Clint Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., opened the 2018 N.C. Pastors’ Conference (NCPC) by encouraging attendees to use the time for rest and renewal as they take some time away from daily ministry.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
Clint Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., address the North Carolina Pastors’ Conference Nov. 4 prior to the Baptist State Convention of N.C. annual meeting in Greensboro.
“Let’s you and I together stand under God’s Word and allow it to minister to us and speak to us,” he said, “to provide healing for some of you, to provide encouragement for some of you, to help us as we do what we do on a daily basis.”
Pressley preached about the church in Ephesus from Revelation 2:1-7 in the first of seven expositional sermons on the letters from Jesus to churches in ancient Asia. Each preacher was assigned a passage in Revelation, and they preached through the letters in sequence.
The event took place Nov. 4-5 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, coinciding with the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina’s annual meeting.
Reading from Revelation 2:8-11, J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, said the church at Smyrna was known for two things – persecution and poverty.
The believers in the church were the object of relentless discrimination and persecution by the Roman culture of the day.
Bridging to today’s culture, Greear said, “No one gets upset with me for the size of our church; no one gets upset with us for the influential nature of our churches. What they get upset about is when we say what Jesus says is right and what He has forbidden, we must forsake … that all people must repent and there is one way for us to go to heaven and that is through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus’ counsel to Smyrna was “Don’t be afraid. I have the last word,” said Greear. “Be faithful to the point of death and [Jesus] will give you the crown of life.”
Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, preached from Revelation 2:12-17.
“When sin is normalized in the culture, it’s very tempting to tolerate it in the church,” he said, noting the warnings given to the church in Pergamum.
Merida outlined five practices for pastors to guard congregations from sin and false teaching:
Teach people that what is culturally acceptable may not be biblically acceptable.
Teach Christians how to detect false teaching by knowing true teaching.
Teach from the Bible, not common clichés.
Do not neglect the biblical call to holiness as you explain grace and engage culture.
Pursue missions like Jesus, not isolated from sinners but separated from sin.
Chris Griggs, pastor of Denver Baptist Church, taught from Revelation 2:18-29 as he encouraged pastors of smaller churches.
Griggs noted how the letter to Thyatira was the longest and most complex of the seven letters, but it was addressed to the “smallest and most insignificant” of the seven churches.
“This little letter is written to all churches, but particularly to those who feel like they’re in small places with insignificant ministries in the middle of nowhere,” Griggs said. “Jesus cares about our churches.”
BR photo by Steve Cooke
“When sin is normalized in the culture, it’s very tempting to tolerate it in the church,” said Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, as he preached from Revelation 2:12-17.
In a common refrain at the conference, Griggs cautioned attendees about false teaching and told them not to assume such warnings were for other congregations or past generations.
“We are living in a day where subjective emotion is more valued by believers than the objective truth of the Bible,” he said. “The Bible doesn’t seem to be enough for people. … We hear phrases all the time in our churches, even pastors say these things: ‘God told me, the Spirit spoke to me, Jesus showed something to me,’ and they never follow it up with a chapter and verse.
“Tell your people if they want to hear God speak to them to read their Bible. And if they want to hear Him speak audibly, then read it out loud. … You need to determine to show your people how to hold fast to the gospel by prioritizing the scripture in your ministry and in your preaching.”
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached in place of K. Marshall Williams. Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., was originally slated to speak at the conference, but had to forego his appearance due to the unexpected medical needs of a family member.
Akin spoke from Revelation 3:1-6 about the church at Sardis. He said the passage shows the characteristics of dead and dying churches.
He mentioned recent books that provide analyses of declining churches, including a resource by Thom Rainer, outgoing president of LifeWay Christian Resources. Akin noted the helpfulness of such works, adding, “The first autopsy of a dead church was taken by none other than the Lord Jesus himself.”
“If we’re not careful the many good things can get in the way of the best thing,” Akin said, “and before long we find ourselves on life support headed toward death.”
Akin encouraged all churches to look toward the gospel for hope amid difficulty.
“Our Lord is the Lord of resurrection,” Akin said. “He can even give life to dead churches. … As long as Jesus is Lord and sitting on His throne, no church is ever past hope. No church is ever past the possibility of revival and revitalization.”
Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church near Washington, D.C., covered Revelation 3:7-13. Anyabwile comforted worn pastors with compassionate words from Jesus.
“Don’t you know that, while the world despises weakness, Christ does not,” he said. “Hear the invitation of Matthew 11:28, ‘Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ Jesus does not crush the weak. He observes the weak. He knows the weak. He loves the weak. He gives rest to the weak.”
Anyabwile outlined the Spirit’s message to the church at Philadelphia in four parts: the person of Christ, the praise of Christ, the plan of Christ and the promise of Christ.
He said, “A weak church with a powerful God will always have gospel opportunity on earth and a permanent home in heaven.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, closed the event addressing the letter to the church at Laodicea from Revelation 3:7-13.
He explained how nominal Christianity is a significant danger to the character and witness of local churches, even worse than atheism.
“With a cultural Christianity that is Christian in name only, a religion without the gospel, you have all of the [spiritual emptiness of atheism] but having those words being put into the mouth of Jesus himself: ‘I am not the way. I am not the truth. I am not the life. You can come to the Father some way other than me.’”
Moore encouraged attendees to embrace countercultural, biblical calls to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.
In the business portion of the N.C. Pastors’ Conference (NCPC), attendees elected Ronnie Parrott as president for the 2020 gathering. Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, was elected by acclamation, since no other nominations were made for the office. Pastors also voted to allow him to appoint a vice president since no nominations were made for that role.
Zack Williams, pastor of Bat Cave Baptist Church, was elected by acclamation to fill the secretary-treasurer position for 2019 and 2020. NCPC elections are normally held two years in advance. No one was nominated for 2019 secretary-treasurer in regular elections for the office in 2017.
Chip Hannah, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville, was elected in 2017 to serve as next year’s NCPC president. Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton, was elected in the same year as 2019 vice president.
The 2019 NCPC will take place Nov. 10-11 in Greensboro.