Pastors’ Conference brings encouragement
By Bruce Tegg
ST. LOUIS—Church leaders from around the state gathered for the 2008 Pastors’’ Conference held Oct. 27 at the Millennium Hotel here before the 174th annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Guy Thomas, president of the conference and pastor of First Baptist Church, Princeton, designed the conference with something for everyone.
“I have tried to get men that are a good cross section of our convention,” he said.
This year’s program was crafted to help pastors at the point of giving up with six different areas: Preaching, missions, family, evangelism, bi-vocational pastoring and retirement. The theme, “Let Us Not Grow Weary,” was taken from Galatians 6:9 that says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Stan Neely, conference song leader and bi-vocational minister of music at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Jefferson City, opened the conference with a blend of contemporary and traditional worship songs. Neely has been serving for the past 38 years as a bi-vocational minister.
The first message was brought by Tim Wilson, a bi-vocational pastor at First Baptist Church, Gilman City, who builds log cabins.
He challenged his listeners from Hebrews 12:1-2, stating that since Christ endured the shame and pain of the cross for them, they can endure whatever the ministry throws at them for Him. Wilson encouraged pastors to stay in the fight and not lose heart. He spoke about how the pastor’s wife and children are looking to him to not give up in the ministry and remain faithful to his call.
The next speaker, Carl Rees, is the evangelism and mission pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church of Springfield.
Rees inspired the pastors to never forget missions are the heartbeat of God and since it is so important to God, pastors must not grow weary in their ministry. He also noted that the great command of the Great Commission is not the word “go” but the words “make disciples.”
Kenny Qualls, pastor, First Baptist Church, Arnold, centered his sermon on Ezekiel 1:26-2:7. With a vision of the glory of God, preachers will not grow weary. Pastors must also embrace their office as their life mission given from God.
“We are to preach with passion and without compromise,” he said. “We give the Word and they are responsible for what they do with it.”
Qualls explained that the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament would rest upon a man for a time and later would leave him when the task was complete. Ezekiel’s title, son of man, spoke of his humanity and his frailty as a man much like pastors today. Unlike Ezekiel, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at all times, ready to supply all the power we need to do the required tasks.
Keynote Speaker Junior Hill, a full-time Southern Baptist evangelist since 1967, delivered a message on not growing weary in spiritual warfare.
Hill, who served as a pastor for 11 years, urged pastors to examine their ministry in the light of 2 Timothy 2:1-5 – enduring hardship as a good soldier of Christ. He carried through with the military theme as a soldier.
“After 52 years I can tell you, there are no easy parts of the ministry,” he said. “I don’t care what you do, if you are in the ministry, it is hard.”
In his fifth and final point, Hill said, “There is a crown that must never be defiled.” He pointed to the final verse in his original passage 2 Timothy 2:5 that says, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” Hill stated, “Pastors must strive lawfully in their work.” He continued, “They must be clean and doing what God told them to do.”
Hill recalled a tragic encounter he had with a pastor friend in an airport. The pastor was over a church running over 1,000 people attending each week. This was until he was involved with the church secretary in an affair. The unnamed pastor said, “Now I’ve lost my church, my family, my ministry, my self-respect and my health. I feel like a walking dead man.”
In a solemn warning Hill stated, “If stats are accurate, there are some of you that will be one of those casualties very soon.” Hill then vowed, “I’ve been on the road a long time and I’ve decided in my heart, as long as God gives me grace, I will face each morning by snapping to attention and saying, ‘Private Hill reporting for duty.’”
Lanny Witt, who was saved in 1981 and called to preach in 1987, currently serves as the bi-vocational pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Lebanon. He has served there for 18 years. He is employed by the Laclede County Road and Bridge as a truck driver.
In a message out of Jeremiah 1:1-10, Witt confessed he felt inadequate to preach. He did not want to be a pastor, and yet he could not deny the call of God upon his life. After a long time of weeping he felt God saying to him, “I will remold you and remake you just as the potter with the clay.”
In his final challenge, Witt said, “We will reap if we don’t quit. Jesus called 12 and turned the world upside down. Wherever you are serving you are there to turn that community upside down. What are you doing?”
Closing the conference was Bill Dudley, pastor, First Baptist Church, St. Robert, who has preached a total of 55 years. He said he has learned that God really is in charge, and He runs things as he sees fit.
He also said God will take care of you. He explained that God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.
Early in his ministry, Dudley and his wife had three children and one on the way. He had no retirement, no insurance, no outside job, and his church, located in rural Texas, was paying him $60 per week.
He told the Lord how he needed another position that would support his family with the new baby. That next Sunday, a pulpit committee showed up and heard him preach. It was not long until he was being voted into a new church. Once in his new position Dudley learned that the pulpit committee was actually looking for someone else when they became lost. They only stopped by his church when it was getting too late to find the other pastor.
Dudley concluded his sermon by saying, “I thank God he put me in this office, that He shut me up to this glorious work. I expect to shout with joy that in the struggles (of life) God let me be a preacher.”
In response to Dudley’s final words, the gathering of pastors gave a hearty “Amen!”