By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
RUSTON – Louisiana Baptists came together for worship in English and Spanish as a means to celebrate their unity in Christ during the opening session of the Pastors Conference, Nov. 11-12, at Cook Baptist Church in Ruston.
In step with the conference theme “Whole: Equipping the church to love the whole church,” the session featured music led by Fellowship Church in Prairieville and Istrouma Espanol in Baton Rouge, and included a message shared by Louisiana Baptist Church Planting Strategist Carlos Schmidt.
“Since we are all in Christ, all ethnic, social, economic and gender barriers have crumbled,” Schmidt said during his message. “He does away with it. Christ is all in all. We can truly say we are one family in Christ.
“Therefore, our relationships with one another should be saturated with kindness, mercy, humility and forgiveness,” he continued. “There is no place for un-forgiveness in the Christian life. As you have been forgiven by Christ, therefore you should also forgive one another.
“All of us might be different but the Scripture says there is none good enough, there is none righteous,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are White or Hispanic in God’s eyes, we are all sinners and Christ paid the penalty for that sin.”
UNITY IN SPIRIT
“People enjoyed the unity and seeing diversity in music, prayers and the message,” said Kirk Jones, pastor of Prairieville Church. “This night served as an encouragement for our people to see what God is doing in the Convention.”
Alfonso Morales, a member of Broadmoor Hispanic Mission in Shreveport, said the evening allowed him to meet a wide representation of Louisiana Baptists.
“The night was about unity between the Americans and Spanish, which I thought was reflective that God is equal for all people,” he noted.
Guillermo Mangieri, pastor of Spanish of Istrouma Espanol in Baton Rouge, enjoyed worshiping in both English and Spanish.
“Tonight we were reminded we are one church who is about Jesus,” he said. “Singing together was an experience that all of us in this room will remember for a long time. Carlos Schmidt got it right when he said we need to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
North Monroe Baptist Church Pastor Bill Dye opened the second day of the Pastors Conference by reminding pastors to adopt practices that allow them to stay in the race while avoiding burnout.
Early in his ministry, Dye took a small struggling church on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, and saw it grow from 120 to about 250 by his fourth year there. However, at age 34 he faced both emotional and spiritual collapse.
“Something had to change,” he said. “I realized that if I’m going to do this for the long haul then I’m going to have to develop a much healthier approach to ministry.”
Dye adopted five habits that he said have helped him better run his race in ministry. He said pastors must know what they are good at, know what they are bad at, be authentic, be an influencer and remember why they are in the ministry.
“God handcrafted you for the service of work that He has given you to do,” Dye said. “You are tailor-made. You are designed for that. You are uniquely designed, master crafted, to do the job you are called to do.”
Jon Bennett challenged pastors to do as the Good Samaritan and demonstrate love in more than just words.
Referencing Luke 10:28-35, Bennett said the Good Samaritan was moved to compassion and helped the wounded man as he passed him, unlike a priest and Levite who came by, but avoided the same man.
“These are men — who represented the religious community — who obviously did not get the memo that social justice issues are the responsibility of the people who represent God in the community,” said Bennett, pastor of Belfair Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “The way that we handle the rejected, the broken-hearted, the impoverished, the way we take the initiative to love out loud actually serves to reveal the conditions of our own hearts.
“It’s easy for us to say, well the Great Commandment is that we are to love and the Great Commission is that we are to make disciples,” he continued. “It’s easy for us to fill our churches on a Sunday morning but then have no application of the Word in and through our lives Monday through Saturday. Something has got to change. I believe God is calling the church, He is calling us, to love out loud.”
Bennett said true Christian love leaves its comfort zone and goes the extra mile.
“If what’s in your head does not move your heart to compassion and your hands to serve others, then what’s in your head is of no value to you,” he said.
Bennett said God is calling Christ followers to leave their comfort zone to love out loud and follow Him.
John Meador, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, challenged pastors to lead their churches and community with love.
Citing Ephesians 4:1-16, Meador said every believer is a part of the body of Christ.
“When Jesus puts us together in the church, His bride, He wants the whole bride to be a part of what He’s doing,” Meador said. “And He wants us to see ourselves as parts of the whole bride.”
Meador encouraged pastors to intentionally listen to others in the congregation who are of a different race. He said conversations can be initiated to help those with racist views to understand God created everyone in His eyes.
“As you teach, remind your people that the Gospel brings everyone together, Jews and Gentiles, Samaritans, people from all nations of the world,” Meador said. “Remind them of the power of the Gospel at every opportunity. Remind them of the power of love at every opportunity. Remind them of the Good Samaritan at every opportunity, and, that we are to go and do, likewise, if we’re going to reflect the Christ who called all of us.”
Christians should look to their oneness in Christ as a starting point when approaching the issue of unity in today’s culture, Jeffrey Wallace said during the final message of the Pastors Conference.
“If we are going to the whole body, we’ve got to be real with the whole body,” said Wallace, executive director of LYFT Student Ministries in Orlando, Florida. “If we’re going to be the whole body we cannot live in a place where we live in our feelings. We have to be in a place where we’re dealing with facts. We have a responsibility and obligation as the body of Christ to be whole and one.”
Wallace, who drew from Galatians 3:25-29, said God has called Christians to be change agents and to co-exist in harmony.
“We all believe that we are brothers and sisters under the Gospel,” he said. “There comes a point where we can’t play it safe when our brothers and sisters are hurting. There comes a point when we’ve got to speak up and speak out. Silence sometimes speaks affirmation.”
Wallace said love has a redemptive power that transforms individuals with the power of the Gospel.
“Love is the ultimate equalizer,” he said. “And love helps me understand that this race we are on is a marathon and not a sprint.”
Elected to lead the 2019 Pastors Conference are Justin Clark, pastor of First Baptist Church, Lake Providence, president; David Goza, pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, vice-president; and Ben Hackler, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sterlington, secretary-treasurer.
Also, for the fourth year in a row, Louisiana College recognized excellence in the pastorate within groupings of worship attendance up to 125, 126 to 500 and more than 500.
Within these congregational sizes, the school honored, respectively, Marc Gregoire, pastor of First Baptist Church, Wilson; Jeff Smart, pastor of Cook Baptist Church, Ruston; and Jeff Ginn, pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge.