ATLANTA (BP)–Despite the constant pressures they face, pastors should stick with ministry and refuse to quit, speakers declared at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, June 13-14 in the Georgia Dome.
“The enemy today wants to get every one of you to quit,” Bob Wieland, an evangelist from Arcadia, Calif., said at the conference in Atlanta preceding the June 15-16 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I believe with all my heart that many of you are about a half a step away from truly having some great miracles occur in your life.”
Wieland, also known as “Mr. Inspiration,” lost his legs in Vietnam in 1969 after he stepped on and detonated an 82-millimeter mortar round.
“Everybody at this Georgia Dome has been given a gift,” Wieland said . “You’ve got to go out and give it away and it’ll multiply and greater doors will open for you.”
Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, stressed the importance of vision in effective ministry.
“God wants you to be a visionary for his kingdom,” Bowman said. “Our churches need men of God with vision. … God will give us the capacity to see the big picture and the details.”
But, Bowman cautioned, “It is easier to catch a vision than it is to keep it,” adding that pastors can keep their vision by maintaining a sense of destiny.
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., said Christians ought to remember the good things God has done for them as they face tough times.
“The devil would have you remember nothing but the low times in your ministry when you need to reflect on those high times in your ministry,” noted Hunt, who titled his sermon “What to Remember When You Need to Remember.”
Atlanta evangelist John Maxwell spoke about the importance of courage in ministers’ lives. He noted that Jonathan, a friend of King David in the Old Testament, effectively encouraged the king.
“This is my prayer for you — that every church leader will have a ‘Jonathan’ to speak courage to your heart until you become a person of courage,” Maxwell said.
Creativity was emphasized by Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church, Grapevine, Texas.
“I truly believe the church should be the most creative entity in the universe,” Young stated. “Jesus never used the same approach twice. Jesus understood something that we’re just getting — the higher the predictability, the lower the communication.”
Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship in Washington, D.C., encouraged pastors to recognize positive cultural changes are taking place.
“The signs are beginning to turn our way,” Colson said, citing declining numbers of abortions, welfare recipients, crimes and teenage pregnancies. “I remind you, that’s during the regime of the most aggressive, pro-abortion president in American history. …
“This is going to be a great period of Christian renewal in the new millennium. I am absolutely convinced [because] modern men and women have run out of options.”
Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., also predicted the coming of more positive times for the church.
“God’s about to blow a wind of revival. I think we’re on the verge of something exciting,” Corts said, urging pastors not to lose heart.
“I want to make sure there are enough priests to handle it all. I want to make sure there are enough spiritual leaders to know what to do with the billions of dollars that will come in. … [and] with the 50 million who will come to Jesus,” he said.
But Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., said he believes churches are losing heart, resulting in a loss of glory.
“What’s it going to take for you to see the glory of God where you are?” he asked. “What the world needs to see is the glory of God in the church.”
The only ways to get the glory back are to seek it in prayer, secure it in power and see it in practice, while trusting God for the results, Sutton said.
Other speakers touched on a variety of topics, including:
— a call to complete the work of global evangelization. Troy Haas, a missionary to Africa with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, sounded the theme in a message titled, “Whatever It Takes to Finish the Task.”
“Southern Baptists have been blessed by God in a phenomenal way with resources financially that just blow my mind,” Haas observed. “Why is it that a miniscule amount of those resources goes to take the gospel to the nations? And yet we build bigger buildings and we have bigger cars and we get bigger salaries and we get all of this money and we spend it on ourselves.
“Truly God has set before us an open door,” Haas said. “Let us do whatever it takes to finish the task, whatever it takes to reach the unreached, whatever is takes to go to the nations.”
— a caution against “Y2K hysteria.” Jay Strack, an evangelist from Orlando, Fla., said Christians should not fear the so-called Y2K crisis that has been widely predicted to occur at the beginning of the year 2000 when an unknown number of computers worldwide may malfunction due to programming practices early in the computer era.
“We’ve got millennium hysteria, and now we’ve got the Y2K hysteria,” Strack said. “But the folks that are speaking the most about Y2K and sounding the alarm … have just written a book on it or they’ve got a series of tapes on it.”
While much of the world is planning to party as the new year arrives, churches are backing away from New Year’s Eve plans, Strack said.
He urged pastors to avoid missing “this window of opportunity when the whole world wants to do something. … What an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to have a vision for God and to give them hope.”
— a need for covenant marriage laws. Fred Lowery, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La., said such legislation “makes it harder to undo ‘I do.'”
“The goal is to get rid of no-fault divorce,” Lowery explained. “That’s an oxymoron. It’s always somebody’s fault. That’s like saying ‘no-fault adultery.'”
Lowery called on the conferees to go back to their states and advocate covenant marriage legislation. “Let’s start a marriage movement. … I believe the divorce rate could be cut in half.”
— Christian fiscal responsibility. Larry Burkett, president and founder of Christian Financial Concepts, told pastors they should take steps to strengthen the lives of newlywed couples.
He encouraged pastors to require budgeting classes for anyone planning to be married in their churches and to have newlyweds mentored for one year by a godly couple skilled in money management.
Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., was elected June 14 as president of the conference for the year 2000. Sutton was nominated by Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
Sutton and two other elected officers of the Pastors’ Conference were the only ones nominated for their respective positions. Clark Stewart, pastor of Harmony Baptist Church, Crystal Springs, Miss., was elected vice president after being nominated by Gibbie McMillan, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Rogers, Ark.
Elected secretary-treasurer was Steven Wright, pastor of Northwest Baptist Church, Houston. He was nominated by Jim Oliver, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Roebuck, S.C.
Doy Cave, Don Hinkle, Norman Miller & Linda Lawson contributed to this article.