NEW ORLEANS—The voices of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors were heard loud and clear at the 2023 Pastors’ Conference held Sunday and Monday (June 11-12) in advance of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting. The conference consisted of expository sermons based on Matthew 5 and the conference theme, “Character Matters in Ministry: Beatitudes of a Pastor,” and pastoral talks that centered on aspects of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5.
Message: Andrew Hebert, Matthew 5:5, “Meek”
Andrew Hebert, lead pastor of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, cautioned listeners to beware of becoming “performers” because “the pathway of Jesus is different.”
Hebert said rather than being influencers, thought leaders, catalysts, or CEOs, pastors are called to be servants. “Shepherds,” he said, “not kings.” Pastors must choose “humbly to follow our Chief Shepherd” rather than pursue “platform and position and prominence.”
Admitting that humility in ministry makes for an “uncomfortable” subject, Hebert challenged pastors by saying, “We can choose to make ministry all about us or all about Jesus.”
He offered answers to the following four questions during the message:
- What is humility? Quoting Gavin Ortlund’s book Humility, Hebert defined humility as “self-forgetfulness leading to joy.” Pastors have a “small place in a much larger story,” he said, and must avoid becoming the story themselves. He urged pastors to shine the light “on Jesus and Jesus alone.”
- What produces humility? It begins with a “recognition of your own spiritual poverty,” Hebert said. “We have no resources without Christ in our spiritual bank account,” adding that humility produces authentic mourning or lamentation regarding one’s spiritual condition.
- What does humility produce? Jesus teaches that humility generates a “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Hebert said. “When you come to an end of your resources, you can then get hungry for God to do in your life what only God can do.”
- What is the promise of humility? Jesus promises a “blessing” and an “inheritance” in Matthew 5:5 for those who are humble, Hebert said, adding, “The humble will one day be clothed with nothing short of glory itself.” Being “famous with God” eliminates the need for status, position, or pride. Hebert called pastors to remember that “being favored by God, being covered in His beauty—it’s the highest status and the highest position you can ever have.”
Pastoral Talks: Stephens, Corredera, Draper
Jarrett Stephens, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, presented the first pastoral talk of the conference Sunday evening, focusing on love—the first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. “The preacher’s character ought to resemble his Savior’s character,” Stephens urged, noting that Paul refers to “unselfish, ready to serve” agape love in the passage.
Love, like every other fruit of the Spirit, is “evidence of salvation,” Stephens said. He challenged pastors to be loving in their interactions with family, staff, congregants, and on social media.
He closed with the account of the 2013 salvation of his older brother, Eric. Although Stephens prayed for his brother’s conversion for 17 years, Eric’s eventual salvation came not because of “compelling apologetics … convincing arguments … creative sermons or clever witnessing.” Rather, “it was God’s love for him … the love of a family … the love of a local church.” And that, Stephens concluded, “is the love of God that’s going to change the world.”
Gilberto Corredera, pastor of Prestonwood en Español, ended the Monday afternoon session with a short message on faithfulness. Corredera recounted his experience growing up in Cuba as the son of an alcoholic father and communist mother. “The Lord rescued me,” he said, “gave me a new life and a new hope and a future, a new passion to tell others about His love for me and His faithfulness in my life.”
After coming to the U.S. in 2009, Corredera—who spoke no English—spent a year working as a dishwasher at Prestonwood in Plano. Eventually, he was called to pastor Prestonwood en Español, which has grown from 100 to 3,000 members on three campuses, with sermons broadcast in 59 countries.
“When your assignment looks bigger than your ability,” he said, “the only thing that God requires from you and me is faithfulness. He will cover the gap.”
Jimmy Draper, longtime SBC pastor, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, and a former SBC president, spoke of the fruit of self-control. Draper said self-control is a summary of all the virtues and is actually a mark of being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
“God never intended us to figure things out. He didn’t intend for us to figure out about the Great Commission, not even the Christian life. He put the Holy Spirit in us,” Draper said. Fulfilling the Great Commission is not “rocket science,” he said. “It is the fruit of the Spirit.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is a vivid picture of what Christian character looks like,” he added. “It is, in fact, what a Christian minister and a Christian leader and every Christian ought to be.”
Other pastors preaching sermons at the conference were David Allen, H.B. Charles, D.J. Horton, Chip Luter, Bartholomew Orr, Jim Shaddix, and Phil Waldrep. Pastoral talks were also delivered by Wayne Bray, Michael Cloer, Roc Collins, Phil Newton, Herb Reavis, and Ken Whitten.