Pastors' Conference opens with fathers, sons
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- A Father's Day theme marked the opening session of the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference June 18, with speakers being introduced by either their fathers or their sons.
Former SBC president and evangelist Bailey Smith introduced the first speaker of the conference, his son Josh. Bailey praised God for all three of his sons, each of whom are serving the Lord in Baptist institutions and churches, and gave most of the credit to his godly wife. He described his son Josh as a child as an energetic grasshopper on roller-skates, but he watched God "take his life early and really mold him into something wonderful."
"I realized the first time I heard Josh preach that I wasn't hearing my son, I was hearing a man of God," Bailey Smith said. Turning to his son, he said, "Josh, I love you and I'm proud of you, not because you're a good preacher but because you're a man who loves the Lord and preaches His book."
Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, preached from Jonah 3 on the proper response to God's Word. Noting that most people want to experience the extraordinary instead of the ordinary, Smith reminded pastors, "Big doors swing on small hinges."
The Book of Jonah, Smith said, presents an irony between the responses of God's prophet and the pagan people. Jonah demonstrated two improper responses: He ran from God's Word, and then he resented God's Word. The Ninevites, however, responded in humble faith and repentance.
"Every Word of God demands a response," Smith said. "The way we begin this relationship with Him is the way we continue this relationship with Him. Our response to the Word of God determines the direction of our lives.
"God will accomplish His plan, and He will accomplish it through someone," Smith continued. "The only question is will it be you? And I pray that somehow by God's grace and for His glory that as you respond properly to the Word of God that it will be."
Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., described three pictures from 2 Timothy 2 of what it means to be strong in the grace of God. Pastors, he said, must fight like soldiers, run like athletes and work like farmers in their ministries.
"[God is] calling us to become fathers to our sons and to our daughters, to lead by example and to be the kind of dads in the ministry that God has called us to be," Wilton said.
The United States is facing a battle that may be unprecedented in its history, Wilton said, and the church needs men who will fight passionately for the Gospel.
"It's not going to take somebody in the White House who will change these United States of America," Wilton said. "It's going to take the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit changing the hearts and lives of our people."
Wilton warned of the dangers if the Southern Baptist Convention embraces a form of idolatry by following too closely after individuals rather than after Jesus Himself.
"It is only the Lord our God that we serve," he said.
Wilton's son Rob, pastor of Vintage Church in New Orleans, introduced his father by describing him as being personal, loving, challenging and encouraging. As he thought about the text from which his father would preach, Rob Wilton said he "couldn't help but pause and thank God that the Paul in my life has been my dad."
RONNIE AND NICK FLOYD
Father-son pastors Ronnie and Nick Floyd teamed up to preach a sermon. The two alternated turns in the pulpit, challenging pastors to develop an expanding vision for their cities.
"Have we forgotten the vision of reaching our cities, our communities, our villages and our towns?" Nick Floyd, pastor of the Fayetteville, Ark., campus of Cross Church, asked.
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, lamented that many pastors have forgotten that God has called them to reach the people outside the church where they live. Pastors, he said, must see their calling theologically, providentially and purposefully.
"Where you are is part of God's plan," Ronnie Floyd said. "[God's] providence has guided you, has blessed you ... and has placed you to live in this time in all of human history and to let you live where you live ... with a purpose.
"God has called you to live where you live, to lead the church you lead, with the gifts you have, for one purpose: to fulfill God's vision of reaching every person in that region with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said. "You were made for this moment."
Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, preached the concluding sermon for the night with his son Anthony Evans, a gospel music artist and recent contestant on NBC's "The Voice," introducing him.
Following the pattern of Psalm 128, Tony Evans preached about the effervescent results of a man who fears God. This man, who Evans called a "Kingdom man," takes God seriously, and because he does so, leads his family according to God's Word. Evans used this second point as an opportunity to speak to the current debate about same-sex marriage.
"What God wants is men, partnering with their wives, who run their families according to God -- because the saga of a nation is the saga of the family, in large," he said. "Marriage is not a civil institution; marriage is a divine institution to be recognized in a civil society."
A family that takes God seriously overflows into a church that submits to God's rule, he said.
"God didn't come to take sides, He came to take over," Evans said. "It's time for the church to wake up and go public. We don't have time for a white church, or a black church, a Hispanic church. We need the church of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Reported by Keith Collier, Aaron Cline Hanbury & Tim Ellsworth.