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DAYTONA BEACH (FBW)—If there was one consistent message at the 2007 Florida Baptist Pastors’ Conference, it was “Stay strong and keep preaching the Word of God.”
Nearly 800 pastors, ministers, staff and laypersons attended the conference, hosted by First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach Nov. 11-12.
Dynamic preaching and energetic worship marked the two-day conference built on the theme, “Seeing Him who is Invisible,” taken from Hebrews 11:27. The Scripture tells about Moses’ faith in the “invisible” God despite actually seeing the threat of Pharaoh. Each of the eight speakers exhorted pastors to stay faithful to the “invisible God” and to allow the Holy Spirit to work through them.
“I believe in the power of the name of the Lord,” and, in Florida, folks are asking “what would God want us to do?” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the closing message. “That will return us to a day where we will see revival among the churches.”
This Hope, a five-member worship group from Woodstock, Ga., provided special music Nov. 12. Mike Harland, the director of the Worship Music Group of LifeWay Christian Resources, led worship while the combined choirs from First Baptist Church in Winter Park and First Baptist Church in Sweetwater provided special music for the Nov. 11 session.
Photo by Eva Wolever
This Hope, a five-man worship group from Woodland,
Ga., provided special music Nov. 12.
During the lone business session, the following were elected: president of the 2009 Pastors’ Conference, Clayton Cloer, pastor, First Baptist Church of Central Florida, Orlando; first vice-president, Rodney Baker, Hopeful Baptist Church, Lake City; second vice-president, Chad Everson, pastor, Madison Street Baptist Church, Starke. Tim Passmore, pastor of Woodland Baptist Church in Bradenton is the 2008 president and was elected last year.
Wesley Green, pastor of Christway Baptist Church in Miramar, the second vice-president for the 2007 Pastors’ Conference led in place of Tommy Vinson who was the former senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Winter Park. Vinson was elected president in 2005, but in June accepted the call to serve First Baptist Church of Colliersville, Tenn.
Jim Futral, the executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, thanked Florida Baptists for their help after Hurricane Katrina and their continued support of the region that was ravaged by the storm two years ago.
“You just came, brought supplies, brought money,” Futral said. “God has done some wonderful things there.”
In preaching from Revelation 2:1-7, Futral spoke on “What a Christ-Like Ministry Looks Like.” Futral said churches need to take a stronger stand on right vs. wrong and recognize there will be difficult times in every church regardless of size.
Futral also asked the audience a simple question: “How’s your love life?” He based his question on Revelation 2:4, where Jesus asks the church at Ephesus, “Nevertheless I have (this) against you, that you have left your first love.”
“How is your love life; not at home, but with Jesus?” Futral asked. “How is your relationship with Him? Love is the heart of everything you do. Without it, nothing matters.”
Futral said there were three questions that can be asked about the love in the passage:
1. The Discover Question. What is this love Jesus is talking about, Futral asked. According to Futral, some have said the church at Ephesus lost its love for the lost world, while others have said they lost the love for each other. Futral said there’s truth in both opinions but he believes Ephesus lost the love for Jesus.
“Sometimes the church is so wrapped up in itself, it loses sight of souls without Jesus,” Futral said. “It’s a travesty when the church stops loving each other. Everything flows from Jesus, not from you.”
Photo by Eva Woleve
Bryan Skinner, worship pastor at First Baptist PAGE
Church in Daytona Beach, and his wife, Carla,
sang during the Pastors’ Conference Nov. 12 at
2. The Uncover Question. Futral said that Ephesus did not realize the real problem, which was in their hearts. He said that if people can’t see and be honest in looking at the problem in church, then the church can’t perform what it is called to do.
“Jesus put His finger on it,” Futral said. “How many of us allow Jesus to uncover our hearts? It’s sad, but you’ve left your first love. When we do things unlovingly in the Christian life, it shows. Where does love go when it leaves? It didn’t go anywhere. Jesus said to tend to this.”
3. The Recover Question. Futral asked, “Can you get it back?” Only Jesus is qualified to answer that question, Futral said.
“In verse five, it asks if you remember when the love was warm. Do you remember the love relationship? It’s good to be in love. Jesus put things on the doorstep of our hearts. Sometimes we push it aside, but Jesus put it there. Jesus said, ‘I want you to try to do what I put on the doorstep of your heart.’
“If we are obedient to God and don’t doubt what we are called to do, there will be revivals all over.”
