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What would the devil like to do to a church? Paige Patterson asks

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A young pastor had told the story of a new and growing church that was experiencing turmoil from a small group of nay-sayers within the fold.
“I just don’t know what to do, and hoped you could help me,” he said.
Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, addressing him and a group of pastors at a special pastors’ luncheon at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “You need to be able to anticipate that the devil will work against you.”
He then posed the question of what the devil might do: “… find churches that are growing, churches like yours, and then find church members … to hinder that growth. If you were the devil, wouldn’t you do it that way?”
Patterson, who also is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., led a small-group question-and-answer session as part of Pastor Appreciation Day at NOBTS Sept. 28. The group of pastors, most from the Louisiana/Mississippi area, was interested in leadership and how to lead their congregation to a common vision of ministry. Patterson said the church should be decisively led by the pastor, who is highly revered in 1 Timothy 3 as elder, shepherd and overseer of his flock. He said there are times when too many committees and bureaucracy take away that prophetic leadership, and committees, he said, should be committed to ministry.
Part of that leadership, Patterson said, includes discipline, which has been abandoned in Southern Baptist churches only to the convention’s loss.
“We’re going to have to revive discipline in the church before we can have revival,” Patterson said. “It’s easier to remain a member of a Southern Baptist church than it is to remain a member of a social club.”
When it comes down to leadership, however, Patterson said it is not the pastor who does the work at all.
“It’s not in what you do; it’s in what God does,” he noted. “If God’s in it, it’s going to work.”
Patterson was also the keynote speaker for the V.L. Stanfield Lectures, held during the chapel hour the week of Sept. 28 in honor of the former professor of homiletics at NOBTS.
“Dr. Stanfield’s definition of preaching is one of the most profound I’ve ever heard,” said Chuck Kelley, president of NOBTS. “He said preaching is ‘giving the Bible a voice,’ and that’s what we’re called to do from the pulpit.”
Patterson, who also led the Mid-South Pastors’ Conference at NOBTS during the week, focused on finding God’s truths about evangelism using the apocalyptic literature of the Bible.
Preaching from Revelation 11, which recounts the strange story of the “two witnesses,” Patterson used the mysterious figures as a model for Christians to witness. In the verses, the witnesses are not only killed by “the beast,” but the entire world rejoices over their death. Patterson said that type of persecution is not as hard to imagine in the present day. Because of their stand on absolutes, he said today’s Christians are irritating to a world that accepts only moral ambiguity with no absolutes.
“There’s only one kind of bashing today that’s politically correct, and that’s the bashing of evangelical Christians,” he said.
Because of this ever-present attitude in the world, Patterson added, there is no way to escape humiliation being a witness for Christ. Christians worried about the humiliation, he said, need to check their gratefulness.
“There is no way you can be a consistent witness for Christ without facing humiliation,” he said. “The only reason we worry about it is because we’re not grateful enough for what he’s done for us.”
Just in the case of the two witnesses, however, both of whom were exalted and risen up to heaven, Christians will be exalted if they will choose to suffer for the name of Jesus, Patterson said.
“If you will be a witness for Christ, you be humiliated,” he said. “But that humiliation is only a prelude to your exaltation.”

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