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Saturday, February 19, 2000

Baptist leader confronts fundamental evangelism
By LORETTA FULTON
Senior Staff Writer

Fundamentalists who practice confrontational evangelism are giving all Christians a bad name, a speaker said Friday during a missions conference at Hardin-Simmons University.

“All Christians get smeared by the same brush,” said Dr. Keith Parks, a former missionary to Indonesia.

A better way to evangelize, he said, is to build relationships and show people, as well as tell them, about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I believe Jesus chose the gracious, relational way,” said Parks, who recently retired as global missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Southern Baptists have been much in the news recently for their efforts at evangelizing non-Christians, particularly Jews and Hindus. Recently, when Mormons held an open house at a new temple in North Carolina, a group of Southern Baptists stood at the exit ramp and passed out pamphlets titled, “Are Mormon Temples Christian?” The Baptist answer was, “No.”

That kind of evangelism is not what Jesus taught, Parks said following his address in Logsdon Chapel at HSU.

“You can do it in the context of building relationships rather than beating them over the head with the gospel,” Parks said. “I don’t think Jesus did that.”

Parks said Christians are commanded to evangelize, but they sometimes misinterpret the biblical meaning of the word. “Evangelize” literally means to “proclaim,” not to convert, he said.

The end result of evangelism hopefully will be conversion, Parks said, but the thrust of it should be to share or proclaim the gospel message of Jesus.

“Conversion is a positive response to evangelism,” he said.

Parks was among the speakers during the daylong conference that culminated a week of missions emphasis at Hardin-Simmons. Earlier in the week, the annual Cornerstone Series featured speakers from various mission fields. On Thursday, the new Connally Missions Center was dedicated.

Parks said he doesn’t disagree with his more fundamentalist Southern Baptist brethen, including the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Hardin-Simmons graduate Paige Patterson. He just disagrees with their methods.

“Attitude and approach is the main difference I have with some of the things going on,” he said.

Calling fundamentalism “an unfortunate sign of the times,” Parks said that approach condemns and tears down the views of others rather than presenting a Christian’s convictions in a positive way.

Prior to Parks’ talk, Dr. William R. O’Brien spoke on new missions models.

A Hardin-Simmons graduate, O’Brien is also a former missionary to Indonesia and former executive vice president of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

O’Brien said collaboration, “the last frontier of missions,” will be the model of the future. Missionaries of various denominations must work together, he said, and they must include indigenous people in their efforts.

The church is facing a tough road, he said, but it is up to the task.

“Twenty-first century missions will provide the largest challenge and hardest work the church has ever known,” O’Brien predicted. “But the church is bigger than you think.”

Loretta Fulton can be reached at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com.

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