The theme of this year's annual Pastors' Conference, held Nov. 11-12 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, was "Preach the Word."
With this year’s theme based on 2 Timothy 4:2, Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, opened the conference with an appeal to pastors to embrace the Great Commission with a renewed sense of urgency.
“There is one last great hope for the world, our nation, our children and our churches, and that hope lies in the person and power of Jesus Christ and no one else,” he said. “How can we love the Lord Jesus Christ so passionately tonight and not share Him immediately and continually with those around us?”
Mathis said the exploding global population and increasing number of people who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has created an urgent need for missions locally and internationally. Yet, too many believers are unaware of, or unconcerned about, the growing numbers of lostness.
“We’ve got something a lost world needs,” he said. “We cannot keep this to ourselves. God help us, North Carolina Baptists, to be urgent with the gospel.”
When he finished, no one could accuse Bobby Welch, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, of not being passionate.
With an occasional run up and down the aisle to make a point or two, Welch
challenged pastors from Matthew 9:36-38 to pray that God would send them out of their comfort zones and into the harvest fields. He said he sees much passion in modern preaching. But he said there is a deficiency in compassion, and without compassion, pastors will never feel the need to act on God’s Word.
BSC photo by Buddy Overman
Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, urges pastors to share the gospel during the two-day Pastor’s Conference in Greensboro.
“They have great passion but it stops at the doors of the church and it leaves them by the time they get out of the parking lot,” he said. “Herald the gospel with passion and compassion. Don’t just talk about it. Put some action in it.”
Joe Brown, former pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, opened day two of the conference by calling pastors to consider carefully what it means to be called by God to preach in modern times.
He cautioned pastors about the dangers of becoming discouraged during an era of widespread sin and godlessness. He called pastors to consider it a privilege to preach even in these difficult times. “I believe God made you for the day we are living in right now,” Brown said. “That is a great and high calling.”
Brown urged pastors to remain faithful to their calling to preach the gospel, to correct and rebuke sin, and to call people to repentance. He said pastors who are faithful with that message will see lives transformed. “In the currency of heaven, the value of your preaching and your church is determined by the lives that are changed,” Brown said.
Pastors must remain relevant without conforming to society, as the sweeping changes in society have disturbed many pastors to the point of despair, said Don Bouldin, interim pastor of First Baptist Church Marshville.
“Change is an absolute fact of life,” he said. “The complicated factor to this day is the speed of change. Who would have thought 50 years ago that the culture God called us to minister to would have the kind of things that we have today?”
Echoing the words of Brown, Bouldin said this is no time for pastors to despair, but to recognize that God has called them for this time in history.
“Preaching with relevance simply means nothing more than telling the truth of what God has done in our world,” Bouldin said. “The most relevant sermon you will ever preach will focus on Jesus Christ.”
Mike Whitson, pastor of First Baptist Church Indian Trail, spoke to pastors about the role they can have in bringing about spiritual revival in the United States.
“I am convinced with all my heart that God is looking for leaders with convictions and leaders who will stand on those convictions,” he said.
Speaking from Philippians 3, Whitson shared several characteristics that godly men must possess in order to bring about revival. Above all, a man of God must seek to know God intimately, and should evaluate how well he knows God – not by his education or experience – but by the factors that motivate and lead to action.
“What you live for, and what you love, is what will put the energy in your life,” Whitson said. “Is the real purpose to grow a bigger church or to know God?”
“God is not looking for extraordinary people,” Whitson said. “He is looking for extraordinary faith.”
Pulling his sermon from Hebrews 12, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., offered a challenge of thanksgiving. He contended we live in a time in this country when more and more people are lacking hope for tomorrow.
“Over the last week, I’ve had so many people write and tweet and text,” he said.
They ask, “What is happening to our nation? What’s happening to the church in our day?”
“People are living in despair,” Brunson said. “’I’ve watched people – especially I’ve seen this in ministers in my life – who become angry and upset and bitter over a period of time. And for some reason it eventually leads them to an act of immorality.”
The solution? “Thanksgiving, thanksgiving,” Brunson said. “We don’t thank God nearly enough. We need to give thanks to God for a new covenant. When somebody dies for you, you say ‘thank you.’”
There will be times that God may call on pastors and church leaders to do things that may not seem logical or safe, said Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte. But for those who walk with God, He will empower them.
“If we are ever going to step into the pulpit and preach the word with urgency and preach the word with passion and preach the word,” he said, “then we’re going to have to recognize that it’s going to take some time of just you walking with God.”
In a society of rising divorce and immorality, Harris said pastors cannot confront the challenges the face – in and out of the pulpit – alone.
“All of us are walking through those waters,” he said. “Preach the word in power – you’ll do that when you walk with God … There is nothing … that compares to the sweet companionship that is yours when you are walking with God.”