Walking across the platform, David Uth described the area as a body of water. On one side was a boat and on the other was nothing, he gestured widely.
Like Peter in Matthew 14:22-29, Uth, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, implored the group to take a step of faith and climb out of the boat and trust Jesus to protect them on the rough seas.
“When you’re in the boat, you feel secure,” Uth said. “It requires no faith to stay there. What are you doing in your ministry that requires faith? What are the challenges you give to your people that require faith?
“It’s comfortable [in the boat]. You’ve been in that place for years. You have found a comfort zone. Some of you have chosen comfort over convictions. It’s crowded. The numbers won’t be with you if you get out of the boat,” Uth continued. “Assume 12 disciples were in the boat and only one got out. If the goal of your life is fellowship, good. But fellowship is not the goal of a church. It’s a byproduct of the Spirit of God.
“And [the boat is] boring,” Uth said. “People say churches are boring because the leaders are boring. People do not see us on the water.”
Outside of the boat, Uth said there is desperation. Peter got out of the boat, saw Jesus and wanted to go where He was.
“Peter never asked for a promise, just a command,” Uth said. “Jesus’ command is enough. If Jesus says go, then go! When you follow Jesus, all promises will happen.
“It’s risky. We think there is risk-free ministry. What is failure? Do it and leave the results to Him,” Uth urged. “What you think is failure may be the greatest ministry in your life.
“It’s rewarding. Finish with no regrets,” Uth said. “There is one place where lives are changed and it’s not in the boat.”
Uth said that pastors who play it safe are playing a dangerous game. He said that boats are made to sail but many are content to have them tied up in the harbor.
“I tell my staff that if you don’t think it is worth it … the payment is someone is baptized and lives are changed,” he said. “It is worth it.”
In his message “Seeing Him Who is Invisible Through a Revived Church,” Anthony George, senior pastor at Aloma Baptist Church in Winter Park, told pastors everyone in the room is in the same situation and needs a fresh word from God to keep going.
Preaching from Romans 15:7-16, 18-21, George said: “There’s never a time where our focus is not on our flock and our mission. You’re watching the news and in pops an illustration you want to use in your next sermon. I’m discontent because it’s a crazy world we live in. You never win enough; you never reach enough.
“You do not want to leave your church members behind as you try to reach the lost. You want to bring them with you. However, it is my desire to balance that sense of mission with unity. Paul addresses that crisis with the church in Rome. The mission of the church and church unity are at odds with each other today as it was in Paul’s time and a pastor must strive to achieve friendship between the two.”
George said a revived church understands the scope of its call, which is to spread the Gospel and not retreat. When the letter to the Romans was written [around 56 AD], the Gospel had spread to Rome and was undergoing “an extreme makeover,” George said.
“God’s plan was to reach beyond the region of Israel,” George said. “We spend too much time trying to convince and explain why we do [missions]. There are churches where members look down their noses at the people God wants to bring in. We are here for the people who are not yet here. Don’t go to a conference and check your brain at the door and expect your people to feel like you did there. Come back and be committed to the long haul and bring the church along with you.”
Photo by Eva Wolever
Clayton Cloer (center), pastor of First Baptist Church
of Central Florida in Orlando, was elected president of the
2009 Pastors’ Conference; Rodney Baker (right), a member
of Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, first vice-president;
and Chad Everson, pastor of Madison Street Baptist
Church in Starke, second vice-president.
George said a revived church values the strength of character. He said joy should not be attached to your favorite things but should be attached to God.
“So many people like the church building and worship style. Joy is not in things. It should be in Jesus. We better be careful of not being ashamed of being called the church of the Lord Jesus Christ … warts and all,” he said.
A revived church also recognizes the significance of its challenge, George concluded. He said it’s possible a pastor can be in denial of the challenge his church faces and instead focus on increasing numbers and baptisms.
“Sheep swapping is not Kingdom growth,” George said. “The Great Commission is the great transition. God says business as usual won’t cut it to make a real Kingdom impact. God has the divine prerogative to remove His hand from my church and just plop it down on a pastor and people who are movers and shakers. When will we be discontent with just swapping members rather than announcing Him to those who never heard?
“As we look to Him who is invisible, may He not be invisible, but may He be seen in a church that genuinely loves people more than we love our traditions. Because, in the post-Christian 21st century, there will only be two kinds of churches – the revived church and those for sale.”
