By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
HAUGHTON, La. (LBM) – Evangelist Bill Britt, in early 2020, was looking forward to preaching at crusades and revivals over a 45-week period, but in mid-March COVID-19 brought his schedule of events, like every other evangelist’s, to a near close.
Britt saw 14 events cancelled, yet he is confident about his calling no matter the crushing burden caused by the COVID-19 shutdown.
“You can’t stop the Gospel,” Britt told the Baptist Message. “When you have the opportunities to preach to the crowd, it’s exciting because you get to exercise your calling and gifts. Seeing Him move when people are full of fear and then to see some turn to the Lord is such a blessing.”
In July, the evangelist from Haughton resumed his slate of crusades and revivals, though the crowds have been smaller because of COVID-19 attendance restrictions. Then Britt tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Although only a mild case, he had to cancel two more of his preaching assignments.
“The Lord provided healing for me, finances and met all of my needs,” Britt said. “It has made me more sensitive to pray for those who are battling with this disease.”
Despite these challenges Britt has seen multiple professions of faith at events he has been able to hold: 18 new converts at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, 26 at Outreach Baptist Church in Columbia and another 20 at Cypress Baptist Church in Benton.
Additionally, the orphanage (Kenya) and Bible college (India) operated by Britt’s Compel Outreach have remained operational because of the faithfulness of donors to his ministries.
“It’s been a financial struggle with some guys,” he said. “‑ ere is no way to explain how we kept everything functioning around the world and home except the miracle of God.
“Pray God would meet the needs of all the evangelists and churches would still invite them to preach,” Britt urged. “As we look forward to next year, I would encourage pastors to call evangelists to get ready for 2021.”
Sammy Tippit, who was saved in 1965 at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and now calls San Antonio, Texas, home, has used the Internet as his primary evangelistic tool throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In May he reached more than 14 million people in at least 80 countries with the Gospel via 21 online events that led to “tens of thousands” of decisions for Christ. Additionally, he developed relationships online with Christians in Albania, East Africa and Nepal that he hopes will lead to future evangelistic events in those countries.
“I believe that we’re living in the greatest moment of evangelistic harvest that the world has even known,” he said. “Pray that evangelists will make sure they have put on the whole armor of God, especially that our feet would be fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. Pray that we would be flexible and able to move quickly and willingly to adapt to our circumstances to bring the Gospel to a new generation. Pray for the financial provisions that are needed to sustain evangelistic outreach during these difficult times.”
Gary Bowlin, president of the Louisiana Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, said despite having a number of events canceled, he has been blessed to preach at 20 churches and participate in a few virtual events. He is a graduate of LSU and NOBTS and has preached at more than 200 revivals in Louisiana but is now a resident of Summit, Mississippi.
Bowlin said the Lord has been faithful and strengthened his faith throughout the pandemic.
“People can pray by asking God to move on the hearts of pastors to use the full time evangelist in a greater way than ever,” he said. “Baptisms are down and will be more so this year than ever; and evangelism, soul winning, crusades and revivals need to be put back as a priority by pastors and churches. People should pray specifically for evangelists to have open doors of ministry and to be sensitive to their financial needs. Presently, we are entering the winter months when not a lot of events are normally scheduled.”
David Hanna, the past president of LACOSBE and a resident of Coushatta, has preached at nine revivals, a decrease from 25 annually. He said losing so many engagements has impacted him financially and lessened opportunities to share Christ, but he is grateful for God’s provision.
“Through it all, God has been faithful and we have been blessed tremendously through friends of my ministry,” he emphasized. “I would like to ask people to pray for me and my family as we minister during these unprecedented days. Through it all we have been in some really great revivals before the virus hit. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many fine pastors who’ve been affected as well. So pray for these men of God too.”