By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE (LBM) — Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page said too many times when pastors encounter difficult circumstances they are prone to believe God has forgotten them.
But, he said during those encounters it is important they remember the sound of God’s voice from other times in their lives and to be still and listen for Him, again.
“You may have come here tonight dry as the bones we just sang about,” Page said during the Pastors’ Conference, held Nov. 12-13 at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “You may believe, ‘God doesn’t know where I am,’ and, ‘He doesn’t know my name.’ But He does.”
Citing 1 Samuel 3:1-10, Page explored the call of Samuel who was attentive for the sound of God’s voice.
“Every time we come before the Lord (we need to say) ‘Lord, speak, I’m listening,’” Page said.
He said God placed Samuel, who later became a prophet, not in the most appealing city but rather in Shiloh, a community where few people visited. However, that is where God revealed himself to Samuel.
“You may think that God doesn’t know your name and doesn’t know where you are,” he said. “But He does know where you are. Maybe, where you are, you may think, ‘It’s a backwater place.’ You may think ‘It’s where no one else really wants to go.’ But that may be where God does his greatest work in your life. It may be your Shiloh, because that’s where God is going to show up.”
Before his message, Page shared about his visit with the surviving members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 men, women and children were killed during Sunday worship service and 20 more wounded during an attack Nov. 5.
Page, who was accompanied by other Southern Baptist leaders, said he was reminded how blessed he is to be a member of the denomination: The Texas Baptist Convention pledged to continue paying Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s salary; the North American Mission Board offered to pay for the funerals of those who died; and, three individuals pledged to build a new church building at another location at no cost.
“If there’s any time it’s obvious we can do more together than we can separately, it’s now,” Page said. “There at Sutherland Springs God’s people have surrounded those people.
“Please pray for them,” Page said. “It makes me thankful I am part of a family of faith called Southern Baptists.”
When discerning the will of God in their lives, Christians should follow the example of King David, whom God called “a man after My own heart,” Fred Luter said during his message.
“It is God’s design and desire that we, as His sons and daughters, would know God’s will for our lives when it comes to spiritual things,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “Every day of our lives we are faced with choices. How we respond to those choices can lead us to being a blessing or being a burden.”
To know the will of God, Luter, who drew from Psalm 143:7-10, said Christians must know the Savior, the Holy Spirit and the Bible.
“God never leads one of His sons and daughters to do anything that is contrary to the word of God,” he said. “And that’s the problem with the society that we are living in today. We live in a society where people have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. However, for the believer, for the Christian, for those of us who are born again, the problem begins when we totally ignore what the Scripture says and go along with what the world says, with what society thinks, or even worse we go along with what’s politically correct. I am convinced that absolutely nothing can be politically right if it is biblically wrong. Too many believers today are compromising our values and compromising our morals and compromising our principles by agreeing with society instead of agreeing with the Scripture.”
Tommy Middleton opened the second day of the Pastors’ Conference reminding pastors and other believers to prioritize time alone with God.
Basing his message on Psalm 46, Middleton said King David even found comfort underground, reminding pastors and laymen alike about the need for separation from the world to enjoy fellowship with God.
“There is a time, often on a daily basis, we all need to become cave dwellers,” said Middleton, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge. “We need time alone with God.”
This allows believers to know God in a more intimate way.
“When we get alone with God, the world should be different when we come out,” he said. “What happens in there should not stay in there.”
Middleton ended his message with a challenge.
Though some pastors may be in a season of reflection, Middleton said not to remain in that stage permanently. Instead, make a commitment to move on with Christ’s call on their lives.
“With all the carnage and with all the devastation in a world that sometimes is in chaos, we were born for such a time as this,” he said. “Keep your wits about you. Pause. Think about it. Reflect. Reset. Renew. Do your job in what God’s called you to do. This may be a pause time. But don’t leave it on pause.”
In his message, Michael Wood challenged pastors to forgo any pride in their lives and accept they are merely ambassadors for Christ, with the privilege of representing Him to a hurting and lost world.
Referencing John 3:22-30, Wood said pastors and believers must take the attitude of John the Baptist, who gave up his vibrant ministry to accept his role of serving Christ.
Wood, who serves as pastor of First West, said doing that can be difficult for pastors. Many times, ministers have a feeling of being needed by their members and others in the community.
“If our measure of success in ministry is simply outworking other pastors and churches, we will never take time to pause, and we’re merely fighting a self-serving but ultimately losing battle,” he said.
Wood said pastors should be the hardest working people out of any profession because they are in a battle for lost souls.
“Stirred by such a great salvation, an opportunity to be an ambassador on the King’s behalf, and the brokenness and lostness all around us should move us to lead, preach and fervently pray in such a way that glorifies God,” Wood said. “The flame of the Gospel should burn so hot in us that our passion for sharing the Gospel should be unquenchable.”
During his message, Ed Litton told pastors to stand firm in the midst of fear.
Pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., Litton lost his first wife, Tammy, to a car accident in 2007; and, he thanked God for helping him get through his pain and grief.
In the days following his loss, he constantly was reminded the God he trusted was there to comfort him.
“He is where trouble is,” Litton said. “He’s not a God who is afraid of trouble. We serve a God who refuses to abandon us. Our relationship with Jesus Christ changes our relationship to fear.”
Two years after the accident, Litton married Kathy Ferguson, whose pastor husband had died.
“We are two people who understand what it is to have a God who is our refuge,” Litton said. “And it’s a joy because he is a refuge in everything. He is where we turn in times of trouble.”
In the same way as he faced difficulties, Litton said pastors must do the same with their battles.
“When your life’s foundations crumble, the all-sufficient Christ is your refuge and your strength,” he said. “Everything you and I learn to trust in, all of these things shall pass away. But what we can trust is that our God in his all sufficient grace through his all sufficient son will endure forever. He is our refuge and strength.”
Sometimes in life, God hits the pause button to make pastors ponder certain realities in ministry.
“If you’re a pastor, that moment is going to stare you in the face,” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said. “You need to remember He who called you saw that moment when He called you. And your trouble, your problem, hasn’t scared God.
“He’s hit pause perhaps for you to reassess things, perhaps to admit that you’ve made some wrong decisions, taken some blind alleys, perhaps to put you on a different path,” he continued. “But what He wants you to do is to keep on.”
When the time to pause arrives, Kelley said pastors should consider three questions, referencing Philippians 1:21-26:
— Who else needs to hear about Jesus?
— What on earth is more important or desirable than what is in heaven?
— What do I do now?
“Let us make a commitment, you and me, that when God hits the pause button we are going to know it’s for a fresh path, a new path, a different path,” Kelley said. “It may be the same place. It may be a different place. It may be a different kind of ministry. But let’s covenant together. Let’s keep doing what God called us to do until God says lay it down and come home.”
In a time when even churches are no longer a place of complete refuge, there is safety found in one place – almighty God.
For with God, there is safety in His power, presence and purpose, H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said in the final message of the Pastors’ Conference.
At times, God may permit trouble to come, but when that moment arrives He will protect and renew us, he said.
“God is our refuge when we are attacked,” said Charles, who will serve as president of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. “But He is also our strength when we are assaulted.”
When life turns from calm to chaos, if God is one’s refuge and strength, Charles said there is nothing to fear.
“Faith and fear cannot coexist,” he said. “They are mortal enemies. When one shows up, the other runs away.”
To help in this fight with fear, Charles contends pastors should take their worries to God in prayer and keep their eyes on the Lord, keeping in mind all He has done.
“Do our work in confidence,” Charles said. “The Lord Jesus Christ will have the last word.”