Jack Graham exhorts 2018 Pastors” Conference attendees to finish well

DALLAS  Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, began the final Monday morning sermon of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference by recalling his first opportunity to preach at the conference in Dallas in 1985, a time Graham called a “tipping point” in the SBC with the Conservative Resurgence.

Graham said he believed this year would mark “another tipping point” in SBC life and that he “expected God to move in a great way” to “energize and fill us with his Spirit to motivate us as churches to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Affirming the conference theme of fulfilling your ministry, Graham said this should be “the goal and holy ambition of all of us.”

He next displayed a Dallas Morning News edition with the headline “Cheers for hope in Christ,” referencing the June 10 Harvest America event at AT&T Stadium. “We haven’t seen a lot of winning from the Cowboys lately but we had some big wins last night as thousands of people came to faith in Jesus Christ,” Graham exclaimed to applause.

Turning to his sermon topic of  finishing well, from 1 Corinthians 15:58,  Graham noted that June 10 also marked his 29th anniversary at Prestonwood, adding that he had been in ministry for 48 years and preached his first sermon at age 16. Graham recalled that when his childhood friends wanted to be policemen or firemen, he always wanted to be a preacher.

As for going the distance in ministry, Graham advised, “You just keep showing up,” adding, “it’s not how you start but how you finish.”

Describing a recent conversation with retired and terminally ill SWBTS professor William Tolar, 90, Graham said Tolar confirmed the importance of reliance on Christ, as Tolar had since childhood when he was challenged by a teacher to read “the world’s bestseller,” the Bible.

From 1 Corinthians 15:58, Graham appealed for unity, lamenting that “often the church is divided; we are stumbling over our own teammates.”

Essential to keeping momentum in ministry is to “stay balanced” or to “strengthen the core,” Graham continued, urging the audience to avoid “running after every fad, new trend, hip or cool thing to do” but rather “stay focused on Jesus.”

To pastors facing inevitable criticism, he said, “You have one thing to do: to obey God.”

He also advocated hard work, “toil to the point of exhaustion,” remarking that “some people in ministry quit a long time ago,” yet pastors are to be “always abounding” or “always excelling” because the “stakes are too high not to work hard.” He added with a laugh, “I’ve been tired since 1979,” and urged listeners to excellence.

Graham admitted to being surprised by how quickly his life had passed, proclaiming, “It’s a blur,” but affirming his plan never to “retire from the work of the Lord” although admitting at some point he would no longer be the lead pastor of Prestonwood.

“Keep overdoing it. Keep excelling,” he counseled, reminding all of “shining lights no longer in the race” who did not finish well.

“We ought to run a little bit scared in the fear of the Lord,” Graham said. “If not for the grace of God, we would all be out of the race.”

Essential to continuing “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” is to remember that Christ is coming and that “every faithful shepherd” is promised the “shepherd’s crown,” he added.

Regarding legacy, Graham advised listeners to “live a legacy,” adding that ultimately, “our legacy is not what we leave but where we go,” heaven.

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