INDIANAPOLIS?Four Texans were among the preachers at the 2008 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Indianapolis June 8-9. The conference theme was “Prepare for Rain,” based on Isaiah 64:1a: “If only you would tear the heavens open and come down.” Sermons focused on prayer, brokenness, revival and evangelism.
The annual conference, which immediately precedes the SBC annual meeting, elected as president Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.; Bruce Schmidt, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington, vice president; and James Peoples, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, Fla., secretary-treasurer.
In nominating Schmidt, fellow Texas pastor Troy Brooks said of him, “He is a loving pastor. He is a pastor’s friend.”
Brokenness is not something that is taught, caught or sought, “but rather it is an experience that one goes through?. It is a process that God takes us through in order to get our ear so that we can hear him,” said George Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kerrville, preaching of Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings, chapters 17-19.
Harris, a former SBTC president, who with jaws wired shut and speechless during months of recovery several years ago from a motorcycle crash, said he identified with Elijah’s despair as he fled from the wrath of Queen Jezebel.
God had already sustained Elijah by ravens bringing him food, the brook Cherith, the poor widow whose flour and oil failed to run out by God’s hand, and God’s wrath against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Yet Elijah found himself on the run from death threats and praying to die to escape misery.
“Sometimes we find ourselves in depression and wish to die,” Harris noted.
After Harris’ motorcycle accident, “I became sorely depressed. I cannot tell you how depressed I became.” Late one night, “I began to read in my desperation and God led me as he would to Psalm 119 ?Those words were like rhema to me.”
“That night, with blurred vision, it was as though the Lord was in that room,” Harris recalled. “I didn’t see him, but he was there?there in the most real way as I had experienced in 48 years of ministry.”
Harris closed by relating the words of a man who, through desperation, survived a fire inside a B-52 airplane by jumping out, falling two stories and rolling through flames to his rescue. After comparing his recovery story with Harris’, the man told Harris, “Pastor, remember, sometimes the only way out is through the fire.”
“My prayer was this, ‘Lord, as the psalmist said, I will pay my vows ? Praise ye the Lord.’ And my prayer has been?I don’t want a trophy, I just want to be one.”
Live your life as if you had one month to live. That’s the challenge pastor Kerry Shook of Houston-area Fellowship of The Woodlands gave his congregation.
Shook issued the same challenge to the Pastors’ Conference audience, concluding his message with a video of some of the 831 people the church baptized on June 8.
Shook said neighborhood Bible studies this spring during the one-month campaign involved 9,600 people who had never attended the church’s Bible studies and led to an awakening in the neighborhoods of church members. More than 7,000 of those people are still involved in weekly Bible studies beyond the Sunday morning church service, he said.
“Behind every baptism is a story. Behind every face is a life change,” Shook said.
The “One Month to Live Challenge,” with Psalm 90:12’s exhortation to number the days in mind, helped Shook become “intentional about living God’s purposes in our lives and world,” he said.
Shook said the month-long challenge was rooted in four universal and biblical principles drawn from the life of Christ: Live passionately, love completely, learn humbly, and leave boldly.
In Luke 9:51, Jesus, preparing for Calvary, models how to leave boldly with his physical death immanent. Believers, Shook said, should invest in eternal things, not in the sandcastles his children loved to build on the beach and then were swept away in the surf.
“The problem is so many people are building elaborate sandcastles and one day it’s going to be all washed away, and they’re going to be so disappointed because they thought it would last forever. The things that last forever are the things you cannot see?faith, hope and love. The souls of people last forever.”
Once ministers and churches experience brokenness, they can receive revival as a gift from God, yet a nationwide revival hasn’t occurred in our lifetimes, said Jimmy Draper of Colleyville, a former Texas pastor and retired LifeWay Christian Resources president. Consequently, he said, the modern church knows little about it. In many churches, Draper said, the passion for Christ is gone as the world plunges deeper into sin.
“We have reached a place where our forefathers feared,” Draper said. “There’s no fire in the altar.”
Churches have an abundance of resources, yet are ineffective, cold, complacent and unattractive to the world, he said.
“We don’t see the world through the eyes of Jesus ? we’re too self-absorbed and dependent on our own gifts.”
Despite the grim assessment, Draper said he believes the conditions are right for revival, because historically God has sent revival when the situation seemed hopeless, as is the case today. “Desperate” prayer, unity and seeking God’s face can help prepare for revival, he stated, adding that genuine revival impacts the entire culture if the church repents.
Evangelism will not happen not by promotion but by attraction, Charles Lowery, president of the Lowery Institute for Excellence in Lindale, told the conference.
The truth of the gospel endures in every generation, he said. Using the acronym LAST, Lowery said believers will live attractive lives before unbelievers if they laugh in the joy of the Lord, are authentic, serve the Lord with gladness, and “tell yourself every day what’s important in life.”
In laughing, “Those who are filled with joy preach without preaching,” Lowery said.