GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Speakers at the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 12 challenged their fellow pastors to reach today’s world for Christ by making the Gospel the center of their ministry through a renewed emphasis on prayer and clear proclamation.
David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., said pastors must follow the Apostle Paul’s example to not be ashamed of the Gospel and make it the center of their church ministry.
“Some people say to me, ‘What is your evangelism program?’ I say, ‘I don’t have a clue, I just preach God’s Word and people get saved,'” Jeremiah said. “The reason people get saved is because at the center of God’s holy Word is the Gospel, which is the power of salvation. We need to strip everything else away and get back to the basics, get back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Jeremiah was joined by Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston; Nelson Searcy, lead pastor of The Journey in New York City; Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles; Kerry Shook, lead pastor of Fellowship of The Woodlands in The Woodlands, Texas; and Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.
Young noted that many Christians in America are unable to say they are not ashamed of the Gospel for several reasons.
“Some Christians are ashamed of the Gospel for social reasons, some for philosophical reasons and sometimes we are ashamed of the Gospel in our culture because of political correctness,” Young said. “Sometimes in our culture when we are trying to please everyone we marginalize the Gospel instead of making it the main point of our conversation.”
Young voiced concern that Southern Baptists have forgotten who they are and don’t know where they are going because they have gotten distracted by issues secondary to the Gospel.
“I believe that we as Southern Baptists are on way too many side streets in our churches at this moment in our life, because we have forgotten who we are,” Young said. “We believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, death, bodily resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is who we are as Southern Baptists.”
Young said Southern Baptists won the battle over theology years ago and should not become overly focused on secondary theological issues.
“We are not Calvinists and we are not Armenians, we are Baptists,” Young said. “We have always come down in the middle. That is who we are theologically. We are a Great Commission denomination.”
Searcy challenged pastors to embrace the high responsibility of training church members to share the Gospel to people outside the church.
“God has entrusted pastors to be the equippers of those on the inside [of the church] so that they may effectively reach those on the outside,” Searcy said.
Speaking from Colossians 4, Searcy challenged pastors to pray with confidence, preach with clarity and prepare with care as they lead their churches.
To reach a lost world with the Gospel, Search added, pastors must teach their church members to pray. “We must lead our churches to be churches of prayer, fervently praying that those on the outside may become part of the people on the inside,” he said. “The greatest resource that we have as Christians in reaching today’s world is the spiritual resource of prayer.”
Evans urged pastors to avoid distractions that keep them from reaching the world for Christ. “If you don’t know what you’re here for, there are a lot of voices out there to distract you,” Evans said. By developing a mindset focused on eternity and learning to number their days, he said pastors will stay focused on the “big picture” of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
McManus used the account of Paul on Mars Hill to emphasize the importance of sharing the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. McManus said today’s generations live in a modern-day Mars Hill, surrounded by people who believe in many gods and called to help them know the “unknown God” of Acts 17, who is the one true God.
“The church isn’t here for us. We are the church and we are here for the world,” McManus said. “We need to become prophets of the unknown God. We must be the ones who say, ‘We have seen the invisible, we have experienced the unimaginable and we are here to tell you that what you do not know can be known.’ … God is the unknown God, but He is not the unknowable God.”
Like McManus, Shook also emphasized the importance of being culturally relevant in sharing the Gospel.
“We have to wake up and realize we are now missionaries in a foreign culture,” Shook said. “And just as a missionary has to be trained in the language before they go overseas to minister, we need to be trained in the language of the unchurched so we can share the never-changing message of the Gospel in their language, so they can understand it.”
The evening session included a testimony from Joyce Rogers, widow of longtime Bellevue Baptist Church pastor Adrian Rogers, as she spoke about the help and hope she has found in Jesus since her husband of 54 years died last November.
Her testimony preceded a video tribute to the three-time president (1979, 1986 and 1987) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who may be best remembered for his leadership in the conservative resurgence, the movement in which Southern Baptists elected a series of conservative leaders in response to evidence of theological liberalism within the denomination’s seminaries and entities.
Elected as Pastors’ Conference officers for 2007 were Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla.; vice president, Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; and Joe Taylor, pastor of South Reno Baptist Church in Reno, Nev.
With reporting by Don Graham, Allen Palmeri & Don Beehler