By Tim Ellsworth
Contributing Writer, Baptist and Reflector
SEVIERVILLE — Pastors must guard against ambition and pride if their ministries are to be characterized by faithfulness and not by failure, Paige Patterson told pastors attending the 2016 Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference Nov. 14.
“The Lord is serious about this business of ministry,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. “We need to make up our minds now that to the end we’ll be faithful to the Lord.”
Patterson used the story of Jephthah in Judges 11 as an example of a man who was incredibly gifted, but who ended up disappointed, resentful, bitter, and not a model for ministry. He said Jephthah was incompetent in his judgments, intoxicated by ambition, incorrigible in his impulsiveness, and insufferable in his pride.
“The more gifted, adroit, able a man is, the more trouble he is in,” Patterson said. “Satan puts a target on his back and determines to bring him down.”
Todd Stinnett, senior pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, served as the conference president and selected “Unknown Heroes” as the conference theme to honor the state’s bivocational pastors.
“In my opinion, bivocational pastors are the unknown heroes of our Tennessee Baptist Convention,” Stinnett said. “We may not know their names, not all of them, but they are faithfully blooming where God has planted them.”
Stinnett introduced Vic Cline, the bivocational pastor of Mountain Shadows Baptist Church in Grangeville, Idaho, who said he labored as a bivocational pastor because of his love for the people of the church. Cline encouraged pastors to pray that bivocational pastors would guard their prayer lives, because it’s easy to abandon prayer in the busyness of a bivocational pastor’s life.
Jim Collier, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Mem-phis, preached from Jeremiah 38 about the Ethiopian servant Ebed-melech, saying that the job of the pastor is to be a servant of the king.
A good servant speaks the truth, acts in kindness, hears from heaven and experiences deliverance, Collier said.
“Our job at its very zenith of our life is just to be a good servant,” Collier said. “That’s what God’s called us to do.
“None of us have been called to be the savior. None of us have been called to be the spokesman. … We have just been called to serve the king.”
Steven Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., spoke to pastors from Matthew 25 about living with their feet on the ground and their eyes on eternity.
“It’s not your church,” Rummage said. “It’s not your ministry. It’s not your giftedness. It’s not your ability. It’s not even your life, because the Word of God says you have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus.”
Rummage encouraged pastors to be faithful with what God has given them, even if they may think their gifts are insignificant compared to others.
“What God has given you is still immensely valuable,” he said. “You’re responsible for what you have. You’re responsible for being faithful where you are with what God has given you.”
James Noble, assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Anderson (S.C.) University, preached from I Kings 22 about the prophet Micaiah, saying that culture today often has a view of right and wrong that is completely backwards. What’s happening, he said, is not a redefining of truth but a decaying of truth.
That’s why Noble said pastors must be faithful in preaching the truth of Scripture, in fearing the Lord, and in obeying their calling. They must speak the truth with courage even when it’s not popular and when people don’t want to hear it.
“Truth, my friends, will prevail,” Noble said. “I know the truth hurts, but the truth heals. I know truth may be unpopular at times, but truth is also unstoppable. Truth can be painful, but truth is powerful.”
Monty Hamilton, pastor of Come As You Are Bible Fellowship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., preached on Cushi, who delivered news to the king in II Samuel 18.
“You may not finish first when you’re an unknown hero of the gospel,” Hamilton said. “Your name may never be in lights. You may never end up in a church where somebody else cuts the grass and somebody else drives the van. But if you’ve been a witness when you get to the king, the king will say ‘Well done.’ ”
Preaching from II Samuel 11, Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, used Uriah as an example of a frontline soldier for God. Haun cited four characteristics of Uriah that he said pastors must share: Uriah was a man of unapologetic faith in God, of unblemished integrity before God, of uncommon sacrifice for God, and of unquestionable obedience to God.
“Don’t you dare quit,” Haun said. “You keep on fighting through. Don’t you give up. You lift up your head. You be strong and courageous and you be obedient.”
Tim McGehee, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma, was selected as president-elect for the 2018 conference. Collier was chosen as president-elect last year and will serve as president for the 2017 conference in Hendersonville. Derek Smith, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Clarksville, was elected secretary-treasurer.