A diverse slate of speakers exhorted fellow pastors and church leaders to be faithful to their calling during the first two sessions of 2018 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 10-11 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
Centered on the theme “Fulfill Your Ministry” drawn from 2 Timothy 4:5, attendees were challenged to finish strong in their calling to local church ministry.
Juan Sanchez, pastor of Austin’s High Pointe Baptist Church and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, issued a Texas welcome, opening the conference Sunday night by preaching on 2 Timothy 4:9-22.
“What will our ministry look like when … we come to the end of our ministry?” Sanchez asked, urging pastors to consider their needs, concerns and source of confidence as did the apostle Paul.
Paul’s needs included physical ones, Sanchez said. God has made us “whole persons” including body, spirit and soul, he said, emphasizing the importance of healthy lifestyles for pastors.
Paul’s other need was for “deeply rooted Gospel friendships,” Sanchez added, noting the apostle’s desire that Timothy “come soon” and his mention of both faithful and faithless friends.
“We need to have thick skins and soft hearts,” Sanchez said, which includes forgiveness and grace toward critics. He underscored the importance of accountability relationships, admitting his prior failure in this area. “We are not meant to be isolated. It is tragic if we are isolated. Connect,” Sanchez urged.
“Paul’s primary concern was the continuation of the Gospel ministry,” Sanchez said, likening Paul to a “general” directing the spread of the Gospel from prison and emphasizing the importance of training others.
Paul always remained a student of God’s Word. “We never finish our theological training and education,” the Texas pastor added.
As Paul warned Timothy of opposition, Sanchez told the audience to expect the same from within and outside the church. “Ministry is not easy,” he said, encouraging pastors to faithfully preach the Word and leave a “Gospel legacy.”
Paul’s “ultimate confidence rested in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Sanchez said, cautioning against placing “confidence in ourselves,” in numbers, buildings or locations. He closed by encouraging pastors not to become discouraged but to remember the “eternal plan of God.”
Citing Romans 1:16 when the apostle Paul declared he is “not ashamed of the Gospel,” James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., urged pastors to be “Unashamed.”
Merritt began his sermon by reminding the audience that Norman Vincent Peale, former pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, wrote a book 65 years ago that propelled him into the American limelight. “The Power of Positive Thinking” and its central message explained Peale’s philosophy of preaching, Merritt said: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities!”
Merritt quoted Peale as saying, “I’m a conservative, and I will tell you what I mean by that. I mean that I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I mean that I believe my sins are forgiven by the atoning work of grace on the cross…. Now, I’ll tell you something else…. I personally love and understand the way of stating the Christian Gospel. But I am absolutely and thoroughly convinced that it is my mission never to use this language in trying to communicate with the audience that has been given me.”
Merritt proclaimed, “Simply put, the Gospel that was dynamic enough to save him was too dangerous to share with others. Sadly, in far too many pulpits and platforms in our churches today, the spirit of Norman Vincent Peale is alive and well.”
Merritt set forth three points in underscoring the primacy of being unashamed of the Gospel.
“First, we should be unashamed of the simple message of the Gospel. Second, we should be unashamed of the supernatural might of the Gospel. Finally, we should be unashamed of the saving ministry of the Gospel.”
Merritt concluded, “There is nothing sweeter, nothing better and nothing greater than the Gospel. Hollywood can make you famous. Wall Street can make you rich. Washington can make you powerful. A university can make you smart. A hospital can make you well, but only the Gospel can get you saved.”
Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas offered insight into the chaos in the world with a solution through a passage from 2 Chronicles 15:3-6.
“God will cause distress to get our undivided attention and in order to do something new,” Evans said. “God determines what He is going to do in a society by the presence, or the absence, of the influence of His people.”
As Evans used 2 Chronicles 15:3-6 as a biblical example, he pointed out three key issues to the chaos it reports — there was no true God; there was no true teaching priest; and there was no law. The God worshiped in 2 Chronicles and the God worshiped today is a dumbed-down version of the one true God, Evans said.
“Everybody wants God, they just want Him on sale,” he said. “As long as they can get God cheap, they’ll get all they can handle. But the moment He comes at full price, they’ll shop elsewhere.”
Evans referenced Matthew 16:17-19 to say that “only the church has been given the keys to the Kingdom.”
“God is more concerned about the church house than the White House,” Evans said. “Until the church is right, He won’t fix our society.”
Christians are called to seek after God, Evans said, and, as 2 Chronicles 15:4 states, “but when they turned to the Lord God of Israel in their distress and sought Him, He was found by them.”
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Source: Baptist Press