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Rally around cry for God, pastors urged
Baptist Press
June 15, 2010
12 MIN READ TIME

Rally around cry for God, pastors urged

Rally around cry for God, pastors urged
Baptist Press
June 15, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. — Churches and

pastors must rally around the cry for God — not themselves — to accomplish

great things across the country and around the world, speakers said during the

2010 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference, June 13-14 in

Orlando, Fla.

Under the conference banner of “Greater Things,” speakers during the Sunday

evening and Monday morning sessions challenged pastors to honestly evaluate

themselves, their churches and the denomination with humility and repentance.

Leaving a legacy

“If we as Southern Baptists don’t know where we are, then we sure don’t know

where we’re going,” said David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando,

during the conference’s opening session. Knowing where we’re going is crucial

in leaving the next generation “a convention that is committed to the Great

Commission,” Uth added.

Using the Apostle Paul’s farewell to the Ephesians in Acts 20:19, Uth said

humility, brokenness and suffering are the ingredients required in leaving a

legacy.

BP photo by Bill Bangham

Vance Pitman, right, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, was elected president of the 2011 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix, which will be held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting there. Mike Holcomb, center, senior pastor of Iron City Baptist Church in Aniston, Ala., was elected treasurer, and Dean Fulks, left, pastor of Lifepoint Church in Columbus, Ohio, was elected vice president.

“One of the things that breaks my heart is when I hear a church talking about

their ministries and all they’ve done,” Uth said. “Let me tell you something,

if you’ve done anything worthwhile, you didn’t do it. Your Father granted it

from heaven. Give Him the glory. God gives grace to the humble.”

In addition to recognizing that God is the source of great accomplishments in

churches, Uth exhorted pastors to be broken for and weep over those who do not

know Christ, as well as prove themselves faithful amid trials.

‘Portrait of a dying church’

Preaching from Revelation 3:1-6, Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area

Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., presented a “Portrait of a Dying

Church.”

Gaines told the story of a grandfather who caught a snapping turtle while

fishing. He had to cut its head off to get it off the fishing line. Tossing the

shell aside, his grandson saw it begin to move. He asked his grandfather if the

turtle was still alive even though it did not have a head. The grandfather

replied, “No, it is dead. It just doesn’t know it.”

“That’s funny if you are talking about a turtle,” Gaines said. “It is not funny

if a Christian or a church is dying and doesn’t know it. It is not funny if a

denomination is dying and doesn’t know it.”

Churches are not excited about their ministry like they once were and members “dabble

instead of do,” Gaines observed. It is time for churches and the Southern

Baptist Convention to wake up, Gaines said. “There are still people who need to

hear the gospel.”

Gaines mentioned that while he supports the proposals of the Great Commission

Resurgence Task Force, what is really needed is “a red-hot, Holy Ghost revival

from God.”

Faith that endures

Ravi Zacharias, known for his work in comparative religions, cults and

philosophy, brought a message from Genesis using examples from the life of

Joseph to encourage pastors to be men of all seasons.

The India-born scholar mixed personal anecdotes and humor as he urged attendees

to avoid temptation, endure through difficult times, refrain from abusing the

power of their position and display a testimony of character.

“If you violate God’s law, you will end up in disillusionment, disfigurement

and destruction because the seduction of the lie is that it distorts reality

while it is disfiguring the soul,” Zacharias said. “What is the grounding of

your belief in your resistance to temptation? Is it the fear of other things,

or is it because of the deep conviction that you know only in serving God is

your ultimate fulfillment as you’re one of His in thought, in word, and in

deed.”

The biblical character Joseph showed the testimony of his character while

living in a contradictory culture, Zacharias noted. He added that unless others

see the gospel in believers, it will not be heard.

“The testimony you and I carry is a testimony that reflects from the very

character of God,” Zacharias said. “I plead with you, as we look at

opportunities around us, it is the endurance of faith that triumphs over the

day.”

‘Become kingdom people’

Like a team of referees in a football game, the church of Jesus Christ on earth

is not here to take sides between earthly teams but to represent the interests

of heaven, Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, reminded

pastors in the closing message June 13.

Instead, with few exceptions, churches have been “drawn in to take sides” and “missed

the kingdom,” Evans said, thereby perpetuating divisions caused by such things

as race and politics.

For example, most Southern Baptists would vote Republican based on rightly

placed concerns about certain moral issues, Evans said, but most of those at

the National Baptist Convention, a historically African American group, would

lean to the Democrat Party because they perceive that it values social justice

issues.

Depending on the issue, sometimes Christians will necessarily come down on one

political side or another, but the Kingdom’s agenda must always dictate one’s

loyalties, Evans said.

Noting that “the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be a little bit of

heaven, a long way from home” in the same way an American embassy represents

the United States abroad, Evans said the church’s influence has been ified

because it has misunderstood its calling.

Citing Matthew 16, where Jesus told Peter that he would build His church on

Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, Evans said the best exegesis of

the text connotes a collection of stones “hewn together.” In the same way, the

church must be hewn together around “a common cause, a common impact.” If that

were to a happen, Evans contended, there wouldn’t be both Southern Baptist and

National Baptist conventions. Communities would be transformed, he said.

