GERMANY (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page challenged and encouraged more than 900 pastors from 170 European evangelical churches during a pastors' conference in Lemgo, Germany.
Taking "Church of Jesus -- Pillar of Truth" as its theme from 1 Timothy 3:14-15, the biennial conference was hosted by Bibelseminar Bonn (a partner school of Southwestern Seminary), the Forum evangelical Free (FeF) churches (a collection of partnering Russian-German Baptist and Mennonite churches in Germany), and the SBC Executive Committee. Speakers for the event included Patterson, Page, SBC Executive Committee vice president Ken Weathersby, and First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., pastor Mac Brunson.
Patterson congratulated the group of churches for 40 years of work together.
"You have grown stupendously, and the greatest years are yet ahead of you," said Patterson, who has spoken at all three previous conferences in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
"We as your Baptist brethren from across the ocean are greatly honored to be a part of this congress."
During the conference, Patterson and Page responded to pastors' questions during a question-and-answer session.
"Any sermon that has not first of all become a part of the preacher will be a mere academic enterprise," Patterson said in response to a question about sermon preparation. He outlined his approach to sermon preparation and encouraged pastors to make use of the biblical languages and to saturate their preparation in prayer.
Page agreed, noting that a recent sermon he preached on Psalm 51 "spoke to my heart" as the text "was for me too."
Page and Patterson also shared from their own life experiences how men had mentored them in ministry. They encouraged pastors to seek out "Barnabases" who will encourage and guide them along the way. "Ministry can be very difficult," Page said.
Addressing the value of the church in society, Page said many look to the government or their education or the judicial system for help.
"Those will always fail," Page said during the June 18-19 conference, "but God instituted the church to be the place where truth is found, where true help comes.... So the church must preach the truth of God's Word when it is easy and when it is not, when it is popular and when it is not."
Patterson was asked if his role in helping the Southern Baptist Convention maintain fidelity to the inerrancy of Scripture during the Conservative Resurgence was worth the struggle.
"If we do not have a sure and certain Word from God, Patterson said, "then we waste our time when we stand behind the sacred desk, and worse than that, we waste the time of all of our people.
"Without an infallible and inerrant Word of God, we are simply preaching the theories of man.... So, it was worth every second of the difficulty involved in it.
"One word of caution," Patterson added. "The fact that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God does not mean that it is the easy Word of God. There are texts in the Bible that I have studied for years, and I still don't know what they mean. You will discover that the Bible is a difficult book, but every word is true."
Page acknowledged the SBC continues to face some theological and methodological differences within the convention, including the issues of Calvinism, church government, worship styles, and approaches to missions. But he expressed gratitude that the SBC is not fighting over the issue of inerrancy.
"We have many challenges; I know that you do, too," Page said. "I would ask that you pray for us."
Patterson also emphasized the power of prayer as he left young pastors with some closing advice. "You have to stay on your knees and face before God and walk with Him in prayer. It's the only way to protect your heart from the attack of Satan.
"Number two, you must regularly witness for Christ. Whenever I'm depressed, I leave the house and go somewhere to witness for Christ. And within a few moments, I've forgotten why I was depressed, and I get to see many people born into the kingdom of God."
Page quoted from Micah 6:8, saying pastors must "do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly before God."
To do so requires wisdom, Page said, adding, "We must ever be aware of our sin and of the greatness of God."
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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