PHOENIX (BP)–Josh McDowell, Jerry Vines, Johnny Hunt and Howard Hendricks were among the featured speakers during the opening sessions of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 15-16 in Phoenix.
With “Building Kingdom Families” as the Pastors’ Conference theme, speakers exhorted ministers to strengthen families and build marriages, especially their own amid the stresses of ministry.
The Pastors’ Conference was scheduled to culminate in a Monday evening “Kingdom Family Rally” highlighting “seven pillars of a Kingdom family” and featuring singer Steve Green and family ministry speakers Dennis and Barbara Rainy, Tom and Jeannie Elliff and Gary Chapman.
Preaching in the conference’s opening session, Josh McDowell, a popular author and speaker from Dallas, noted that families are key to combating the current crisis of belief among American youth.
Even evangelical Christian youth now deny the reality of absolute truth, McDowell lamented. “The very basis of what we must build our faith upon is truth,” he continued. “When we allow truth to erode, we gut our faith.”
McDowell pointed to the 40 hours of “secular education” and 28 hours of “secular entertainment” teens are exposed to each week as contributing factors in this truth meltdown.
To combat the truth crisis, parents — fathers in particular — must model truth before their families in the context of loving relationships, McDowell said. “If they don’t see truth in your life, they will walk away from it.”
“It’s happening on our watch; we have a generation hanging in the balance,” McDowell said, calling on parents to help bring about a “spiritual revolution that will get kids to take a stand for Christ regardless of the consequences.”
Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., referred to a barrage of recent media attention he has received for making comments about the exclusive nature of the Gospel.
While preaching on the Bible’s account of Enoch’s life and translation into the presence of God in Genesis 5, Vines unfolded a prepared statement and donned his reading glasses.
“I’m going to give all of you media what you came for, and I’m going to say it slowly, so even Tom Brokaw can get it,” Vines said. “All religions are not the same. All religions are not equally true. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved except the name of Jesus.”
Vines’ comments, which earned him a standing ovation, differed little from those he made in a sermon at his home church’s annual conference for pastors this past February. That sermon became the subject of an NBC Nightly News report Feb. 25 in which news anchor Tom Brokaw said Vines was “preaching hate.”
Vines’ sermon June 15 was not solely about the Gospel’s exclusivity, however, but was focused more generally on religious and cultural confusion in America, apparent in the fact that “‘Leave It to Beaver’ has been traded for ‘The Osbournes'” and the presence of a pervasive culture of alcohol, perversion, emotional confusion and spiritual rebellion.
Howard Hendricks, chairman of the Center for Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary, spoke about the importance of teamwork within marriage and family ministry. He listed four goals that every minister should have for a marriage: personal integrity, marital intimacy, parental responsibility and professional competency. Without the first three goals met, Hendricks said, a ministry will be lacking.
“No amount of ministerial success will compensate for marital and family failure,” he said. “If your Christianity does not work in your home, it doesn’t work. … Your call to be a pastor is not in conflict with your call to be a father, your call to be a husband. Your call to be a pastor’s wife is not in conflict with your call to be a mother, your call to be a wife.”
Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, challenged pastors and churches to cultivate families that “don’t leave the world the way we found it.”
Preaching from 1 Thessalonians 1, Hunt said a successful ministry will see people changed by God and inspired to do His work. If churches and families will focus on the eternal purpose of God, “God will welcome people into heaven because of their investment,” he said. “Now’s the day to say, ‘Lord, I want to be part of a family that doesn’t leave this world the way we found it.”
Other speakers during the conference’s opening sessions were evangelist Hank Williams, pastor Chip Roberson, humorist Dennis Swanberg and college professor Ergun Caner. Scheduled to speak Monday afternoon and evening were pastors Ken Whitten, Ted Traylor, Tommy Nelson, David Jeremiah and Adrian Rogers.
Contributing to this story were Michael Foust, Dwayne Hastings, Greg Tomlin & Norm Miller.