Columbus, Ohio—Pastors and churches must humble themselves and pursue a closer walk with God if they want to experience His peace, joy and purpose, speakers urged at the 2015 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 14-15.
The conference, focusing on the theme “He Must Increase” from John the Baptist’s statement in John 3:30, preceded the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
John Meador of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas, was elected as next year’s Pastors’ Conference president.
Among the dozen speakers to address the conference were:
Dean Fulks, lead pastor of LifePoint Church in Columbus, Ohio, in the opening message of the conference June 14, used the story of Jonah to illustrate the need for pastors to live with repentant hearts.
Sometimes pastors may mistakenly believe that God is waiting for them to step out of line so He can clobber them, Fulks said. But a biblical picture is found in Romans 2:3, where Paul writes that God’s kindness is what leads to repentance.
“God will be glorified by my life. God will be glorified by your life,” Fulks said. “Either through my joyful obedience or through my rebellious disobedience … God will be glorified.”
As God didn’t give up on Jonah, Fulks said He wouldn’t give up on pastors even on their worst days.
“Jesus took on His shoulders the wrath of God—not just of the sinners that fill our pews but the sins of those of us who fill the pulpits,” Fulks said.
Christ alone satisfies, and ministry both locally and globally overflows from a relationship with Him, Vance Pitman said.
“As Christ has increased in my life, I’ve realized that God’s primary call on my life is not ministry,” said Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas. “It’s intimacy.”
Calling attention to Luke 4:42, Pitman noted that Jesus “walked away from ministry to pursue intimacy with the Father.”
“Some of us are too busy with ministry to pursue intimacy,” he said, warning that such a lapse in intimacy may come with dangerous consequences.
But intimacy with Christ overflows with ministry, he added. According to Mark 3:13-14, Christ called the 12 apostles first to “be with Him” and then “to preach.”
Christ’s increase in a minister’s life, Pitman said, means that they are called not only to a church, but to a city. Ministers who gain a heart for the city “develop a passion to multiply the church” and “a passion for multicultural expressions of the gospel,” he said, which in turn connects the pastor with God’s global Kingdom work.
David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., urged conference participants to turn from casual Christianity to a willingness to die for the cause of Christ.
Citing 2 Timothy 4:6, Uth noted that the apostle Paul, in his last days, spoke of having been “poured out like a drink offering” for the cause of Christ, referring to the Old Testament practice when a priest pours a sacrifice on the altar until the last drop from the container was gone.
Uth cautioned against pouring one’s life on the altar of one’s ministry or the altar of the denomination, noting only one altar is worthy—”pour every drop you’ve got on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“If Jesus is going to increase,” Uth said, “We have to decrease by pouring everything out on the altar for Christ.”
“God takes what seems impossible, and He makes it a reality,” said Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Pressley preached from Ezekiel 37:1-10 and encouraged pastors to not be fearful of desperate situations.
“Don’t be afraid, brothers and sisters, if God calls you into the valley of the dry bones,” Pressley said. “You stand there with the word of God; you preach the Word of God and beg the Spirit to come give life.”
Pressley focused on allowing God to work through the power of the Holy Spirit. “Do you believe that it is God doing the work or you doing the work?” he asked. “The conversion of our people, the strength of the church and the power for our ministry cannot come from the flesh; it comes from the Spirit.
“Don’t be afraid to walk into something that doesn’t make sense to anybody but you and the Lord,” Pressley said.
Preaching on “The Changeless Christ” from Hebrews 13:18, H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., declared, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
While leaders come and go and rise and fall, Jesus Christ is the same, Charles said. And while preachers come and go, “preaching must remain gloriously monotonous. You don’t need new truths when you have the same Christ.”
No matter changing circumstances or the way that the wind blows, “you can face the changing culture with faith in the changeless Christ,” Charles said.
The name “Jesus” reflects His humanity, Charles said, and “Christ” is His divine office that is found in His exclusivity, Charles said. “He is able to sustain our faith, our witness, our ministry because He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
“”Jesus is heaven’s wonder. Jesus is hell’s worry. Jesus is humanity’s way out of sin, guilt, shame, death and hell,” he added.
“Whatever you are going through, whatever your days may bring, you can always count on Jesus Christ because of His matchless name, His exclusivity claim and the unwavering faithfulness of Jesus Christ,” Charles said.
Pastors must pray with fervency, faith and forgiveness if their ministry is to follow the model for biblical revival, said Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and a former president of the Pastors’ Conference.
“The difference between us and the early church is that we don’t pray like they prayed,” Gaines said.
Preaching from Mark 11:22-25 when Jesus told His disciples how to move mountains through prayer, Gaines said, “If we want God to birth a revival, we must labor in fervent prayer.”
In addition to fervency, Gaines said pastors should learn to pray with faith and forgiveness. Faith, Gaines said, is placing trust and dependency in God and His promises. And prayer will not be effective, he said, unless believers first forgive those who have wronged them.
Closing with the “Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor,” Gaines encouraged attendees to seek out those who have hurt them and forgive them in Jesus’ name.
James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Chicago—who announced that the church had recently voted to join the Southern Baptist Convention—explained to Pastors’ Conference attendees that when one is enduring a particular trial in ministry that “you can’t do what you want” but must “humble yourself.”
Drawing from John 13:1-16, MacDonald portrayed Jesus’ example of humbling Himself before the disciples on the eve of His greatest trial. In light of this, regardless of “when it’s hardest to love,” “when it’s personal and painful,” “when you endure injustices,” one should “humble yourself.”
MacDonald noted that the act of humbling oneself is an action, not a concept, and it requires servanthood.
Like the servant and messenger depicted in verse 16, MacDonald said, “I am the servant. I am the messenger, and I am nothing…. I deserve nothing…. The messenger is nothing; the message is everything. And if you get ahold of ‘I am nothing,’ the message is everything. I am sent, but it is about the Sender…. Only God is great; humble yourself…. It’s okay if we decrease … so that He (Jesus) could increase.” (BP)