As Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church and president of the 2016 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference (NCPC), welcomed attendees to the Nov. 13-14 gathering at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., he said, “Our soldiers and our Savior have much in common, and we honor them both tonight.”
Photo by Steve Cooke
Tom Martin recounts a story of survival and God’s grace. He was a scout pilot in the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down in enemy territory and he received burns over a significant portion of his body.
McGill struck a chord in his opening words that resonated throughout the conference, a two-tone tribute to God and the United States of America.
The event’s theme – “Worth Fighting For” – featured messages and testimonies tinged with patriotic pride and biblical zeal from North Carolina pastors, lay people and military veterans.
Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, sent out a call to action for the American public, the American pew and American policy makers. In his sermon, Harris said the recent electoral win by president-elect Donald Trump was the result of God’s people praying fervently in a spirit of desperation, and he implored them to continue.
“I have seen more in the last six months … a nation that was becoming desperate, and a nation that was being called to its knees, and a nation that began to pray in prayer meetings like I have not seen spring up in many, many, many years.
“I truly believe with all of my heart that it’s because people are beginning to recognize the desperation that we we’re facing. I mean, let’s be honest about it … neither one of [the 2016 U.S. presidential candidates] were our first choice.”
Harris said he spent the final six weeks leading up to the election visiting ministry leaders in key states across the country.
“As I saw pastors coming together in all of those swing states, I began to recognize that here are men of God who are recognizing that this is a desperate situation. This is a desperate time, and we must cry out to almighty God, and they were doing it.
“Don’t you and I ever make the mistake of thinking that what happened over the course of this past week has anything to do with our strength, our numbers or our power. It has to do with the power and the work of almighty God. And it’s Him that we must trust.”
Harris continued, “It’s very clear that the question of the American public that must be asked is, ‘Why are you in perpetual backsliding?’ The question for the American pew is, ‘Why are you just sitting there?’ You need to come in brokenness and prayer before almighty God. We’re beginning to see that happen, and this is not the time to stop. This is just the time to get started.”
‘We must be salt and light’
Timmy Blair called Christians to take the gospel into the surrounding culture, rather than confining their faith to the four walls of a church facility.
Photo by Steve Cooke
Three officers for the 2018 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference were elected by acclamation: Matt Capps , center, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, president; Chris Griggs, left, lead pastor of Denver Baptist Church in Denver, vice-president; and Jonathan Blaylock, right, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton, secretary-treasurer.
“We must be willing to carry the gospel wherever we go,” said the 2016 president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and senior pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. Blair emphasized that such action might come with consequences.
“Paul was willing to pay a price for the cause of the gospel,” he said. “We must be willing to say in our pulpits, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel,’ come what may. Put the pressure on me if you will. Pass the laws if you want, but I’m here to tell you as a preacher of the gospel, ‘We are not ashamed of the gospel.’
Blair continued, “We must not only say it in our pulpit. We must be willing to also say it in our home, at our work, around the break room. Wherever it is, we must be salt and light. … Last week, 81 percent of evangelicals stood up and said, ‘We’re not ashamed of the gospel,’ and they did so going into those booths with the gospel principles of the Bible in their heart. And they voted – not for a candidate. They voted for a platform.”
Blair shared stage time with his son, Brandon, as they preached tag-team sermons to highlight the importance of family. Another father-son duo, Hampton and Ethan Drum, also took turns preaching as part of the conference.
Ethan Drum said the local church was the primary institution “worth fighting for.” Ephesians 1:3-14 means the people of God are “… compelled to have supreme allegiance to [God] and His family, the church,” Drum urged.
Vietnam veteran Bobby Welch encouraged churches to recover an evangelistic fervor that has tangible results.
“Everything has a scoreboard,” said Welch, who is a former two-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla. “There is a measuring rod for everything,” he added.
Welch discouraged the use of church discipleship or membership classes before baptizing new converts.
“Nobody sends people through a class to see if they’re really saved,” he said. “You don’t get saved because you go through a class and copy your mother’s answers.”
Referring to the popular biblical narrative of Philip baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, Welch said, “You don’t know what happened to that Ethiopian eunuch. He may have become a Presbyterian. He may have become a Muslim. You don’t know what happened to him after he left there, but you know this – he got saved and he got baptized.
“Baptism is not a guarantee that a person is saved, but it is a definite indication that they’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “You get baptized because you intend to do better and live for Jesus.”
Tom Wagoner, lead pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dunn, called churches to remember the power of God in the lives of His people.
“If God can raise a man from the dead,” said Wagner, “He can raise a dead church up.”
In a short testimonial, Tom Martin shared his experience as a scout pilot in the Vietnam War. He said with God’s help he survived being shot down in enemy territory. The crash left Martin with burns over a significant portion of his body. Former Navy Seal Kevin Holland also told a harrowing story of survival after being shot in the chest while executing a covert operation deep in the hills of Northern Iraq. Each of the testimonies highlighted God’s redemption despite the great physical and emotional pain brought on by war, military conflict and personal failure.
C.J. Bordeaux, director of missions for the Pee Dee Association, shared the story of how God sustained him after losing his wife in 1981. He encouraged attendees to lean on the family of God.
“I hope you never lose a wife or a child, but can I tell you something?” Bordeaux said. “Your church is important.”
Three officers for the 2018 NCPC were elected by acclamation: Matt Capps, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, president; Chris Griggs, lead pastor of Denver Baptist Church in Denver, vice-president; and Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton, secretary-treasurer.
The 2017 NCPC will be held Nov. 5-6 at the Koury Convention Center prior to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting.