BALTIMORE (BP) — Pastors, churches and the convention must catch a glimpse of God’s glory to fuel their mission, speakers said at the 2014 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in its first two sessions June 8-9.
The annual conference preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting was held this year at the Baltimore Convention Center focusing on the theme “Show Us Your Glory” from Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33.
The 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference, themed “Show Us Your Glory,” concluded much as it began with speakers calling attendees to live passionately for Christ and to lead others to make disciples.
Southern Baptists must be known for the power and glory of God in their midst in order to fulfill their mission, Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd said in the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference opening session Sunday night.
Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas who will be among the nominees for SBC president, used Moses’ frequent communication with God on Mount Sinai “as a man talks to his friend” to show how pastors must seek the glory of God on their lives.
“Moses wanted nothing more than to ensure that the presence of God would come upon the people and that that would become the distinctive mark in their culture,” Floyd said.
“Jesus is the glory of God, and anytime we want the Gospel to be sent to the ends of the earth, we are saying we want the Lord Jesus and His glory to be absolutely felt by all the nations of the world.”
Exodus, with its record of Moses’ interactions with God, could rightly be viewed as a chronicle of Moses’ prayer life, Floyd noted, adding that three things Moses consistently did are instructive for today’s preachers:
Moses regularly practiced going up to talk with God, even begging God not to cut off the people after Aaron demonstrated poor leadership in the worship of the golden calf. “With great conviction he cried out to God in the midst of his prayer, ‘Lord, show us Your glory,'” Floyd said. “There is only one thing that distinguishes you from other people: the presence and the glory of God being all over you.”
Moses demonstrated extraordinary prayer. “There is no extraordinary move of God that ever occurs that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people,” Floyd said. Whatever your ordinary prayer life is, Floyd urged, pray more, and don’t rely on coolness or personality or even preaching ability to do ministry.
By going up and by extraordinary prayer, only then was Moses able to lead forward, Floyd said. “Moses determined in his heart, ‘I am not going forward without Your presence.’ Forward leaders, they understand something: They are distinguished by the power, presence of God and the glory of God in their lives and their ministry.”
The only thing Southern Baptists should be known for is the “power and the glory of God,” Floyd said, urging preachers to make a commitment not to preach unless His glory is on them and they have heard from God.
H.B. CHARLES JR.
Citing Philippians 1:3-8, H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., urged pastors and churches to focus on the partnership found in the Gospel rather than the needs of a collection of individuals.
“There was a time when the church saw themselves as pilgrims traveling together through a foreign land on their way home,” Charles said, but churches are now “prone to view ourselves as tourists who happen to be on the same bus with differing and competing interests, priorities and agendas.
“As a result, world philosophies like individualism, relativism, subjectivism and pragmatism dominate church life.”
The dynamics of the Gospel found in this passage, Charles said, are the affirmation of thankfulness, prayer and partnership.
“No matter what situation, if you are not a grateful person, you are not walking in the will of God,” he admonished.
Thanksgiving leads to continual prayer, Charles said, adding that even the hardships the apostle Paul encountered ultimately led to the furtherance of the Gospel. While the church at Philippi was not a perfect church, it brought much joy for Paul to pray for them.
Charles, describing Paul’s view of the church, said followers of Christ are yoked together as partners, bound by a Christian fellowship and partnership that is greater, deeper and stronger than geographical locations or physical structures, worship styles or ministries.
“We are bound together by the Gospel,” Charles said.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., ended the Sunday evening session by outlining 25 names, titles, attributes and activities of God found in Psalm 68 in order for pastors to “get a glimpse of God’s glory” and be compelled to display it in their churches and the world.
“Once you get a taste of the glory of God, you find yourself possessed by an insatiable passion for more and more and more,” Platt said.
“You want God more than anything else. You long for God over and above everything else. You plead to see and know and experience more and more and more of His glory.
“I want that to be true in my life. I want it to be true in the church that I lead.”
As Platt described the awe-invoking character and activity of God found in the psalm, he noted that God is active, cares for the weak, holds sovereignty over nature and nations, carries burdens, saves His people, and deserves praise throughout the earth.
Beholding the glory of God, Platt said, should drive Christians to stand in awe of Him and to give their lives to His mission.
“Give glory to this God,” Platt concluded. “Do not be casual with this God. Do not be complacent with this God. … Stand in awe of this God! He has not saved us from our sins and filled us with His power so that we can sit back on the sidelines of what He is doing in the world. …
“May it be said of you and me, of the churches we lead, and this convention that we … were men and women who loved the glory of God more than we loved our own lives.”
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, jumpstarted the second day of the conference with a message on personal evangelism drawn from Psalm 126. He first set forth statistics and frank statements regarding the state of evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Twenty-seven thousand of our 46,000 Southern Baptist churches baptized no teenagers last year,” Hunt said. “Another 9,000 baptized one.
“Do the math. Thirty-six thousand of the 46,000 Southern Baptist churches [baptized] no teenagers. Let that continue, and we’ll see where the next generation lands. We’ve got to make much of the Gospel.”
Hunt challenged ministers in the audience to recommit themselves to intentional personal evangelism. As an example to attendees, Hunt said one thing he did as a young minister to constantly remind him to pray for and witness to specific people in his life was to carry with him the names of people he was actively witnessing to.
“I’ve gone back to this and carry them in my Bible,” Hunt said. “As a spiritual leader, who are you planting the Gospel in their life?”
Turning to Psalm 126, Hunt described the Israelites rejoicing as God delivered them from a period of captivity. But in their rejoicing, Hunt said, they were careful to remember the captivity from which God freed them and to remember those who had not yet been set free. In current terms, Hunt said, they went from “the blessing of being saved to the burden of being saved.” He then contrasted that with present-day Christians who have little burden for the lost and who have, instead, forgotten their life prior to knowing Jesus Christ.
Hunt then offered additional statistics, stating that Southern Baptists baptized 4,600 less people last year despite having 91 more churches.
Hunt closed with a simple prayer: “God help us. God help us.”
When pastors feel discouraged and worn out, they should give up their ministry to God instead of quitting, said Clayton King, founder and president of Crossroads Camps and Clayton King Ministries.
King, in a message titled “God’s Glory in Giving Up,” preached from 1 Kings 19:1-9 when Elijah ran for his life from Queen Jezebel after securing victory against the false prophets of Baal. King said Elijah’s experience serves as a guideline for pastors to surrender their ministries to God during times of anxiety and distress.
“When God calls you into ministry, there is a price to be paid and a burden to carry,” said King, a teaching pastor at Newspring Church in Anderson, S.C., and campus pastor for Liberty University.
King emphasized the need for pastors to receive encouragement and honor from other ministers as well as seeking times of rest to avoid moral and spiritual failure.
“If you are a pastor of a church that is always on call and cannot ever turn off your phone, and everybody has to have access to you, then you have created a train wreck of your life and you are headed to destruction,” King said, setting forth Elijah’s example of escaping the source of his anxiety.
“Get honest with God about your limitations.”
Recounting the story of a pastor who lost his family and ministry, King urged conference attendees to devote time to family, spend money on vacations, schedule regular alone time, and find rest and nourishment.
“If we will give up now,” King said, “we won’t have to quit later.”
Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pa., and president of Thriving, an outreach to aid ethnic minorities for ministry in an urban context, spoke on Ephesians 5:15-20 in a message titled “Glorifying God Through a Godly Resolve.
Mason explained that the first three chapters of Ephesians present doctrine while and chapters four through six present duty. In Ephesians 5, he said, Paul takes a “pause for praise” — offering doxology between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
Defining God-glorifying resolve as a “commitment to see or make something happen based on what God wants to do based on his Word,” Mason gave three commitments believers must make in order to live lives of godly resolve:
1) “live a life of spiritual discernment”; 2) “maximize every season the Lord gives you”; and (3) make sure “the Lord will be the strongest commitment in your life.”
Mason concluded his message by saying that his prayer for himself and other pastors is “that we would have a divine and a godly resolve to follow God through Jesus Christ.”
“The greatest potential for the Kingdom of God is not in the pulpit, but in the congregation,” said J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.
Greear focused on John 16:7, which reads, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Greear also read John 14:12, in which Jesus told His disciples, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Sharing the Gospel with people and seeing lives changed from death to life is ultimately greater than Jesus’ earthly miracles, Greear said.
“When we preach the Gospel and sinners believe, we are doing the greater work,” he said. “We are doing the thing all of Jesus’s miracles were trying to illustrate.”
Much of church growth, Greear said, is based on “shuffling existing Christians around” while reaching lost people accounts for just a small percentage of growing churches.
Greear called churches to be more concerned with spreading the glory of God on earth instead of their own glory.
“Sending capacity and not just seating capacity ought to be the measure of any Kingdom-minded church’s success,” he said.
Churches were called to sacrificially give away their best resources, leaders and opportunities in order to grow for God’s glory.
“Jesus’ promises about the greatness of His church are tied to sending,” Greear said.
The surprise speaker of the Pastors’ Conference was Alex Himaya, pastor of theChurch.at in Tulsa, Okla. Bad weather prevented Tony Evans, the originally scheduled speaker, from flying out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In lieu of recapping statistics describing the poor state of the church in America, Himaya simply called pastors and everyday believers alike to share their redemption story with those around them as a way to call people to faith in Christ.
Himaya’s message focused on Revelation 12:11, which reads, “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
Himaya said he fears Christians today have overcomplicated the Gospel. The essentials, he said, are the blood of Jesus shed for sinners and Christians’ testimony of transformation, as described in Revelation 12:11.
With that in mind, Himaya shared his personal testimony of growing up as the son of an Egyptian father and a mother from North Carolina. Both he and his brother came to faith at youth camps and later led their parents to Christ. He closed his message by calling attendees to pause for prayer, asking God to show them their testimony, help them organize it and write it down, lead them to practice it and give them opportunities to share it.
“He wants to use us to take the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and share it with those who desperately need it … it’s good news,” Himaya said. “[W]e are taking the greatest news on the planet to the world that Jesus wants to save and died and gave His blood for. That’s as simple as it is.”
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., spoke Monday evening about suffering. His message came a little more than a year after his son Matthew committed suicide.
Warren kept his remarks brief, saying that, though he had prepared a full message on suffering, a whisper from the Holy Spirit guided him in another direction during his flight to Baltimore.
“The Holy Spirit whispered to me, ‘The people and the pastors need your prayers more than they need your sermon,'” Warren said.
After speaking for about 15 minutes about suffering, Warren called for those who were in the midst of suffering to walk to the front, where he knelt and prayed for them. Warren asked the Lord to use the suffering in their lives to make them more like Christ and to better enable them to minister and witness. Many in the crowd came forward.
Before the prayer, Warren told the attendees that suffering, though entwined with sorrow and grief, can be and is used by God to accomplish His purposes. He said he has learned from his own experience that, after asking “why questions” — questions that even Jesus asked — Christians must realize that God allows suffering to direct, inspect, correct, protect and perfect them.
“If you study church history, you will discover that behind every publicly successful ministry, there is private pain,” Warren said, adding later that in his worst year, Saddleback had its best year.
“Pain is God’s megaphone,” he said. “There is no testimony without a test. There is no message without a mess. There is no impact without criticism. It is not by accident that the most blessed ministries are also the most attacked ministries.”
Warren also offered five specific ways people can use suffering when it comes, telling them to use it to draw closer to God, to draw closer to people, to become more like Jesus, to help others and to witness to the world.
“God’s number one purpose in your life is to make you more like Christ,” Warren said. “If God’s going to make you like Jesus, He’s going to take you through the things that Jesus went through.”
James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Chicago, called pastors and leaders to seek after God’s presence in their churches.
“The holy hour of worship is a time and a place for God to rend the heavens and come down,” MacDonald said. “Nothing else will substitute. We have settled for less, and we have forgotten how to blush about it.”
That’s why, MacDonald said, “the church in America is in trouble. Actually, it’s in big trouble.”
Several thousand churches in America every year are closing their doors, MacDonald said, and not many pastors who start out are still in ministry when they finish their active working years.
MacDonald pointed to God’s voice and presence described in Isaiah 64:1 and Exodus 32–33, noting that it’s God’s voice and presence that’s missing in American churches.
“What’s lost in the church in America is the presence of God,” he said. “Churches don’t die. God’s voice in them dies.”
The Exodus 32–33 passage is the source of the Pastors’ Conference theme: Show Us Your Glory.
“Know God better. Go deeper with Him. Find favor. There’s a whole sermon in that,” MacDonald said. “Show me your glory: That’s what we need. That’s the only thing that will change the course we’re on.”
In an emotional conclusion to the Pastors’ Conference, Francis Chan, author, speaker and former pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif., passionately called attendees to “not be content to hear Moses” instead of going up the mountaintop themselves.
His plea referenced Exodus 32–33, which describe Moses going up to meet with God on the mountain.
Chan urged attendees to develop a hunger to really know and love God, rather than “taking selfies with Moses and writing about it.”
“Movements start when founders really know God, but movements die when the followers only know the founder,” Chan said.
Referencing Mark 14 — which tells of Jesus, in the depths of His sorrow, falling to the ground and asking for the cup to be passed from Him — Chan pressed the pastors to keep their eyes on the cross where Christ gave His all.
“Are you resting in the cross right now? Is your joy and salvation coming from Jesus?” he asked.
Chan concluded by saying he felt many of the conference participants are bound by rituals and patterns instead of “dying in their hearts to really know God.” In the midst of their devotion to those rituals, “people groups and people are going to hell” without Christ, he said.
2015 Pastors’ Conference officers
Attendees elected the following officers to lead the 2015 Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio: Willie Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., president; Jeremy Westbrook, pastor of Living Hope Church in Marysville, Ohio, vice president; and Drew Landry, pastor of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va., treasurer.