Christian convictions, not culture, must define God’s people, he said. “It is

high time we become kingdom people,” representing the “King’s kids on the field

of play.”

Change of perspective

Speakers Monday morning charged pastors with keeping their focus on Christ and

the gospel as they humbly serve their congregations. In the opening session,

David Landrith challenged pastors not to “lose sight of greater things.”

Landrith, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist in Hendersonville, Tenn., noted

it is easy to lose sight of greater things when one’s perspective is not where

it needs to be.

Basing his message on Psalm 73, Landrith noted the psalmist was going through a

difficult time in his life because he had an earthly perspective. When the

psalmist went “into the sanctuary,” he gained a heavenly perspective. God did

not change the psalmist’s situation; the psalmist’s perspective changed,

Landrith said.

Landrith challenged pastors to keep in mind that the world is lost and that “our

assignment is to get out the word that Jesus saves.” He encouraged pastors to

meet God at a place of worship and to exchange “your earthly perspective for a

heavenly perspective.”

‘No small churches’

Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., cited King David’s

unrealized dream of building a temple for God to encourage pastors when they

feel discouraged.

As a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Whitten said he and

other members are often asked, “What are you doing for the smaller church?” He

assured the pastors no one on the task force “looks at smaller or larger.”

“There are no small churches in God’s kingdom,” Whitten said. “Compared to the

lostness of America, every single pastor of the GCRTF pastors a small church,

and none of us have the right to swagger or stick our noses in the air.”

Citing 2 Samuel 7, Whitten said people err in judging a man or ministry by “using

the wrong measuring stick.” Questions about the number baptized, the amount

given to the Cooperative Program, church attendance and staff size invites comparison

and then covetousness and criticism, he said.

“Leadership is not just what is done with the hands, but also what is done with

the heart,” he said, citing 2 Samuel 7:4. “God is the only master I know who

pays as much for the ambitions of your heart as the achievements of your hands.

God keeps the books and the hours.”

‘Grace-driven effort’

Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas,

centered his message on the Gospel as presented in 1 Corinthians 15. Noting

that many churches are “primarily evangelism-oriented and not depth-oriented,”

Chandler said the gospel affects not only one’s justification but

sanctification as well.

Many churches and Christians have fallen into “moralistic deism,” which at its

basic level points to behaviors that must be performed and/or avoided in order

to receive the love of Christ, rather than to the atoning work of Christ on the

cross, Chandler said.

Using D.A. Carson’s concept of “grace-driven effort,” Chandler explained there

are two weapons found in God’s word that grace provides: the blood of Christ,

specifically described in Ephesians 2:13, and the promise of the New Covenant,

found in Hebrews 9:13.

Grace-driven effort attacks the roots of sin in one’s life and not the

branches, Chandler noted.

“The heart is the issue, not the external actions,”

he said.

Chandler also said the mark of maturity in a Christian is shown when a person

runs to Christ — and not away from Him — when sin is revealed in his or her

life.

After Chandler’s message, SBC Pastors’ Conference President Kevin Ezell asked

Chandler to share about his recent experience of being diagnosed with a

malignant brain tumor. Originally given a prognosis of two to three years,

Chandler said he believes God has already healed him.

Presently, no evidence of

new cancer cells can be found and rigorous chemotherapy is doing much to

destroy the current cancer, Chandler said.

Likening his faith to that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Chandler

conceded: “If He can, He will, and if He doesn’t, I still win.”

Ezell ended in a time of prayer for Chandler and for others at the conference

who were facing life-threatening illnesses.

‘Pay attention to your soul’

C.J. Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., cautioned

pastors about losing the wonder and joy of pastoral ministry.

Pointing to 1 Peter 5, Mahaney, who now leads Sovereign Grace Ministries, cited

the Apostle Peter’s exhortation to early church elders to serve one’s church

willingly, rather than “under compulsion.”

“The weekly repetitive activity can wear down the once-willing preacher,”

Mahaney said. He listed factors like minimal response to sermon after sermon,

the lack of discernible difference in people’s lives, hospital visits and

funerals and close friends who burn out and leave the ministry.

“You lose the wonder and joy of pastoral ministry,” Mahaney said. “You find

yourself serving under compulsion, not willingly serving. You wonder what it

would be like to do something different.”

Mahaney urged: “When there is diminished gladness, eagerness and willingness, I

plead with you to pay particular attention to your soul.”

To maintain the joy, pastors “should purpose to please God in private” and “purpose

to build a culture of joy in their church.” As the Scripture points to an “unfailing

crown of glory,” pastors should live their lives in anticipation of their

reward in heaven.

“What a day that will be!” Mahaney exclaimed.

Mahaney, who is not a Southern Baptist, also expressed his gratitude to Southern

Baptists for being a people committed to the gospel through their churches and

seminaries. He noted the profound influence the denomination has had on him,

including the faithful witness of a Southern Baptist friend that led him to

Christ.

During the Sunday evening and Monday morning sessions, Pastors’ Conference

attendees also heard brief challenges from SBC President Johnny Hunt and North

Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, both representatives of the Great Commission

Resurgence Task Force.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Keith Collier, with reporting by David Ettinger,

Lonnie Wilkey, T. Patrick Hudson, Jerry Pierce, Carolyn Nichols and Shannon

Baker.)