JOHNSON CITY — Tennessee Baptist vocational evangelists agree they have had to be more creative than normal since the onset of COVID-19 three years ago.
Leaders of the Fellowship of Tennessee Baptist Evangelists (Phil Glisson of Memphis and Skip Youngcourt of New Johnsonville, along with Keith Cook of Springfield, president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists) met with the Baptist and Reflector to discuss the state of vocational evangelism following their annual meeting Jan. 16 at Boones Creek Baptist Church, Johnson City.
The pandemic hurt the scheduling of revival meetings and other evangelistic events, the evangelists agreed.
“All meetings, including the scheduling of revivals, are beginning to pick back up,” observed Glisson, outgoing president of FTBE.
The evangelists expressed appreciation for pastors across the state who understood their plight during the pandemic and helped as they could. “Many pastors would invite us to preach on a Sunday after their congregations returned to the church,” Glisson said.
Cook recalled that one church asked him to lead a men’s retreat. “There were pastors who did not forget us,” he said. “They understood that times were not ‘normal’ for us,” Glisson agreed.
In addition to traditional revivals, the vocational evangelists also provide “Special Sundays,” harvest parties, evangelism training and resources, conferences, mission projects and more.
The use of technology such as Zoom and Facebook Live were lifesavers during the pandemic, the evangelists agreed.
They were able to provide training during the pandemic as well as preach via Zoom. Cook preached a revival by Zoom in an African country and “people were saved,” he said.
Glisson noted that most churches experienced a decline in attendance during the height of COVID and many of them still have not recovered. As a result, some churches have been hesitant to schedule events such as revivals until attendance increases, he said.
Cook observed that pastors he has talked with are “more open” to scheduling meetings. “We have asked our partners, “Are you back to the core group you had before COVID?” And, they all say yes. They just don’t have those members back who may have come once a month or quarter,” he added.
Glisson agreed. “We go with the goers. We will preach to those who come.”
The evangelists agree that one of their most important roles is to be an encourager to pastors and their ministries. “We want to be a blessing to them,” Glisson said. “We have the same goal — to edify the church and to win the lost.”
Glisson also observed that an evangelist often is an “amen” to what the pastor preaches every week.
He noted that his dad, the late Jerry Glisson who served as pastor of Leawood Baptist Church in Memphis for more than 35 years, observed that after evangelists held revivals at Leawood, members would say, “He preached the same thing as our preacher. There must be something to it.”
Youngcourt, the new president of the Fellowship of Tennessee Baptist Evangelists, observed that evangelists follow up with the churches they serve.
“I call the pastors and ask them what has happened since the revival and how I can pray for them” he said.
Youngcourt observed that most of the Fellowship’s evangelists “have been in the ministry a long time. They understand that the gospel is the best message that can come across the horizon … and that it is a message of hope to the hopeless.”
While methods of sharing the gospel may have to be adapted, the gospel does not change, Youngcourt stressed. “It is still the good news of Jesus Christ.”
A list of Tennessee Baptist vocational evangelists, can be found at tnbaptist.org by clicking on “church support” and then “evangelism and discipleship.” B&R