Ministry readiness focus draws Baptist leaders
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- With ministry readiness as its primary focus, the inaugural For the Church Conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary drew pastors, students and ministry leaders from across the region.
Keynote speakers Ronnie Floyd, Jason Allen, Alex Himaya, Jared Wilson and Darrin Patrick addressed the conference's theme of being "Ready" in the areas of preaching, church planting, discipleship, leading and shepherding.
"This is a conference for the church; thus, it's a conference for all pastors and ministry leaders," Allen, Midwestern Seminary's president, said. "As a seminary that exists for the church, we feel a deep stewardship to offer opportunities such as this conference to build up the leaders and ministers within the local church as well as to provide encouragement and practical tools that will assist them in their ministry life."
Ready to Preach
Allen led the conference's first session, "Ready to Preach." To be ready, he said, is at the front and center of Christian ministry.
"The call to lead the church is higher than the call to lead the nation, and to please the One we serve is more urgent than pleasing the electorate," Allen said during the Aug. 25-26 event on the seminary's Kansas City campus. "We dare not, not be ready."
Preaching from 2 Timothy 3 and 4, with an emphasis on 4:2, Allen said the Apostle Paul's focus was to directly challenge Timothy about faithful ministry and how to peach the Word.
Allen shared three distinctive marks of what it means to be ready to preach: being a person of biblical conviction; having personal courage in preaching; and possessing pastoral care.
"Readiness is a constant pursuit," he said. "You never quite attain it; you seek it throughout your life in ministry...."
At Midwestern Seminary, Allen continued, a primary aspect of our mission is "seeking to ready ministers for the church, and the penultimate mark of that is to ready ministers to preach."
Ready to Plant
Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, spoke on the subject, "Ready to Plant." Preaching from Galatians 5:22-6:5, he shared what type of man it takes and the challenges one would face in planting or replanting churches.
Patrick said more than 4,000 churches will close this year and even more are, or will be, plateaued. He said three words describe why churches need to be replanted: conceit, provoking, and envy. These are the main reasons why things go awry in the church, he said. However, the solution to such challenges is to have an individual that leads a community of restorers.
"If you want to experience community and authentic fellowship, then you need a leader who will actually get in there and push on the real sins of the congregation," Patrick said. "Such leaders should do this gently; and when you have to say hard things, you do so with a broken heart."
Patrick added that pastors of church plants must lead a community of self-critics. The leader of this type of community, Patrick said, must be a person of impeccable character, have an experience of gospel renewal, and be a person who boldly expresses biblical truth. Only because of the work of the Holy Spirit, this person will look like Jesus.
Ready to Disciple
Worship throughout the event was led by the St. Louis-based band, August Gate. The group kicked off Tuesday's (Aug. 26) activities, setting the stage for Alex Himaya, pastor of The Church at BattleCreek in Tulsa, Okla., and his message, "Ready to Disciple."
Himaya's primary point included Jesus' discipleship model. Jesus personally called his disciples, taught them about relationships, led them to sacrifice and serve, and He taught them to be "fishers of men."
"If you want to disciple, the process that Jesus takes his disciples through ends in you and I being fishers of men," Himaya said. "We are a part of this Great Commission that He has left with us.
"Somewhere in this journey you get a wakeup call that says, 'I have to go back and tell people that they are lost and dying without Jesus,'" Himaya said. "When it comes to the end, people are going to know that this is all that matters."
Ready to Lead
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said everyone can learn to lead better, and there's no better source to learn leadership from than the Bible. He focused his message on the Book of Nehemiah, where the Israelite leader portrayed several keys traits that enabled God to use him in leadership.
Nehemiah was ready to lead from the inside out, Floyd said. Because he had mourned, fasted and prayed, he got his answer quickly, said Floyd as he pointed to Nehemiah 1:4. The Israelite leader also didn't react to the situation before he turned to God for help.
Other key traits leaders possess, Floyd said, include being consumed by a vision, rallying people to a better future, persevering through adversity and discouragement, and being able to lead until the vision is complete.
On the topic of leading through adversity and discouragement, Floyd noted there are times when everyone needs encouragement. Leadership concepts that Nehemiah displayed in leading through discouragement included planning, uniting the people, and instilling confidence in what they were doing.
Christian leaders should be focused and lead forward through difficult times, Floyd said. "Forward leaders are Bible-based, Jesus-centered, and Spirit-filled."
Ready to Shepherd
Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Vermont, suggested that one can never be completely ready to begin a pastorate or ministry.
"You're not ready to shepherd until you're neck-deep in the sheep," Wilson said. "Until you know what it is that keeps your people up at night; what breaks their hearts; what they're praying about; and what they're worrying about, then you're not ready to shepherd. You're not ready until you've had your heart moved by these people or had it broken in some way by them. The shattering of your heart is the preparing."
Pulling from 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5, Wilson said one is ready when he is able to sacrifice his dreams. It should become less about himself and more about his flock.
Wilson concluded his message noting that one is fully ready to shepherd when he has had an experience with the Gospel. "When you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and it has ruined you for everything else, then you are ready," he said.
To view all major sessions of the For the Church Conference, visit http://www.mbts.edu/video-category/conference/.
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).