ST. LOUIS – Seven men examined the idea of a gospel advance during the Missouri Baptist Pastors’ Conference Oct. 29 here.
Jared Hamilton, lead pastor at Missouri Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph, kicked off the conference preaching from John 21:15. He argued that for Missouri’s pastors to make a difference for the Kingdom, they must remember their sin and how Christ lifted them out of it.
“Peter gets that the gospel is not about a warm feeling and a better day,” he said. “Jesus didn’t come to give Peter a better life. He came to give him life. We sit here today as pastors as dark, evil men, like Peter was. What we see was true for Peter on the shores of Galilee is true for us.”
Virginia Pastor Eric Thomas spoke second. He is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk and brought a message based on Jonah 2. In a gospel advance, he said obedience is key.
“I don’t believe our churches are dying because we don’t have a ripe harvest or because we have an old building or need new carpet,” he said. “Our churches are dying because we just want to be obedient to God. God was giving Jonah U-turn moments. Let us take hold of our U-turn moments. Then when God brings the rescue, be fully devoted to the mission. God doesn’t rescue us so that we can be happy or so we can make budget. He rescues us so we can fulfill His purpose.”
Following him was Bob Roberts, founder and senior pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas. He started at Col. 4, and urged boldness in expanding the reach of the gospel.
“Here’s what happened,” he said. “The public square shifted while the church was sleeping. We did not understand what was happening in our world and in our culture. As Baptists, many of us became fearful and frightened about the ‘Muslim Menace’ when all along, God being the Sovereign God, has orchestrated that all the nations would be gathered here where we can share Jesus. God knows what He’s doing. Be excited, don’t be afraid.”
Next up was Thom Rainer, president and chief executive officer of LifeWay Christian Resources, who preached a message based on Philemon 8, an appeal “on the basis of love.”
“The Apostle Paul addressed his letter to people like me,” Rainer said. “People who don’t’ have it all together and mess more times than I am proud to admit. He asks, ‘do you do what you do for love?’ Is the gospel advancing on the basis of love? It’s an easy text to preach, but a harder text to live with real people who have real issues and real sin just like us.”
Tony Merida, pastor for preaching and vision at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., started the afternoon session with a sermon from Luke 14:12-14 urging churches to become more hospitable in all they do.
“In this text we see what kind of King we have, what kind of kingdom we belong to, and what kind of people we should be,” he said. “Invite outsiders to your feasts. Identify with outsiders and the marginalized. We are the very people who should display grace because we have experienced grace. Once we begin to see that we aren’t superior to other people, everything changes. Invite outsiders to your feasts, and invite outsiders to the King’s feast.”
Following him was Bryan Chapell, who is chancellor and professor of practical theology of Covenant Theological Seminary here. He exhorted the crowd to not lose sight of the gospel goal with a sermon from Rom. 15.
“You can try to do everything right,” he said, “but you have to remember the goal. The goal, my brothers, is hope. You will not be able to minister as Christ intends nor serve His church if you do not remember the hope of Jesus. gospel advance is a challenge and even in challenges, God is faithful to His promise. Time and trial and human failing do not annul the promises of God.”
Wrapping up the conference was Johnny Hunt. Hunt is the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Hunt also was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008 and 2009 and was instrumental in the Great Commission Resurgence movement. He held nothing back, preaching a sermon based on Ps. 126.
“I’ve come to realize the longer I know Jesus, the further removed I am from those He came to die for,” he said. “Tomorrow, my entire day is full of staff meetings. I meet with churches the next day. Unless I’m intentional and purposeful, I can go a full week and spend all my time enjoying the fellowship of God’s people, but find myself removed from those Christ came to die for. We may be getting the gospel right, but the people are being left unless we get the gospel to them.”
Thanks to sponsor Sound and Light Theater in Branson, the audio and video of the conference is available free at www.mbcpc.org/media.
Jeremy Plymale, pastor of CrossHaven in O’Fallon, was elected treasurer, moving Josh Hall, Selmore Baptist Church in Ozark, to president-elect. Phil Bray, pastor of First Baptist, Macon, is president.
The officers also announced next year’s theme and lineup. It will focus on the life and work of Jesus and will feature: D.A. Carson, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Bruce Ware, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Thomas Schreiner, also a Southern professor. First Baptist Church Macon’s choir and 60 West will provide the music.