The Baptist New Mexican estimated that more than 800 people gathered in the auditorium of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque for the State Evangelism Conference's opening session on Monday evening, Jan. 30, significantly more than last year, when a bitter blast of cold and snow arrived that day and terrorized much of the state the rest of the week.
This year's weather was delightful in comparison, and chances are that the weather for next year's conference will be better than it was for four of the past eight years too, since the conference will be moved closer to the onset of spring, March 4-6, partly to avoid colder weather.
Bathed in Prayer
Mike Napier, who directs evangelism and discipleship for the state convention, had been calling on New Mexico Baptists for weeks to pray fervently that God would visit the conferences with his presence and power, and Baptists across the state had been enlisted to pray for each speaker during each of the sessions.
Enlisting the pray-ers was Connie Dixon, the BCNM's missions strategist who serves as state WMU director, missions education consultant and prayer strategist. She also made sure a prayer room with prayer material was available at Hoffmantown, so those who came to the conference would have a quiet place to go to meet with God.
Sharing Christ Stressed
They were praying that God would move and empower New Mexico Baptists to share Christ, which was encouraged throughout each of the conferences.
The Hispanic Evangelism Conference was held Sunday evening and Monday morning at Del Norte Conference Center; the State Evangelism Conference was held at Hoffmantown Church on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, afternoon and evening; and the Senior Adult Evangelism Conference was held on Wednesday morning at Hoffmantown.
The State Conference included a special luncheon with renowned apologist Lee Strobel on Tuesday, and the Senior Adult Conference again concluded with the annual Senior Adult Luncheon.
Speaking at the State Conference were Strobel, Don Wilton, Thomas Hammond, Dan Morgan, James Walker, Mary Jo Sharp and Michael Keahbone.
Strobel has been described in the Washington Post as "one of the evangelical community's most popular apologists"; Wilton is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., where famed evangelist Billy Graham is a member; Hammond is team leader of the North American Mission Board's God's Plan for Sharing Initiative; Morgan is professor of church planting and the Nehemiah Project director at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada; Walker, who grew up as a Mormon, is a leader in Christian counter-cult evangelism, apologetics and discernment; Sharp is a certified apologetics instructor with NAMB; and Keahbone is a Native American who is a regular speaker for the University of Oklahoma football team and has preached across the country.
During the conference's opening session on Monday evening, Napier took a few minutes to introduce and interview his son's wrestling coach, Corey Anderson, who shared about how the evangelism director had led him to faith in Christ and the difference the Lord has since made in his life and the life of his family.
On Tuesday afternoon, participants had two opportunities to attend breakout conferences that were led by Hammond, "How to Make Your Church More Visitor Friendly"; Manny Montaño of Cedar Crest, Evangelism Response Center training; Morgan, "The Continuously Fruitful Church"; John Bailey of NAMB's church planter mobilization team, "The Multiplying Church"; Walker, "Witnessing With the Book of Mormon"; Sharp, "Islam: A Christian Response"; and Chris Cooper of the Mapping Center for Evangelism, on the center's ministry.
Leading worship during all three conferences was Kari Jobe of Southlake, Texas, and her band.
Many of those who came Monday evening moved after the session to Hoffmantown's Big City Studio for a pie and coffee fellowship, and for the second straight year, dozens of volunteers stuck around after the Tuesday evening session to set up 71 tables and put 500 chairs around them in Hoffmantown's worship center for the conference and meal for seniors the following day.
Roy Martin, minister of music and church administration at Parkland Baptist Church in Clovis, told the Baptist New Mexican that he appreciated this year's emphasis and that he was especially blessed by the breakout conference that dealt with making churches more "visitor friendly."
"Very refreshing" was the evaluation by Bill Friese, pastor of Mimbres Baptist Church in Rio Mimbres.
Challenges at home had almost caused Friese and his wife, Sharon, to cancel their plans to attend the conference, but they made the effort needed to come anyway, they said, and they were glad they did.
The conference, Friese said, caused him to reflect on and recommit himself to God's call on his life.
It did the same for a couple who drove to Albuquerque all the way from their home in Granbury, Texas, just to attend the New Mexico conference.
Sherman and Tammy Aten are former New Mexico Baptists who are just celebrated their 20th anniversary of ministering as full-time music evangelists. God used this year's conference to "stir up" their passion for the ministry they heard God call them to during the conference in 1991, when Aten was serving as music minister at First Baptist Church in Artesia.
While the Atens sang at some of the conferences after they moved to West Texas to enter their new ministry, it has been 15 years or so since they had attended one. They both said it was well worth the more than 600 mile trip.
Hispanic and Senior Conferences
More than 100 predominantly Spanish speakers met at Del Norte Conference Center earlier that week, on Sunday evening and Monday morning, for the annual Hispanic Evangelism Conference (Conferencia de Evangelismo).
Most of them had walked across the parking lot from nearby Del Norte Baptist Church, where they had enjoyed supper before the evening session and breakfast before the morning session.
The conference, which is usually held at the church, was instead held at its conference center this year because, Pastor Bob Myers told everyone, completion of the church's renovation project on the auditorium was still a couple of weeks away.
Jobe and her band led worship for that conference as well, much of it in Spanish, and Joshua Del Risco, national coordinator of church mobilization for NAMB's mobilization group, preached a message in each session.
The president of the Spanish Baptist Convention of New Mexico, Raúl Arreola, who is pastor of Buenas Nuevas Mission in Las Cruces, also spoke on Sunday evening.
Close to five dozen churches in the state are affiliated with both of the state's Baptist conventions, the BCNM, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and the Spanish Baptist Convention of New Mexico, which was formed in 1923.
Sharing his testimony the following morning was Carlos Pino, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel in Santa Teresa.
When asked during the conference where they were from, those in attendance indicated that they had come to New Mexico from a number of Latin American countries—including Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico—and Puerto Rico.
The Senior Adult Evangelism Conference took place on Wednesday morning at Hoffmantown.
Speaking were Wilton; evangelist and retired director of missions Ernie Perkins of Edmond, Okla.; and Keahbone.
Leading worship were singer and songwriter Brad Porton of Broken Bow, Okla.; with songwriter, arranger, accompanist, worship leader and evangelist John Roe of Rio Rancho; and Jobe and her band.
Presiding during the session and the luncheon that followed was W.A. Bradshaw, retired director of music, student, recreation and family ministries for the BCNM and currently associate pastor, music and senior adults, at First Baptist Church, Rio Rancho.
The luncheon featured more musical entertainment by Porton and Roe and Perkins' humorous account of the early days of his ministry and marriage.
The conferences were provided by Cooperative Program gifts from churches affiliated with the BCNM and from NAMB. Next year's lineup for the March 4-6 conferences will include Mark Mittelberg, Greg Frizzell, Charles Billingsley and Rudy Gonzalez.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.