STATE COLLEGE (BRN) – Pastors, church members and missionaries located throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey made their way to Calvary Church in State College, Pennsylvania, on March 18 for the third annual Baptist Resource Network (BRN) Advance Evangelism Conference.  

This year, around 180 guests funneled through Calvary’s doors to be reminded of the urgency of evangelism and encouraged with the gospel. This was accomplished through main sessions led by keynote speakers Dr. Mark Croston, national director of Black church ministries at Lifeway Christian Resources, and Dr. David Wheeler, professor of evangelism at Liberty University. 

Those in attendance were also equipped through evangelism-focused breakout sessions led by BRN pastors and team members and worship provided by members of Calvary Church and Unity Church of Jesus Christ.  

Main Session 1: Dr. Mark Croston 

The conference kicked off with a warm welcome from BRN Church Health Director Dr. Larry Anderson and opening remarks from Dan Nold, senior pastor at Calvary Church, and BRN Network Development and Compassion Ministries Director Buff McNickle.  

Philadelphia native Dr. Mark Croston then led the first main session of the day. Starting off his session by revealing that the average person receives 25 pounds of junk mail per year and, collectively, internet users around the world send 60 billion emails per day. Many of these emails, upwards of 97%, are spam. 

Using these statistics, Croston compared the marketing strategy of junk mail and these emailing trends to sharing the gospel. He posed the question, “how many [ministry touches] did it take for you?” 

For some, it can take 3-5 times of hearing the gospel before they surrender their lives to Jesus, for others it could take 10-20 times, possibly even more. 

“When you get tired of saying it, that’s when they are just beginning to hear it. Many of us just quit too soon…we need some people who are willing to take a ‘no’ for Jesus,” said Croston. 

Dr. Mark Croston urged Advance 2024 guests to keep talking about Jesus!

By looking at 2 Timothy 4:16-18 and emphasizing the theme “entrusted to stand with Jesus,” Croston urged Advance guests to keep evangelizing, even when they are not the one who gets to witness their friend, their loved one or their neighbor come to Christ. 

“It may be that God sent you to move the person from A to B. You might walk away thinking nothing happened…[but] whether the seed sprouted or not, the seed was good. There was no problem with the seed. You gotta walk in the confidence that the seed of the Word is good,” said Croston. 

He continued: “I want to encourage you to keep talking about Jesus, and to never stop talking about Jesus…nothing you ever say for Jesus goes to waste.” 

When hesitant to share the gospel or facing difficult life circumstances, Croston, who has himself grieved the loss of his father and previous wife, offered up a comforting reminder: “You, my friend, are never alone. And God, even if you don’t ask Him, will push His way into your circumstance.” 

Croston continued: “Not only does the Lord stand by me, but God stands by you. [He] actively engages in your struggles.” 

In his parting thoughts, Croston admonished fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to pursue the purpose God has given them, referencing the Great Commission stated in Mark 16:15-18. 

“This is what you gotta realize – the proclamation is fully made through you. What you have to see is the big picture…when you do what God has called you to do, God’s got your back,” said Croston. 

Following Croston’s session, guests were invited to attend one of two breakout sessions for the day. A total of six breakout sessions were offered, featuring BRN pastors, missionaries and team members. Topics such as child evangelism, reaching the collegiate age, being on mission right where you are and collaborating with other churches were highlighted during these sessions. 

Main Session 2: Dr. David Wheeler 

Known for his high energy and passion for evangelism, Dr. David Wheeler took to the stage in the afternoon for the second and final main session of Advance 2024. 

Wheeler quickly grabbed listeners’ attention by claiming, “a faith you’re not willing to live for, is a faith you’re not willing to die for.” 

He went on to remind the audience of two basic assumptions when it comes to Christianity: the ultimate purpose for the church is to glorify God and once a person is redeemed, his/her mission is to join Christ “on mission” to fulfill the Great Commission at any cost. 

“If you’re sending checks overseas and ignoring your neighbor than you’ve missed the point of the Bible,” said Wheeler. 

To give a clearer vision of what evangelism is, Wheeler shared what evangelism is not. Evangelism is not: a choice, based on your personality, a religious discussion, inviting people to church nor a spiritual gift.  

Continuing with this thread of defining evangelism, Wheeler described successful evangelism as living out your Christian life with integrity, sharing the gospel verbally and trusting God with the results. 

“If we’re not sharing the gospel, it’s because we’re not trusting the Holy Spirit,” said Wheeler. 

Dr. David Wheeler shares with Advance 2024 guests how to engage the lost through the prayer, care, share method.

To make evangelism a part of everyday life, Wheeler suggested the “prayer, care, share” method.  

Evangelism starts with praying for those who are lost and without Christ. It continues through actively serving the lost, caring for that individual, and then taking hold of opportunities to share the gospel with that person. 

“You gotta plow, you gotta plant to have a harvest [and] you gotta plant the seed. And it’s hard work, but it’s worth it,” said Wheeler. 

Wheeler concluded his time by sharing some practical ways the local church and individuals can engage in prayer, care, share. Such as keeping a list of lost people to pray for, identifying the needs in your community and sharing your personal testimony.  

“It’s not about getting people to a building, it’s about getting the building to the people…[and] the Church is you, it’s not a place. God’s not coming back to take our buildings.” 

Executive Director of the BRN Dr. Barry Whitworth wrapped up Advance 2024 by thanking the keynote speakers and all who attended. He also announced the BRN’s next conference, Accelerate, which will be on Oct. 8, 2024, and reminded churches of an upcoming mission opportunity, Serve Erie, Sept. 20-21. 

View replays from Advance 2024 main sessions and breakout sessions at Learn more about Accelerate at or Serve Erie at