Forrest Pollock, the senior pastor at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, had a unique way of getting his point across during his message.
Pollock portrayed himself as an elderly pastor in his presentation: “The Preacher.” Drawing from 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Pollock said pastors should build up one another and offer words of encouragement.
His humorous tales as a country preacher ranged from battles with a neighboring Catholic church about property to skirmishes with deacons and the Woman’s Missionary Union. He spoke about his personal preaching “style” and how he tried to copy Billy Graham, W.A. Criswell and Adrian Rogers.
“I wanted to preach like [Jerry] Vines and preach ‘suppository,'” he joked. “Greek words are like underwear: they offer lots of support but don’t let them show … and I realized I was no Adrian Rogers.”
Pollock told the pastors to stay with their calling. He said no pastor works for the money (which brought huge laughs) and joked about misstatements during a funeral. Pollock also ribbed about setting the water too hot in the baptismal pool: “I didn’t get the guy’s entire head under water. That’ll mess with your theology.”
Photo by Eva Wolever
Nearly 800 pastors, ministers,
staff and laypersons attended the Pastors’
Conference Nov. 11-12.
“There are a lot of laughs in a preacher’s life,” he said. “But not all preaching is grape juice and roses. When a sheep leaves the flock, it’s like a dagger in your heart. Who do you talk to when you have trouble? The call of God keeps you there. Who am I fooling? I am blessed beyond all men.”
Pollock said there are four “ain’t nevers” for pastors:
• Ain’t never paid what I’m worth.
• Ain’t never appreciated
• Ain’t never understand what it all means
• Ain’t never let alone.
“But I do it anyway,” he said. “I don’t preach to impress you. I preach to an audience of one. I want to look into His eyes and have him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ If I had 10,000 lives to live, I’d want to be a preacher in every one.”
“Have you ever been so desperate to be in the presence of God that you’d do anything but can’t find Him?” That was the question posed from Job 23 by Bob Pitman, senior pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.
Job had lost everything, including his family. He was suffering physically and emotionally. His three “friends” sat silently with him for seven days before berating him and calling him a sinner and a nonbeliever. And, through it all, Job remained faithful to God.
Pitman said there are three things pastors can learn from Job 23:
1. Job is frustrated. Pitman said Job wasn’t frustrated at his losses or deaths of his children, but he was frustrated because he could not find God. “There are times where God seems far, far away, no matter how filled with the Holy Spirit you are.”
2. Job is frightened. Pitman said Job was afraid of God’s sovereignty and His purpose. “Sometimes God puts you in the toughest places with the meanest folks and you want to move,” Pitman said. “You put your resume in every Gideon’s Bible in every hotel.”
3. Job is faithful. Between frustration and fear, Job stayed faithful to God, Pitman said. “Job said he may not know where God is, but God knows where I am,” Pitman said. “Job kept walking in His direction and honored His Word.”
Pitman said Southern Baptists are notorious for their slogans, which may sound spiritual but can be diabolical.
“God did not call you to be successful. God called you to be faithful,” Pitman said. “When you are faithful, you are successful.”
Tim Mann, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, said preaching the Word of God is sufficient because not only is it God breathed, but some of it was observed first-hand.
His example was 2 Peter 1:16-21, where Peter spoke about his experience with Jesus. Mann said Peter wrote that he didn’t make up his stories about his time with Jesus.
“Others had expectations of His glory, but [Peter] experienced it,” Mann said. “People should see Jesus through our personal ministries. People should see Jesus through our churches, which are alive, vibrant, revived. People should see Jesus through, and in, the preached Word of Christ.”
The Word of God has three affirmations in this passage, according to Mann:
1. It is a sure Word. Mann said it is more certain than any experience. “What Peter experienced is what the Bible prophesied,” Mann said. “If we preach the sure Word, people will see Jesus. We do not need strawberries and cream. We shouldn’t be worried that it is not reliable.”
2. It is the shining Word. Peter called the world a dark place, and God is light and His Word is light, Mann said. “‘So many in and outside of our church are in the darkness,” Mann said. “We have to proclaim the shining Word in their lives. You don’t find the light on Oprah. People do not need to know how to make life better. They need life. They don’t need ‘lite’ preaching; they need ‘Light’ preaching. The power of God can change your life.”
