ANAHEIM (BP) – Attendees to a Conservative Baptist Network event June 12 heard a collective message from CBN leaders that an impact for Christ is made through a connection to the Gospel, not connections to the world.
John MacArthur, longtime pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., delivered the featured message.
“I think you’re my people. … I think the things that concern you are the things that concern me,” said MacArthur to the crowd at the start of the message.
Utilizing passages throughout Scripture, MacArthur focused on a message of courage that builds into confidence. That central tenet, he said, can be seen throughout Scripture as it was passed down across generations. It can be seen from God speaking to Moses, and that same courage passed from Paul to young churches in a culture that opposed them at every turn.
“Courage gives birth to confidence. In fact, it comes from confidence and leads to confidence,” he said. Citing Psalm 27, he pointed to the Lord serving as a defender and shield.
“Courage is born of confidence in the One who is on your side, right? Courage comes from confidence in the God who called you and the God who empowers you and leads you,” he said.
The crowd of around 1,000 people applauded MacArthur when he addressed Grace Community Church’s stance to remain open and defy California laws during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020.
“I have no desire to be popular. I have no interest in taking orders from the political powers of the kingdom of darkness. I couldn’t care less what the federal government or state government says, I have Christ as the Lord of the Church. You can tell us to shut down our church and we’ll stay open,” he said to applause.
Voddie Baucham, dean of the school of divinity at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, spoke before MacArthur.
Baucham explained comments he had previously made about God not needing the SBC. God’s sovereignty became clear to him when he nearly died last year from heart failure.
“On the one hand I recognized [that] God does not need Voddie Baucham,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to go, but … I’m grateful that He gave me more time. … My prayer is that He would continue to use the [SBC]. My prayer is that He would bring not just revival but repentance. I also recognize that God doesn’t need America. I’m grateful that He’s used America. I pray He continues to use America.”
A church’s mandate and reason for existence is compromised when believers lose sight of who they serve, Baucham said, especially in an environment where the Gospel becomes the enemy of the culture.
“We want to appease the culture by doing the good without the Name,” he said. “And so our churches become known as soup kitchens. Our pastors become known as community organizers. The work that we do is known as social in nature that has absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. It’s work that anyone else can do, that you don’t need the name of Jesus in order to do it.”
Baucham, who will be nominated for president of the 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference on June 13, briefly joined Tom Ascol, Javier Chavez and Brad Jurkovich on stage calling the proclamation of the Gospel from pulpits, and thus serving as president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, “an incredibly important piece of the puzzle for us.”
A panel discussion featuring Ascol, a Florida pastor who is running for SBC president, and Chavez, a Georgia pastor who will be nominated for SBC recording secretary, was led by Jurkovich, First Baptist Bossier City, La., pastor and CBN spokesman. The panel touched on their concerns about a leftward drift in the SBC and the CBN’s “We have a book” emphasis on a focus on Scripture.
Ascol, longtime pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., responded to comments that his positions have changed in light of his presidential candidacy.
“People have sent me things I wrote 25 years ago, and it’s the same thing,” he said. A fear of God is missing in churches, Ascol added, when it comes to living up to the demands of the Gospel.
“I’m not condemning anybody. I’m including myself in this,” he said. Ascol charged that there have been people in the SBC in recent years “bald-faced lying” and showing little to no remorse about it, other than a half-hearted apology.
In recounting his ministry, Chavez said it was as important for people to see as well as hear when it comes to our witness.
“We have not only been called to preach the Gospel. We have been called to live the Gospel,” said Chavez, pastor of Amistad Cristiana in Gainesville, Ga.
If you want a letter of recommendation, he said, be the letter of recommendation.
“That letter is being read by all men,” Chavez said.
The CBN has endorsed Ascol for SBC president, Baucham for president of the 2023 Pastors’ Conference and Chavez as SBC recording secretary.