Pastors prepare for outpouring from God
INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--After severe thunderstorms caused flooding in various parts of Indiana two days earlier, pastors from across the United States gathered to seek a spiritual downpour from God at the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference June 9 in Indianapolis.
"Our prayer is that God would use this conference to ripple through this country and that the showers of the blessings of God would be seen all across this land in our churches in the days and weeks and months ahead," said Michael Catt, Pastors' Conference president and senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.
The conference theme, "Prepare for Rain," challenged pastors to focus on revival through prayer, brokenness and evangelism. Sunday evening's theme was "Preparing Our Fields for an Outpouring" and was based on Hosea 10:12, which says in part: "Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord."
The evening featured Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; Daniel Simmons, senior pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.; and Tom Elliff, senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations for the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and a former SBC president.
Hunt, preaching from Psalm 119:25-32, addressed a recent statistical report that SBC membership had declined over the previous year. "If there's not prayer that leads to brokenness and God sending revival, there will not be the evangelism we Southern Baptists have known through the years," he said.
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, in the 35 years that I've been a Christian and a Southern Baptist, I personally have a deep, heart-rending belief that we have never in our denomination needed revival as much as we need it now," Hunt said.
Hunt challenged pastors to embrace a fervent prayer life that would lead to brokenness and a renewed confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "I don't know about you, but I desire to see us leave this place on fire for Jesus Christ again," Hunt said, adding, "God, send the rain!"
Pastors must lead their congregations by their preaching and their example, Hunt said, sharing from his own experience how he believes God has directed him to lead his own church.
The first area in which God convicted him was that he needed to pray more aggressively, which in turn empowered him to have more of a personal commitment to personal evangelism. Hunt concluded by asking pastors to join him in praying, "God, will you come and give us life once again? Would you breathe new life into the Southern Baptist Convention?"
Simmons, in his message, proclaimed that God and prayer are the keys to revival. If churches are not experiencing revival, he said, it might be because pastors are trusting in their own resources and abilities.
"'I' disease has hindered us," Simmons said. "We have gotten to the place where we think we are important people. We must understand it's not us."
Citing Hosea 10:13, Simmons said God's message to the people was, "As long as you trust in other resources, I won't give you mine."
He also urged pastors to commit themselves to strong private and public prayer lives and to be persistent in praying for revival. "If we are to experience revival in our churches, then God must send it."
Elliff, in the evening's final message, extended an invitation for pastors to "break up their fallow ground" by coming to the altar at God's invitation. Ministers should accept God's invitation because it is a command in Scripture, Ellif said, pointing to Hosea 10:12, which states, "Sow to yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rains righteousness on you."
Breaking up a heart's fallow ground requires "deliberate effort and deliberate work," Elliff said, likening the hardness of many hearts to the tough soil settlers were forced to work with in Oklahoma 100 years ago as the land rush began. That soil, he said, was hard, stubbornly resistant, unfruitful and "asleep through the seasons."
Likewise, Elliff said, ministers must pay diligent attention to sins of omission and commission, such as prayerlessness, lack of devotion to the Word of God, disobedience to the commands of God, faithlessness, lack of love and charity and the absence of "common Christian grace in dealing with each other." Ministers should repent and seek the Lord while He may be found, Elliff said.
"We don't come to God on our schedule … we either come on His terms or we don't come. Every day we wait leaves one more day to be repented of and one less day to repent in."
After his message, thousands of pastors flooded the front of the convention center floor to repent and ask God to pour out His Spirit and blessings on them, their churches and the nation.
Compiled by Keith Collier, director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with reporting by Don Beehler and Greg Tomlin.