I got excited about soul winning and church planting at the Virginia Baptist Bible Fellowship pastor’s meeting at Battlefield Baptist Church in Warrenton, VA, Friday, September 8. That meeting reminded me of the early BBF meetings I attended in the late 1960s and 70s.
Back then, pastors talked about planting churches and “capturing their towns for Christ.” Noel Smith printed photographs of many converts in large congregations representing new churches. Those testimonies and photographs gave credibility to the movement. That lit a fire in my heart. I traveled all over America telling about the revival in BBF churches. Then I wrote an article for The Baptist Bible Tribune, “The Baptist Bible Fellowship Can Become the Largest Denomination in the World.” The Southern Baptist Convention had 40,000 churches at the time and the BBF had 1,400 churches.
Church planting was so compelling that I felt the BBF would become the largest movement for God in America. I did not realize that all churches and denominational churches changed with their second and third generation leadership. Hard working generation pastors carved out churches in their communities, won souls, kept the baptismal waters stirring, raised money, built buildings, and impacted their community for Christ.
Their second generation sons lived off the fruits of what original pioneers had done. The second generation continued to build and maintain their father’s vison, but momentum slowed down.
Many third-generation pastors didn’t share the values or vision of their grandfathers. They never experienced the sacrifices it took to carve churches out of heathen communities. Third generation pastors, nor their third-generation church members, didn’t understand total sacrifice, total separation from the world, and total commitment to the Great Commission. As a result, many changed the rules that made the first generation church successful. They blunted the principles that contributed to success in the first place.
There’s an old adage, “Keep doing the things that made you successful in the first place, or you will end up in second place, or some other place.”
Across the country today, the BBF is coming back to their original commitment to carrying out the Great Commission. At the BBF meeting in Virginia, pastor Greg Corcoran from Battlefield Baptist Church, took 30 minutes to share the projects and things they are doing in evangelism and church planting. He explained the various evangelistic outreach programs and soul winning endeavors that they are engaged in. Then for the next hour pastor after pastor shared testimonies from their churches about innovative programs, new ideas, all with the view of completing the Great Commission and fanning the flames of soul winning. They revitalized my view of the BBF.
Back in the 60s I coined the phrase, “Hot Poker.” I told pastors, “Go visit a growing church that is winning souls. Put the poker into the burning fire of soul winning. That spark made Liberty University grow in its early days. I challenged students to put the poker in the glowing flames of evangelism at Thomas Road Baptist Church, then go out and start a fire of your own or start a church of your own.
Beauchamp Vick, one of the founders of the BBF, often said, “Great men build great churches, average men build average churches, below average pastors hurt churches.” I asked Vick what he thought about Jerry Falwell when he was a student at Baptist Bible College. He laughed, “No one had any idea what he would do.”
The Baptist Bible Fellowship is old enough to go through three generations of leaders. The memory we have of Vick, Dowell, Henninger, and Rawlings reminds us we are still in the soul winning business. Jesus promised, “I will build My church,” and He is still doing it.
I am excited about the aggressive soul winning churches being built by pastors of by the BBF.