perhaps evangelists should focus on evangelizing non-church areas. It doesn't make much sense for an itinerant evangelist to do meetings at churches, where most of the congregation is already Christian. I've always thought revivals were an odd phenomenon in SBC life. For a week ( or more) we tell the pastor (whom we know, and who has proven himself) to sit down and be quiet, and we bring in someone from the outside, whom we do not know, and hope against hope it isn't a disaster.

Anonymous said...


A couple of more things that Jerry or you did not mention:

1. Our evangelists played a big role in the Crossover events prior to the SBC Convention each year and that is a big reason many of them came.

2. Part of the funds also helped them do revivals in churches with "no" or "low" baptisms in pioneer areas of the convention. As a former state evangelism director (NAMB Missionary) I know this for a fact.

3. Can you ask some questions around Atlanta and find out why a rich relationship with the Billy Graham Evangelist Association has been cut off by NAMB leadership?

This relationship was to help send harvest evangelists to new work areas to hold county wide or city wide evangelistic revivals by using a special NAMB consultant.

Blessings! <><Ron Hale

Jared Moore said...

Rick, what is a "harvest evangelist"?

Anonymous said...

I think you meant ... Ron instead of Rick.

A harvest evangelist is one with a special annointing that preaches the Gospel with power and authority and in drawing the Net ... many sinners respond in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings! RHale

Jared Moore said...

Ron, where is this "gift" at in Scripture?

This so-called "harvest" mentality is a big reason why I think sbc churches are getting away from using evangelists.

The "harvest" gift or the "drawing the net" gift is a myth. Who in Scripture possessed this "special anointing"? And, where does the Bible tell us about such a gift?

William Thornton said...

Ron, NAMB kept money in their budget to assist the low baptism churches in hosting an evangelist for a meeting. And if you email NAMB and ask your question you might get a direct answer.

Jared, I find the descriptor "harvest" evangelist to be either presumptuous or superfluous but I understand we have a great affection for labels.

Anonymous said...


Your first question is: Where is this "gift" at in Scripture?"

Did I use the word "gift"?

God's Word does give us the office and work of the evangelist (messenger of Good News).

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers..."(Eph. 4:11).

Yet, not all who go by the title of evangelist are "harvest" evangelists. Billy Graham was a harvest evangelist. George Whitefield as a harvest evangelist. Your friend Finney was a harvest evangelist.

In Acts 21:8 ... we see the use of the office/title of ... evangelist.

- Ron Hale

Jon L. Estes said...

I'd be worried that anyone who is called into full-time evangelism has come to the point that they believe their existence is dependent upon NAMB or any other organization for their income.

I believe most of the pastors in our convention make less than they deserve. Financial conditions of the church often dictate this.

I don't feel sorry for the pastor who serves a church for decades, baptizes none and wants more money.

I don't feel sorry for an itinerant revivalist who expects a certain amount of money before they agree to preach the message God has called them to preach.

Paul made tents as an itinerant evangelist. If God called me to that vocation, I would hope I would do the same and not trust God to meet all my needs.

William Thornton said...

If you are a pastor like Jon or me, would you mind telling how often you have used vocational evangelists and why or why not. Thanks.

Scott said...

I have used one COSBE evangelist for a meeting and he was a guy that I knew and trusted. It is difficult for me as a pastor to bring in guys that I don't really know because I don't know what their methods are going to be.

In reference to the article, I would disagree with his assertion that there is a lack of commitment to expository preaching with evangelistic fervor. With the exception of the COSBE evangelist that I know personally, the others that I have heard did not seem to do a good job of actually preaching the biblical text.

David R. Brumbelow said...

I have used vocational evangelists through the years. Among them have been Larry Taylor, Bill Klinglesmith, R. L. Sumner, Troy Drollinger, Steve Smith, Tim Lee. I have used an evangelistic team from the SBTC and SWBTS. I’ve had my brother, Steve Brumbelow, in Revival; he was a vocational evangelist for years, now a pastor. I’ve also used pastors and professors in Revival. Of course, Billy Graham is a great example and supporter of Evangelists and Revivals.

An evangelist is often very good at “drawing the net” in winning folks to the Lord and emphasizing soul-winning and concern for the lost. The pastor should do this on a regular basis, but it often helps to get another preacher who brings a different perspective. It does the people good to occasionally hear someone preach and minister besides the pastor.

When a church properly prepares for Revival, a good evangelist can do wonders in reviving the church and aiding the church in winning the lost.

Studies have shown churches that use Revivals and evangelists on average win more people to the Lord and baptize more.

My preacher dad, Joe Brumbelow, used to ask people in a Revival, how many had been saved in a Revival meeting. Usually the large majority would raise their hands. Then he would point out how churches would usually have a Revival just one or two weeks of the year, yet more were often saved during that time than the rest of the year. That was during the days when Revivals and Evangelists were used much more than today.

Revival meetings have been, and are being used of God in great ways in our churches. More should use them.
David R. Brumbelow

Jared Moore said...

