CHATTANOOGA — Pastors are ambassadors for Christ who have the Lord’s authority to declare His message to their congregations, Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis told Tennessee Baptist pastors Nov. 11.
“You make sure that the message you preach is anointed by the Holy Spirit, and you preach it with unction,” Davis said. “If you want to build a crowd, water it down. But if you want to build believers, preach the whole counsel of God.”
Davis was one of eight speakers to address the 2013 Pastors Conference preceding the Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, served as the president for this year’s conference and selected the theme of “Remember the Call,” with each speaker addressing a topic related to God’s call on the lives of pastors.
Davis preached about God’s call on Moses’ life and said that God uses people who have died to self, who have enthroned Jesus as Lord, who see their inadequacies and who are broken and humbled before God.
“If you’ve got all the answers, you’re disqualified,” Davis said. “If you’re the most gifted communicator, you’re disqualified. … I am begging you to go to the Father and lay on your face before Him and confess that you need Him.”
Davis encouraged pastors to remain faithful in preaching God’s Word fully, even if it might mean being labeled as a bigot by others in the culture, and even if it might mean persecution for proclaiming the truth.
Though the pastorate can be lonely, Davis reminded pastors that even in the loneliest times, God is with them.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke from Matthew 4 about the call of Jesus’ disciples, saying that the key to successful evangelism lies in being close to Christ.
In difficult times, Kelley said some pastors get mad, some get busy, and some get out — but Jesus calls them to get close, as seen in His calling of the disciples to follow Him.
“The command of Jesus was not to witness,” Kelley said. “The command of Jesus was not to preach. The command of Jesus was not to plant a church. The command of Jesus was to get close to me. Follow me.”
When pastors obey that command, Kelley said, the result is effective evangelism.
“Evangelism — being a witness for Christ — is a matter of grace and not of grit,” he said. “When Jesus is on your mind, He finds a way out of your mouth.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, spoke from Genesis 12 about the call of Abraham — a call to obedience.
Ezell said that God’s call to Abraham cost him dearly, as he had to leave his family and his home. But the blessings that came with that obedience outweighed the costs.
“When you’re faithful to be obedient, God can take little and make much out of it,” Ezell said. “God often calls us to do things greater than our ability to accomplish.”
The reason for that, Ezell said, is so that God alone will get the glory when the task is completed.
John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Houston, addressed God’s call to the prophet Jeremiah and asked where similar prophets were today — men who would address the moral decay that Bisagno said is so prevalent in American culture.
He cited a litany of social evils — drugs, homosexuality, abortion, pornography — and said that no nation in history has gone where America has gone and escaped God’s judgment. But despite the downward slide, Bisagno said hope remains if men will be faithful in preaching God’s Word.
God isn’t looking for cute, cool, sharp, and smart people to do that, Bisagno said, but instead is seeking integrity, faithfulness, and availability.
“Dig deep,” he said. “Be faithful. Stay put.”
Junior Hill, an evangelist from Hartselle, Ala., preached from Ephesians 4 about distinguishing marks of a God-called evangelist, saying that such a man has a perception that defines him, a power that authenticates his ministry, and a patience that sustains him.
Hill said describing someone as having the gift of evangelism can erroneously imply that others don’t have that gift, when the truth of the Bible is that no believer is excluded from the task.
“Evangelism is not a gift that you receive, it is a command that you obey,” Hill said. “The evangelist is a man of God who has a passion to see people saved, and he pleads with people to give their heart to Jesus.”
Allan Lovelace, pastor of Waterville Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tenn., and president-elect of this year’s conference, said pastors need God’s majesty to knock them on their faces, God’s message to stand them on their feet, and God’s mission to send them on their way.
Preaching from Ezekiel 1, Lovelace said that God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence should encourage pastors when they face difficult times.
“The church will not ever go any higher spiritually than its leaders,” Lovelace said. “We set the pace.”
Also speaking at the conference were Jim Parker, associate professor of biblical interpretation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, who preached from Isaiah 6 about the call of Isaiah.
Christian humorist and former pastor Dennis Swanberg closed the conference with both humor and encouragement.
Swanberg told the pastors there will be times when they may not be happy, but he challenged them to never “let anybody steal your joy.”
There will be bumps in the road, Swanberg admitted, but life goes on. “Joy comes in the morning,” he reminded the pastors.
In officer elections, Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, was chosen as president-elect for the 2015 conference. Lovelace was picked as president-elect in last year’s conference and will serve as president for the 2014 conference in Brentwood. Michael Crandall, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Ripley, was elected as secretary-treasurer.