3. It is the spirit-given Word. Mann said as Scripture is “God-breathed,” how many pastors stand in the pulpit without the Spirit-given Word? “Only the Spirit in us can preach the Word,” Mann said. “We need the old-time, leather-lunged preacher in the pulpit preaching the Word.”
According to Mann, there are two things that last for eternity: people and the Word of God. He said churches have lost power because there are pastors in the pulpit without power. And that power comes from God’s Word.
“Folks don’t need to hear what you’ve heard. They need to hear what God said to you,” Mann said.
In Matthew 20:29-34, two blind men hear of Jesus coming by them and shout out twice for Jesus to have mercy on them. The crowd surrounding Jesus tells the men to stop but finally Jesus stops, gives the blind men sight and the men follow him.
Orlando evangelist Dwight Singleton described the crowd as dissenters in church.
Pastors have to ignore those who try to quiet those in need and confront them face-to-face. And, those who need Jesus, whether it be the unsaved, saved or even pastors, should not be afraid to shout loudly for the Lord whenever possible.
“The blind men did not have time to think of etiquette,” Singleton said passionately. “If you need Jesus, call on Him the best way you can. Jesus shows up in the midnight hour when we need Him.
“That crowd is just like Baptists; cold do-nothing Baptists. Jesus never needed a crowd to speak for Him. The devil makes sure there is a crowd like this in your church: Negative, whiners. The problem is not going to fix itself. You have deacons who rotate off and they’re off to somewhere else in the church. Pastors, you have to have a confrontation with them. Get them in a corner and show them the exit signs are clearly marked.”
Singleton said most pastors are afraid of going against the crowd and try to avoid confrontations. He said it shouldn’t matter if the trouble comes from heavy financial supporters or the movers and shakers in the church. It all comes down to just whose church it is.
“God runs His church through His pastor,” Singleton said, cautioning against going “tip-toe” around the church while some hold the church hostage. Instead, people need to call on Jesus and take personal responsibility regardless or what others may think.
“He’ll show up no matter what,” Singleton shouted. “We need to start acting like God is a big God. His is the great ‘I Am.’ We need to preach it. If America is in trouble, the world is in trouble. We need Baptist preachers to get back to preaching the Word of God. It’s not done buffet style, where you take a little of this and a little of that.
“We need to bring Hell back to Sunday mornings,” Singleton continued. “A lot of us are interested in building a crowd. God is interested in building a church.”
Singleton also implored the group to take the invitation seriously in every service.
“Invitations have started becoming the time for people to gather their books,” he said. “It’s a good thing I’m not a pastor because I’d lock the doors. People don’t expect God to do a thing (during the invitation). We should come to God’s house expecting him to do something.”
Page, who was re-elected last June to his second term as SBC president, said pastors should be like David and not like Saul when it comes to fighting “giants” which threaten their ministry.
Page preached from 1 Samuel 17, which tells of the David vs. Goliath battle. But he also spoke from 1 Chronicles 20, which is about another group of Israelites who battle the Philistines again. This time Sibbechai kills Sippai, Elhanaan kills Lahmi and Jonathan takes down a giant with 24 fingers and toes. Page said everyone was in the giant killing business in those passages and pastors should use this bravery in their ministry.
“When God’s men become giant killers, God’s people will follow,” said Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. “If you go out with your own strength to kill giants, you will be defeated in 24 hours. You can never defeat giants on your own. Be strong in the name of the Lord.
“Saul was afraid [to fight Goliath]. We have formidable giants who can destroy us,” Page said. “They’re strong, powerful and we need to recognize their strength they use in destroying the work of the Gospel. Society acts like Goliath toward the Gospel.”
Some of the battles come from people within your own church, Page said. He joked that he dealt with difficult deacons and church members who threatened to discourage him and detract him from his mission, which is to fulfill the Great Commission in God’s church.
“We’ve had the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Page said. “It’s time for a Great Commission resurgence. Can we do that? The giants don’t want us to.”
Page said that when he was elected president of the SBC in 2006, he was not on the list of Who’s Who of Southern Baptists but was on the Who’s He list. But this was part of God’s plan for him and his family.
“God put me in this position for a reason,” said Page, who told the crowd that he has rarely missed a Sunday service in his home church since taking the SBC presidential reins. He said the SBC is important to him but “it’s not my calling.”
Page stressed that Florida pastors need to reach out to other pastors who may do their ministry differently but share the same passion for the Gospel.
“There is hope. Don’t ever give up hope,” Page said. “God does not ever want you to give up hope.”