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Southeastern suspends classes for ministry conference

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In a one-day leadership conference on pastoral ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Johnny Hunt challenged more than 1,000 students to be committed, passionate and pure pastors to shepherd the flock of God.

Hunt, a graduate of Southeastern and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Woodstock, delivered a series of messages Sept. 9 on “The Shepherd and His Sheep” at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, encouraging pastors to invest and pour themselves into the lives of their flock.

Hunt’s seminar, offering biblical principles based on more than 28 years of ministerial experience, conveyed to students an invaluable wealth of wisdom that will serve them well in the future, Southeastern President Daniel Akin said.

“The shepherding conference with Johnny Hunt was a tremendous blessing to the students of Southeastern,” Akin said. “Johnny Hunt is a pastor’s pastor, and no one understands the role of shepherding a congregation better than he. His years of pastoring, wedded to his pastor’s heart, uniquely qualify him to instruct young men preparing for ministry. Dr. Hunt’s passion for the ministry of the pastorate is contagious, and it is my hope and prayer that every one of our students will catch that virus.”

The all-day conference was held in place of a regular class schedule, with Akin noting that an opportunity for students such as this one was simply too profitable to pass up.

“In a single day, ministers of the Gospel received years of godly wisdom and counsel,” Akin said. “With 1,000 students in attendance, it was well worth our doing something unusual for a seminary and canceling classes for the day.”

Hunt also saw the value in conducting a leadership conference for future Southern Baptist pastors.

“This is the generation of pastors that we have before us,” Hunt said, “and so we have an opportunity to make an investment in them. I am grateful to take from my 28 years of ministry experience and outline the biblical model of leadership.”

That model includes, among other things, the necessity of the shepherd to spend time with his sheep. Hunt said this task is often neglected by those who view their pastoral role more like a CEO than a shepherd.

“At the end of the day, the shepherd smells like sheep,” he told the seminary audience. “In the biblical model, you will always find the shepherd with his sheep. Many pastors want to function as shepherds without knowing the sheep. The No. 1 question that [churches] are asking about pastors is not, ‘Can they preach?’ but ‘Are they genuine? Are they real?’”

A pastor also must feed his flock from the Word of God if they are to be truly healthy, Hunt said, adding that people who are not being fed by their shepherd will quit showing up. He exhorted students to preach the Word rather than attempting to cater to the demands of culture.

“I’m not smart enough to change every three or four years to reach the next generation,” Hunt said, “so I just preach the Word. You also must preach the Word. It’s OK to be geared to the times if we can be established on the Rock.”

In addition, shepherds must safeguard their passion for God and for their ministries by staying free from the snares pastors face today and spending daily time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study, he said.

“After a while, if we’re not careful, that which was precious can become common,” Hunt said. “Have we lost the enthusiasm we had and the inexplicable joy when we got our first church? Has the gratefulness of service been replaced by the grind of serving?

“People ask me how I get my passion,” Hunt said. “It’s my passion for Christ, for His Word, for His people and for His calling. All your talent, energy and spiritual giftedness will be for naught if you don’t have God’s passion.”

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  • Kyle Smith