NEW ORLEANS (BP)–It’s said that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the new voices at the 2001 Pastors’ Conference proved the adage true as they followed familiar themes of bold evangelism, Bible-based preaching and bedrock inerrancy.
Pastors’ Conference President Jerry Spencer said he brought fresh voices to the podium because he wanted to show that mega-churches did not have a lock on great preaching. Spencer deliberately sought pastors from smaller churches or pastors who represented a younger generation to fill about half the slots in the annual pastors’ gathering.
If the names and the faces were new, the sermons were similar to the Sandy Creek, expository style that has come to define the Pastors’ Conference.
One statistic, so shocking that it emerged in many of the messages: 95 percent of all Southern Baptists will live and die without ever sharing their faith in Christ.
Bobby Moore, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., said the greatest motivating factor for witnessing is to have an understanding of the glory of God.
As an example, Moore used his own father, who, as a dying alcoholic, refused to embrace Christ as his Savior. One night, a member of Moore’s church said he’d never see his father saved until he learned to pray with the right motivation.
Willing to take a lesson from this man who “only had a sixth-grade education,” but “knew a great deal more about God than I did with my seminary education,” Moore said he stopped praying for his father to be saved in order to give his mother a Christian home. Rather, he started praying that his father would be saved to glorify God.
Later, just weeks before he died, Moore’s father came to Christ. “We’ll see more people saved if we want to see them saved for the glory of God,” Moore said. “The longer you live the Christian life, the more you forget what it’s like to be without Christ. I believe one of the motivations to witness is seeing the tremendous spiritual needs of those lost.”
Randall Jones, pastor of Langston Baptist Church in Conway, S.C., wondered if Southern Baptist churches exhibit a lack of love similar to the biblical church of Ephesus.
“With 95 percent of [Southern Baptists] never sharing their faith and winning anybody to Jesus, I wonder — do we have a love problem?” Jones asked. “When we lose our love for Jesus, we lose our love for one another and for souls.”
A love for Jesus should motivate his followers to actively share the gospel with a lost and dying world, Jones said. He issued a challenge to pastors, directors of missions, deacons, choir members and every other Christian to be involved in bringing people to Jesus Christ.
“Jesus gave his church one commission and one commandment,” Jones said. “His commission is to go. His commandment is to love one another. The two are inseparable.”
Bob Pitman, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., encouraged pastors to go forth joyfully. Citing Hebrews 12:1, he said the word “race” means bitter agony.
“God has called you to a life of conflict,” Pitman said. “The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground and every one of you pastors know something about the agony of serving the Lord … [but] God will not reward you on the size of your congregation [but] on the faithfulness of your call.”
Charles Roesel, pastor of First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Fla., shared suggestions on how churches can reach the world for Christ using servant evangelism.
“I believe that what God did 2,000 years ago, he can do again,” Roesel said. “His power is no less, his purpose is no different. What we must do is return to his plan and do it his way.”
That plan is to meet the physical needs of people in addition to meeting their spiritual needs, Roesel said. He stressed the importance of showing love both through action and testimony.
“One act of servant evangelism does more than all the talking I can do,” Roesel said. “Ministry is not an elective — it’s a mandate. But once we have [ministered] we need to take the next step and confront them with the claims of Jesus Christ.”
Dan Spencer, a descendant of the Pastors’ Conference founder M.E. Dodd, underscored the need for bold preachers today.
“Boldness is not about seeing how many you can offend,” said Spencer, who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga. “It’s about proclaiming the Word of God without apology and without compromise.”
Spencer said the audacity of the U.S. culture demands that Christians be bold with the gospel because “what used to slink down the back alleys is now strutting down the main street.”
“God give us Southern Baptists backbone,” Spencer said, adding that boldness does not mean shouting loudly. “Shouting loudly won’t reach my generation.”
Earnest Easley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, started his sermon by saying: “God has taught me that the greatest opportunity for bringing the most glory and praise to God is during the trials and tragedies of life.”
Easley endured months of painful radiation treatments in 1998 after doctors diagnosed him with a fast-growing form of cancer. Through it all Easley praised God.
He also urged pastors to never assume that they will live another day. There is a dying world that needs to hear about Jesus, and no one knows how long there will be an opportunity for witness, he said. Therefore, Christians should be more concerned about saving people than about discussing issues.
“While we focus on issue after issue, souls are dying by the thousands into a Christ-less eternity,” Easley said. “What about making the next issue … the lost souls of all the men and all the women and all the boys and girls of this generation.”
Phil Hoskins, pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., reflecting on heaven, noted that a pastor not 20 miles from his church recently preached that it is nothing more than a state of mind. Citing inerrancy, Hoskins said the Bible is very clear that heaven is real.
Someday the angels are going to have to step aside so the redeemed and the ransomed can sing “Amazing Grace,” Hoskins declared.
Brittany Jarvis contributed to this article. (BP) photo posted in the Bp Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FROM THE HEART.