SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Ministries founded on integrity, passion and perseverance are essential for the church to impact the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ in the new millennium. This message resonated throughout the June 7-8 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, which featured nearly 20 preachers from across the country at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center prior to the June 9-11 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Charles Lowery, pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M., said society at the dawning of a new millennium is searching for something real. Unsatisfied by vain searches for truth in New Age methodologies such as numerology and psychic hotlines, he said people are looking for answers to life’s meaning. “In this age people look for strange things to solve their problems. In order for us to love people, we have to be real with people,” Lowery said, citing the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. The New Mexico pastor said there are too many dysfunctional churches trying to become what others want them to be. “I think today we want to be divine duplicates.” Lowery said too many pastors have bought the world’s lie that they can be whatever they want. “You can’t be anything you want to be. You can only be what God designs you to be.”
Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., said, “Integrity is to your spirit what health is to your body. When you live with integrity you have nothing to fear and nothing to hide.”
Comparing today’s churches with the early church in Corinth, Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., warned of the confusion Satan has ushered through the culture into the church, paralyzing it and discouraging its leaders. “The extraordinary challenge for every Christian in today’s world is to be close enough to the culture to make a difference, but far enough away from it not to become like it,” Floyd said. Pastors and church leaders must live lives “sold out to God and live above the cultural edge. Be willing to stand in the gap between God and your culture,” he said.
Churches that advance the cause of Christ in the postmodern age will be led by pastors who have a passion for reaching a lost world, Rick Ferguson, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, Denver, said. “Traditional, mediocre, cookie-cutter religious leadership is going to be suffocated in the spiritually confused culture of the 21st century.” Ferguson, pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in Colorado, said a passionate pastoral ministry must be fueled by prayer, not by protocol. “High-impact leaders will no longer be able to take their cues or their agenda from denominational agencies, but they will be forced into their prayer closet, facing their own brokenness and their spiritual bankruptcy and their own helplessness.” Southern Baptist churches will have to develop effective, cross-cultural ministries as the minority population across the country continues to grow at double-digit percentage rates while the Caucasian population shows no percentage growth, Ferguson said. “They’ll no longer be able to get by with standardized, one-size-fits-all, stagnant programs,” he said. “They’re going to be forced to the very threatening and insecure position of simply depending upon God and going with God to impact their world.”
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, said pastors must be passionate about God’s calling on their lives to help rescue a culture drowning in decadence. He cited the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 as a parable of today’s world. “The world is sinking in judgment,” he said. “People are dying, people are lost, people are sinking and our lifeboats, our churches, are half empty, and we are unwilling to take whatever risks are needed to go back to rescue the perishing. We need to be filling up our lifeboats.” Graham said God’s Word is the lifeblood for passion in ministry. “The people who have the highest regard for the infallibility and the inerrancy and the sufficiency of Scripture are those who are preaching and longing for the soon return of Jesus Christ.”
Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York, N.Y., called for pastors to depend more on the leading of the Holy Spirit and less on themselves. “Some ministers think it’s the greatest thing to have a three-year plan in their computer,” he said. Cymbala said churches are too often bound by their bulletins. “There’s never been a revival if you follow the bulletin,” he said. “We have this pathetic situation where pastors tell me we can’t go on past an hour. Doesn’t someone think this is not what God intended when he started the church?”
Challenging pastors to join the “fellowship of the unashamed,” Mike Hamlet, pastor of North Spartanburg First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., urged pastors and Christians alike to be intentional about telling the good news of Jesus Christ. “We need to check our lives and live under conviction,” said Hamlet, who later was elected Pastors’ Conference president by acclamation. “We need to expand our vision and do what God would have us do.”
Evangelist Jay Strack of Orlando, Fla., encouraged Pastors Conference attendees by proclaiming that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, but if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep having what we’re having. How dare we play the status quo in the midst of a lost generation.”
Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Houston, said those ripe for evangelism seem to be young couples and singles. Young said the most responsive population segment over 40 years old seems to be singles, particularly divorced women with children. “They are the greatest mission field in America today,” he said.
Jerry Vines, co-pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., said the answer to keeping passion in the ministry can be found in the study. “Search your heart and visit your study,” Vines said. “As a preacher, if you want to get a word from God, you will get that word of God from your Bible. If you will get in your study and begin to study the truths of this Bible, your own heart will begin to burn with the Holy Spirit’s anointing, power and fire,” Vines said.
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., encouraged pastors to remember their God-given victories during times of trouble. “One of the problems in our ministries is that oftentimes our memories are far too short.” Hunt said despite popular seeker-friendly church growth tactics, the Bible still remains as the church growth manual. “The Bible still calls for men that will come and stand behind this blessed sacred desk, take their stand for Christ alone and boldly, without any intimidation, rightly divide the blessed Word of God and let it land where it may. “I know that the precious Lord Jesus Christ can give you an increased appetite for what you feel you can’t stomach any longer,” he said. “It’ll be worth it all when we see Jesus.”