Revival is preached at Pastors' Conference
INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--God can bring revival to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, but in many cases spiritual brokenness may be required first, speakers at the annual Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference said in Indianapolis June 9.
Pastors also elected officers for the 2009 Pastors' Conference in Louisville, Ky. Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., was elected president, while Bruce Schmidt, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, was elected vice president. James Peoples, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, Fla., was elected secretary-treasurer.
Speakers were Alan Day, pastor of First Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla.; Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla.; James T. Draper Jr., president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Ill.; George Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kerrville, Texas; Bill Stafford, an evangelist from Chattanooga, Tenn.; psychologist Charles Lowery, president of the Lowery Institute for Excellence in Lindale, Texas; Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University in Orlando, Fla.; and Kerry Shook, pastor of Fellowship of the Woodlands in Houston.
"Brokenness is essential for real intimacy with God," Day said, focusing on Numbers 12:3, where Moses can be seen as an example of meekness.
God took Moses through a process of disappointment and disillusionment that resulted in brokenness, Day said, and it produced the meekness spoken of in the text. Because Moses was broken, God could invest him with spiritual authority and commission him to do an impossible task.
"God's motto seems to be, 'If you're not broken, I'll break you … so that you can experience radical helplessness and weakness, and then you can experience My amazing strength,'" Day said.
Hayes Wicker pointed to Jacob as another example of God spiritually breaking an individual. Jacob was soon to face his brother Esau as he returned to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. As he approached the site where he would meet his brother, he wrestled with God.
Jacob demanded God's blessing, and received it even in the midst of the crises of his life, Wicker said, adding that Jacob had been successful in many ways. "The world thinks of success, but God thinks of blessing," Wicker said.
"We all have crises and we all have hurts, but we don't need to be carved in the image of that pain," Wicker said. "God blesses submission in times of crises."
Brokenness crucifies self so Christ might reign supreme in the lives of believers, Wicker said. Without brokenness, ministers will not be able to reject reliance upon their own talents or the dominance of personality traits.
"But there is no limit to what God can do for, in, with and through a broken earthen vessel," Wicker said.
George Harris said 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," Harris said.
Harris, who with jaws wired shut and speechless during months of recovery from a motorcycle crash several years ago, said he identified with Elijah's despair in 1 Kings 17-19 as he fled from the wrath of Jezebel. For more than three years, God sustained Elijah through ravens, the brook Cherith and the poor widow, and God later showed His might on Mount Carmel. Yet Elijah still found himself on the run from death threats and praying to die.
"Sometimes we find ourselves in depression and wish to die," Harris noted. "Sometimes the only way out is through the fire."
Litton said in his sermon that brokenness is the recognition that pride has been shattered and there is no need to "glue it back together again."
In closing the Pastors' Conference June 9 with an altar call for "broken" pastors, Litton told the tragic story of losing his wife 10 months ago in a car accident. "In that instant, my life changed and I began a journey to a place I did not care to go," he said.
When God leads to such a place, He forces His followers to face their deepest fear, but He restores in ways they cannot imagine to prepare them for significant ministry, Litton said, preaching from Psalm 23.
"Some of you are facing the worst fear of your life. And some of you are on the verge of the greatest movement of God in the history of your life, your ministry and your church," Litton said. "God doesn't call complete, fully contained, self-actualized people who have it together -- He calls the broken."
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 James T. Draper Jr. 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 indicted 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.
Believers can be revived right now, James MacDonald said. But they must repent first, and that happens only when they recognize sin and then experience a heartfelt sorrow that culminates in a change of behavior.
MacDonald, preaching from 2 Corinthians 7, said pride (position, prestige, power), pleasure (sex, substance, stuff) and priorities (self, others, God) are specific areas where sin can gain a foothold in a believer's life. Repentance is demonstrated by five fruits -- grief over sin, repulsion toward sin, restitution toward others, revival toward God and moving forward, he said.
Evangelist Bill Stafford also spoke on revival, saying that churches and ministers should focus on the Word of God because "we will never be out of the warfare of those who want to undermine the Word of God."
"When you start preaching Christ, you're going to face an onslaught," Stafford said.
Charles Lowery, addressing the subject of evangelism, noted that "evangelism happens not by promotion but by attraction."
He also said Christians must remind themselves every day of the importance of the Gospel because death is coming to every person. Because life is short, ministers must be diligent in preaching the Gospel wherever they are serving, whether they are in a mega-church or a small congregation, he said.
Jay Strack spoke about how to reach the millennial generation, or young people ages 12-24.
Citing Exodus 17:8-16 as a model for mentoring future generations, Strack said Moses trained Joshua by walking, worshipping, working and weeping with him, as well as involving Joshua in war.
"Moses got it," Strack said, explaining that Moses realized it wasn't about him, but rather about the next generation. Joshua, however, did not focus on the next generation, and because there was no leader when he passed from the scene, the people experienced defeat after defeat.
"Success without successors is not success," Strack said.
Kerry Shook encouraged pastors to live their lives as if they had only one month to life. It was the same challenge he gave to his home congregation this past spring during a one-month campaign involving 9,600 people who had never attended the church's Bible studies. Shook said it led to an awakening in the neighborhoods of church members who ultimately involved more than 7,000 people in weekly Bible studies beyond the Sunday morning church service.
"Behind every baptism is a story. Behind every face is a life change," Shook 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.
"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."
Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas. With reporting by Jerry Pierce, Jennifer Davis Rash, Bob Nigh, Don Beehler, Jeff Robinson and Allen Palmeri.