The Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference is now underway! Starting this late afternoon at the Kentucky Expo Center by the Louisville Airport, Louisville Six Flags, and Churchill Downs. Bonnie and I arrived in time for the pre-conference concert. Brother Marshall should be excited to know that the soloist, Starla Harbin, started out the conference singing “Days of Elijah” and during the evening’s worship, we sang, “When I think about the Lord”. Bonnie and I felt like we were right at home.
This year’s conference president is Ed Litton, Pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile, Alabama. The worship team also is from the North Mobile church and they did a fantastic job.
The speakers this evening were J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Durham, NC, Mac Brunson, Pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL, and Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and prolific Christian author. All three of the speakers did an excellent job and I would like to outline their speeches.
Ed Litton started off the speaking with a “theme interpretation” on the motto for the Pastors’ Conference, “What if”. Dr. Litton gave the congregated messengers various convicting questions based around the motto. The questions that caught my attentions were:
What if we adjusted our thinking and sought out God for a greater vision?
What if we truly cast ourselves upon the Lord and not on the numbers?
What if we “opened up the silos” and quit storing up for ourselves and gave freely the gospel of Christ Jesus to those around us?
What if we gave up the stubborn problems that have plagued us.
The theme for this year’s conference is Philippians 2:2 – “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” [ESV]
J.D. Greear preached from Matthew 23, where Jesus gave the seven woes to the Pharisees. Dr. Greear focused on the difference between religiosity and true gospel ministry. This cut me to the quick! He introduced the sermon by outlining the three tendencies of religiosity:
1. Religion tends to displace the gospel from God’s people.
2. We tend to see the conflict in others in the past but we do not see that in ourselves in the present.
-the Pharisees loved missions.
-the Pharisees loved scripture
-the Pharisees loved doctrine
-the Pharisees loved disciplined obedience
-the Pharisees thought these proved that they were the people of God.
3. Religion makes us horribly ineffective at evangelism.
-the Pharisees were not effective on people who were not like them. But Jesus did. When Jesus called Peter to cast the net on the other side of the boat and Peter and the disciples-to-be were unable to bring in all the fish that they had caught, Jesus said, “from now on you will be catching men’ (Luke 5:10). Jesus was saying, like you have caught the fish, so shall you catch men. Jesus drew people unto him.
The main outline of the sermon detailed six characteristics / ways that we are religious and how that displaces the gospel:
1. Religious people are obsessed with Recognition – they love honorary titles and really love the praise of people.
2. Religious people substitute religious rituals for a love for God. We can make a big deal of a set of conforming behaviors. We many times focus on what we do instead of knowing God. We must encounter God. We must have a white hot passion for God’s glory – a thirst to know more of him.
3. Religious centered Christians elevate secondary traditions above the love of God. We can so easily place more emphasis on tradition than calling sinners to repentance.
4. Religious centered Christians elevate secondary traditions above love for others.
5. Pharisees are more aware of the sins of others than in their own life.
6. Pharisees always think that preachers and teachers are talking about someone else when talking about sin and short coming.
His concluding thoughts were to not use God for another agenda in our lives. Based on a less then gospel-centered ministry in many churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, many people get converted to the SBC and not to Christ. We must repent of our religion and our self-righteousness, and thinking that we are better than everyone else. One of the best lines of the conclusion was that Southern Baptists must not trade the deadness of liberalism for the deadness of traditionalism.
Mac Brunson came shortly thereafter to bring a message from I Peter 3:8-9. His sermon was not as clearly delineated as Greear’s so my outline is not a clear. Brunson focused in his remarks on the responsibility of ministers and pastors to encourage and edify one another.
In his first point, Brunson outlined the five characteristics of how ministers and Christians should be in the Southern Baptist Convention. First, we are to be harmonious or same minded. God is not calling us to be clones, but are there are cardinal truths that we should all agree on and be like-minded. We ought to all agree on the Great Commission (this is a reference to the controversy over the document entitled, “The Great Commission Resurgence”. Second, we are to be sympathetic, truly and honestly identifying with the felt hurts and needs of fellow ministers and Christians. Thirdly, we are to have a brotherly intention. Fourthly, we are to have a brotherly submissiveness and be humble in spirit. And finally, we are to have a tender heart. In this section of the message, Brunson highlighted a couple of illustrations. The first illustration was that of the satellite buffalo. Apparently, in nature there is always one buffalo in a wild herd that will always stay on the fringes of the herd, and not interact with the other buffalo. For the whole of its days, it will always be removed from the other buffalos and they always die a premature death due to the neglect of interaction with other bison. Brunson made the point that we are not to allow the pastors of our convention feel like the satellite buffalo. Secondly, Brunson mentioned a book that two very successful female ad execs wrote once they had built a company from the ground up. The title of the book was what these two women believed was the key to their whole success. The book was called, The Power of Nice.
In his second point, the exact wording of which I did not get, he focused on verse 8 of I Peter 3. He discussed a minister not returning evil for evil or insult for insult. We all have this emotional itch called the flesh and it always tempts us with the conviction that we always have to defend ourselves and our honor and return insult for insult. This is a natural reaction . But the Bible tells us that we don’t have to. The best thing that Satan can do is to knock us off our game – off our rhythm.
One final illustration was that Dr. Brunson showed pictures of a church in Germany in which its foundations had wasted away until one day the entire church (save the front facade) collapsed. Instead of building back the church, the town decided to just repair the facade and not to build the actual church back up. Now, all that remains is a beautiful facade without any church attached. Brunson encouraged pastors to rest or take pride in a precious and beautiful facade of a church if the foundation is crumbling. We must have a firm foundation.
Chuck Colson came to speak at the end of the evening and his focus was on leadership. Just a copule of quick highlights:
-Pastors have the eternal destiny of souls in their hands. We must not take this responsibility lightly.
– [quoting Spurgeon] “we must tremble lest we misspeak the word of God”
-being a pastor is an awesome charge and we must approach the ministry with great humility
-not only are you called to preach, but you have been called to lead as a pastor.
-we are not to pander the people and tell them all that they want to hear, but we must preach the word of God and lead the people toward His glory.
Well, this was the conference for Sunday evening. Bonnie and I are looking forward to tomorrow. Bonnie will be attending the Pastor’s Wives Institute during the morning, while I will remain with the other ministers for the continuance of the Pastors’ Conference. The speakers slated for tomorrow include Mike Landry, Ed Stetzer, Francis Chan, and Tom Eliff in the morning. During the afternoon, Michael Catt, Fred Luter, Jr., and Mike Huckabee will speak. Finally, to conclude the conference that evening, Alvin Reid, David Platt, and Johnny Hunt (Hunt is the current and most likely to be re-elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention). Bonnie and I are looking forward to it! God bless…