Ron, you've still not provided any Biblical proof that these evangelists have some sort of God-given ability beyond other Christians to "harvest" or "draw the net."

It's just not Biblical.

Jon L. Estes said...

Wm -

Having the blessing of growing up in a pastors home, I know my dad used vocational evangelists all the time. Men like Vance Havner, Manley Beasley, Sam Cathey... I still am thankful for these men in my life.

As a pastor myself, I have never called upon a vocational evangelist. I was going to seek out Sam Cathey last year but found out he was not doing well in his health so we chose to not hold a revival.

The reason I have not used VE's at other times is due to me not knowing them. Every revival meeting I scheduled I did with a pastor friend who I knew personally, knew their heart and passion. I knew I would not have to clean up after them.


Beasley and Havner were no longer available.

Anonymous said...


I would like you to read and ponder these verses from John 4 in the HCSB:

"34 "My food is to do the will of Him (AF) who sent Me (AG) and to finish His work," (AH) Jesus told them. 35 "Don't you say, 'There are still four more months, then comes the harvest'? Listen [to what] I'm telling you: Open [j] your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready [k] for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, (AI) so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps. (AJ) ' 38 I sent you to reap what you didn't labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from [l] their labor."

My Brother ... use some good Holy Ghost common sense and know that some God called men are much more effective than others in preaching and seeing "many" come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. These men could be considered "harvest" evangelists.

Blessings, Ron Hale

Jared Moore said...

Ron, what you're advocating is neither common nor in good sense. We must be Biblical. There is no "harvest" or "drawing the net" ability given or emphasized in Scripture. Why are you grasping at air to try and prove something that has no Biblical foundation?

When I see evangelists who claim to possess this gift, I see and hear, "We're professionals, don't try this at home." Maybe I should water, water, water, and then bring in the professional harvester to get the harvest? Since these evangelists obviously possess the ability to get sinners to repent and believe.

The Holy Spirit is the One who gathers the harvest. He is the only One who truly draws the net. The message, the gospel, is what He uses to save sinners; for, He is the Spirit of Truth. No preacher possesses some ability to get sinners to repent.

If people in the pews are repenting because of these "harvesters," instead of because of the Holy Spirit, then they're not really repenting.

Anonymous said...


Is Seminary Professor in the Bible?

<><, Ron Hale

William Thornton said...

The 'harvester evangelist' is new terminology to me and I am intrigued by its use.

To be fair to Ron, Jared, he hasn't called it a 'gift,' though you have used the term, twice.

In considering a revival preacher, I would be wary of one who promotes himself as such because it would seem to me to compel him to be agressive in seeking visible results.

Jared Moore said...

Ron, you're claiming that Evangelists have a God-given ability moreso than others to get people to respond to the gospel. I'm arguing that you have no Biblical proof. Only God gives the increase.

What does a seminary professor have to do with this conversation?

I call this "harvester" and "drawing the net" ability a "gift" because they evidently possess some ability that other Christians do not possess. If it's not a spiritual gift, then can it be learned? Can I learn how to get more people to repent and believe the gospel?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your point concerning "gift"; also I've never heard an evangelist refer to himself as a "harvest evangelist" -I've heard other pastors or leaders at NAMB (several years back) refer to certain men as harvest evangelists. I too would be wary of a man who wore that title proudly and it only came from his lips.


Have a great day ... I know when to give up. Blessings! - Ron Hale

Jared Moore said...

Ron and William, go to the COSBE website, and look at all the Evangelists who list "Harvester" next to "ministry Area(s)." Just click on a name.

Ron, You need to be able to prove from Scripture that these men possess the God-given ability to get people to repent and believe the gospel more so than other Christians. Otherwise, there's no such thing as someone having the ability to "harvest" or "draw the net" regardless what big name in the SBC makes such claims.

The implications for the local pastor are terrible if he does not possess this ability and cannot learn this ability. So, regardless what I do, regardless how much I pray, regardless how faithful I am, I now need another human being to come reap the harvest at my church since the Holy Spirit's work through the gospel is obviously not enough?

BTW: It seems in Scripture that the "evangelist" was basically what a missionary is today. They primarily went and started new churches, instead of preaching in established churches.

David R. Brumbelow said...

Ron Hale,
You've made some good points and I agree.
David R. Brumbelow

Anonymous said...

Thanks David and I hope your new book: Ancient Wine and the Bible goes well!! <><Ron Hale

William Thornton said...

I've got my Calvinist antenna up and am getting a pretty strong reading here.

...and I'll leave it at that. ;)

Jared Moore said...

David and Ron, you guys kill me. You'll fight for inerrancy, but you relatively apply this inerrant Bible; thus, rendering the fact that it's inerrant, useless at various points. There is no proof in Scripture that certain Christians have greater ability to get people to repent and believe than others. The Holy Spirit alone saves.

