The first night of the IMB/NAMB Send Conference began with a time of worship in song led by Michael W. Smith singing some of his best known songs. He then introduced secret guest CeCe Winans whose voice and gospel singing is beyond compare. My favorite was Ms. Winans leading us in the Andraé Crouch standard, “Jesus is still the Answer.”
After worship Kevin Ezell (NAMB), Paul Chitwood (IMB) came to the stage and joined Michael W. Smith for some casual repartee. They spent a few minutes discussing Smith’s new book while the crew cleared the stage to prepare for the evening’s guest speaker.
The invited preacher for the first night of the Send conference was Dr. Tony Evans, the pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas Texas. He preached a masterful sermon beginning with football game as a metaphor for life. He spoke of two teams on the field involved in chaos and conflict noting that the referees, using the authority of the NFL rulebook, were to regulate the game. (The referee was a metaphor for the christian.) He pointed out that problems would arise if the referees donned the uniforms of the opposing teams, because in doing they would lose their NFL “kingdom” authority on the field of battle.
After establishing his metaphor Dr. Evans moved on to the great commission of Matthew 28. He focused on going, baptizing, and making disciples. He remarked that the great commission the first “send” meeting. We must go and reach people. Then we must baptize those whom we have reached because they are saved, but also to “change their identity.” (His expression not mine.) He said, “In other words, your primary point of reference has shifted. You do not lose your individual uniqueness (Men don’t become women and women don’t become men. Whites don’t become black, and blacks don’t become white.) but you do assume a new primary identity"-Christian. He continued further telling us that we have a race problem because far too many Christians are more white or black than they are Christian.
Dr. Evans chastised us for allowing ourselves to get sucked up by the culture spending more time discussing cultural dynamics than we do declaring biblical authority. Our division is because of the church’s rebellion against the kingdom ... the referees have put on the jerseys of the competing teams. No, he declared, “We should never allow the politics of men to break up our together.”
Finally, he told us that we are to teach these baptized disciples to observe, not just know. Yes, the Word of God is inerrant, but it is not primarily for information, it is for transformation. The reason 1 percent of society can change the definition of marriage in America while there are tens of thousands of churches all across the land, is because they are unified, and we are not.
There was one humorous moment when someone from the floor shouted, “Tony Evans for SBC President!” Without missing a beat Pastor Evans responded, “I thought lynching was over.” You have to admire that kind of wisdom and quick wit.
In closing, Dr. Evans spoke of the tragedy of 9/11, a day of infamy. He reminded us that this one act of terrorism changed the world and how we travel and move from place to place forever—it brought our nation to its knees. He then asked this question, “If 19 men in the name of the wrong god can do that, what do you think the SBC can do in the name of the true God when we are fully committed to our cause.” He left us with a rousing charge, Now is the time for us to take our stand for the risen Christ with love but also without apology!
After the message Ezell and Chitwood engaged in what some might call cringeworthy banter about NAMB and IMB “swag” while the crew set up the stage for Crowder. Fortunately, this segment wasn’t very long.
Crowder took to the stage with the adrenalin of a teenager, apologizing twice for the aggressive beginning—but it was all good. Finally, the night closed with Crowder leading the great "choir" (as he called it) in, “All my hope is in Jesus.”
It was an encouraging night all around but the highlight was most definitely Dr. Evan’s sermon.