SBC Pastors’ Conference looks toward unity

LOUISVILLE, Ky.?On the second day of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville June 22, speakers exhorted pastors to lead with “One Love,” “One Spirit” and “One Purpose.”

Passionate, funny, pleading?speakers Mike Landry, Ed Stetzer, Francis Chan, Tom Elliff, Michael Catt, Fred Luter, Dennis Swanberg, Alvin Reid, David Platt, Johnny Hunt and Mike Huckabee?referred to the Great Commission, tertiary issues, humility, and accountability.

The pastors also elected officers for the 2010 Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Fla.: Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., president; Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla., vice president; and Ben Mandrell, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., secretary-treasurer.

ONE LOVE

Francis Chan, teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., said radical love for one another was a defining characteristic of the early church, and should be for Christians today.

“Here’s what’s supposed to happen when someone walks into a gathering of believers: An unbeliever who has never seen God should walk into a group of us as believers and see so much love amongst us that they actually see God there,” Chan said.

Chan recounted a time in his ministry when he was discouraged about the lack of power he saw in his church. Although it looked from the outside to be a growing congregation of thousands, he saw a vast divide between it and the church described in the book of Acts.

That realization motivated Chan to temporarily step away from Cornerstone, re-evaluating the kind of church God wanted. When he returned, the leadership team moved forward with an emphasis on the church loving each other like family members. They began to look more at their collective identity in Christ.

“You used to not be a people group,” Chan told the pastors, referencing 1 Peter 2:9. “But the moment you got saved, you became this race. You became a priesthood. You became a holy nation. It’s not that you became an individual Christian, but you joined a group.”

Tom Elliff, a former pastor, SBC president and vice president of the International Mission Board, shared the power of forgiveness from the vantage point of personal experience. He told how he forgave his father, J.T. Elliff, a pastor who left his wife for another woman. Elliff called pastors to forgive those who have betrayed and wounded them in order for Christ to be exalted and their ministries to be more effective.

“An unforgiving spirit is like an acid that eats the container from the inside out,” Elliff said. “For you or for me to be unforgiving is the same as drinking poison and hoping the other person dies; we become the victim.”

Elliff said forgiveness is a matter of faith. “If you will not forgive, you are denying the truth that God is sufficient for you,” he said.

At the end of the morning session, conference attendees were given a free copy of Elliff’s book, “The Red Feather,” which tells the forgiveness story between Elliff and his father.

An absence of morality, not a lack of money, is responsible for many of the problems facing the United States, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told the conference.

“Wall Street did not melt down because it was a money problem,” Huckabee said. “It melted down because there was a moral problem, and it’s high time we address that what really is breaking this country is not a lack of money. It’s a lack of morality, and without righteousness and character our nation will perish.”

Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and now host of a program on the FOX News Channel, compared the role of a politician to that of a pastor and said it’s important for such leaders not to amass power themselves, but to empower the people they are leading.

Huckabee used the story of Abimelech, the son of Gideon, in Judges 9 to warn about the dangers of concentrating too much power in the hands of too few. Abimelech was a power-hungry man who promised to simplify the lives of his followers. But instead, Abimelech killed 70 of his brothers.

Placing too much power in the hands of too few is a sure way to collapse an organiza

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