In John 4:34-38 Jesus isn't talking about various Christians laboring, and the others reaping; but rather, the Prophets laboring and the apostles reaping. The application would thus be you and I reaping due to the labors of those who have come before. This Scripture does not prove that some have the ability to sow and others have the ability to harvest. But, rather, that we all are involved in both sowing and harvesting.

Anonymous said...


You are correct ... David and I love the Lord and His inspired Word.

Of course the Holy Spirit alone saves!

And the Holy Spirit uses human instruments ... Romans 10:13-14 says:

13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Jared ... all that I'm saying is that some preachers feel a calling to be evangelists. Some evangelists are much clearer in preaching the Gospel. They have the confidence in the Lord and faith to believe that God is going to honor His message and they boldly proclaim the Word and earnestly plead with sinners to come to Jesus.

The men that consistly see many come to Christ can be called ... harvest evangelists.

Blessings, Ron Hale

Matt said...

David, I would be interested in reading the specifics of those studies. Perhaps this is a regional thing. Where I live, there are lots of churches (many of them less than half full). A good number of them still hold revivals annually, but they never draw a crowd of people that are "lost."

I agree that it is sometimes good for congregations to have services where they hear someone else speak and gain a renewed passion for sharing the Gospel. However, this is not the main purpose of a traditional revival, as I understand it.

Perhaps we need to be more intentional and specific in deciding what we are actually trying to accomplish through a revival service, and gear our efforts towards that goal.

I know it's easy to be a critic, but can't help point out what I've observed. I simply think the days of securing a dynamic speaker and talented musician, and promoting the event based on their notoriety, are becoming ineffective and obsolete.

Jonathan said...

Girls, come on, you're both pretty.

Back to the topic. I'm just a layman (which, in SBC parlance, rates me just above a training union study book but just below a mule) but I've been watching the decline of revivals in local churches for about 30 years. In that same time, I've watched as church wide discipleship training has declined and the model for the Sunday school class has become the larger the better using master teachers. Add to this the increasing love affair with preaching as the only indispensable event in the life of the church.

The result: 1) no meaningful plan to make the backdoor of the church smaller than the front door. 2) Rather than addressing 1), local church leadership looks at budgets and figures that they can pretty much do the same as the evangelist (without having to share the spotlight or clean up messes).

What can we do? Get serious about small group discipleship and lay leader training.

William Thornton said...

Had a conversation with a twentysomething about evangelists and revivals and got the grand eyeroll.

"Doesn't engage the culture" I was told.

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, I would like to add my perspective on this subject, although it is 3 years later, so no one will probably read it. Still, I feel compelled to say this.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church that had revivals 2 or 3 times a year. In the early years, they were week long revivals, but later changed to Sundays through Wednesdays. As a child, I was thrilled when the revivals were shortened because it was very difficult to come home from school, complete my homework, practice my piano, eat dinner, go to the revival, get home at 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night, and have to get up for school the next morning. Following that schedule from Sunday to Friday night was exhausting! Shortening it from Sunday to Wednesday was definitely better, but still pretty brutal. I believe this is one of the main reasons that most SBC churches do not have revivals anymore . Unfortunately, most families are way too over scheduled these days,which makes it nearly impossible for them to make it to revival meetings. And if they do come, it's the children that suffer.

Next,, I would like to make this point. After I grew up, I served on staff in a Southern Baptist Church for 10 years. So, having sat through hundreds of revival services in my lifetime, I feel that I have a pretty good idea of what they are and what they aren't. So, let me ask a question? What does the word "revival" mean? Doesn't it mean to revive something? How can you revive something that is not alive? Obviously, I'm making the point that revivals are for the church, not the lost.. Now don't get me wrong - if someone gets saved in a revival, that's wonderful! But that is not the purpose of a revival. I realize that this is semantics, but I think it's a distinction that needs to be made. If your church wants to have an initiative to reach the lost, call it something else. Maybe a crusade, like Billy Graham does.

Lastly, and most importantly, I'd like to address the issue of "harvest evangelists." I'm not going to enter the argument over whether God blesses some men or women more than others, when it comes to "reaching the lost" (for lack of better term). I just know that we are ALL commanded to spread the gospel and ONLY God brings the increase. But what I can tell you, without any doubt, is that I have come to believe that many, many so-called evangelists have made it their life's work, not to bring the lost to salvation, but to convince the saved that they are lost!!! Now, I don't know their hearts, so I can't say for sure what their motives are. So all I can do is tell you what I've observed from their actions. Many of them do refer to themselves as "harvest evangelists." I've heard them brag about the numbers that "they've" reached for the Lord (as if he needed their help). I've read their newsletters, in which they report how many people they've reached that month. I've seen pictures in their newsletters of hundreds of people being baptized, MOST of whom we're already church members. Now, I'm NOT saying that all evangelists are like this. But I DO believe that many of the so-called "harvest evangelists" are. Why? Because I've seen it too many times with my own eyes and heard it too many times with my own ears. It's a shame. When the sole purpose of a preacher's ministry is to convince the saved that they are lost, I cannot believe that that is a man of God! And if he's not from God, who's he from???