MILLINGTON — Focusing on the theme from Isaiah 64:1 of “Rend the Heavens and Come Down,” speakers at the 2015 Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference at First Baptist Church in Millington addressed a number of topics related to revival.
Grant Gaines, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Jackson, emphasized the need for sound doctrine in churches as the basis for revival and for the well-being of believers.
Preaching from I Timothy 1: 3-4, Gaines said if churches are to be healthy, sound teaching must be established and false teaching must be stopped.
A revival of sound teaching, Gaines said, requires the care of church leaders, the rebuke of false teachers, an understanding of false teaching, and order in God’s house.
“If we are going to experience revival, it’s not going to be because we have discovered some new revelation,” Gaines said. “If we are going to experience revival, it’s going to be because we have rediscovered some very ancient revelation.”
Ted Traylor, senior pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., reminded pastors that when they preach the gospel and during times when they struggle, God is their helper.
God offers that help by empowering them and providing a forgiving spirit even when pastors have been wronged and mistreated, Traylor said.
“God has chosen to forget your sin,” Traylor said. “Friend, there are days when you will have to have the grace of God to help you forgive what has been done against you.”
Bartholomew Orr, senior pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., preached from Jeremiah 37:1-10 about Zedekiah’s rejection of God’s message to him through Jeremiah. Orr likened that example to issues facing the United States – saying that sin is the real problem in the nation, and righteousness is the only solution.
Americans, like Zedekiah, want things both ways, Orr said. Zedekiah and the people of Judah didn’t listen to God and didn’t obey God’s commands, but yet they wanted God’s blessings.
“God is looking for somebody who is willing to take a stand, somebody who is willing to speak up for what is right, who is willing to speak out against what is wrong,” Orr said. “God is saying, ‘I need some preacher who knows that judgment is coming and yet they won’t sugar coat the Word of God. They won’t water it down.’ ”
Kevin Hamm, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala., told pastors they needed to recover their passion for Jesus by remembering what He had done and repenting of cold and apathetic hearts.
Despite more churches, Hamm said the nation is a mess because many of those churches are dead. He said laboring and persevering does not guarantee God’s favor or blessing, nor does being doctrinally and theologically sound, nor does maintaining an active church calendar.
“You can’t mistake busyness for blessing,” Hamm said. “You can’t mistake activities for anointing. You cannot mistake programs for power. We work right, we think right, we act right, but friends, the truth is, in many churches we do not have His power, we don’t have His blessing, we don’t have His anointing, we don’t have His glory.”
Instead, Hamm said pastors and churches must return to Jesus, their first love, and should be characterized by internal passion and external praise.
Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, told pastors that they are a part of something that can’t be contained – the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God, and the church of Jesus Christ.
“Our Savior, our master, is alive and well, and the message of the gospel hasn’t changed,” Graham said.
Preaching from Zechariah 4, Graham offered some principles for revival, saying that God is strong when His people are weak, that He will provide where He guides, that He will finish what He starts, and that little is much when God is in it.
“Sometimes we think that what we do is small and insignificant, that nobody knows, nobody cares,” Graham said. “Your church doesn’t get the headlines. Nobody’s writing stories about your life, your ministry.”
But Graham said pastors need to stop worrying about what they think is small and start focusing on what God says is significant.
“What God says is significant is what you are doing when you fulfill His calling in your life,” Graham said.
James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, Ill., closed the conference by exhorting pastors from II Timothy 4 to persevere in their ministry, no matter how difficult it may be. Citing Paul’s letter written from prison, he told pastors they shouldn’t be motivated by acknowledgment and appreciation in this life.
“Look how this is ending up here,” MacDonald said. “This is not awesome. This is Paul, and it’s ending in a train wreck. He doesn’t have any plaques. He doesn’t have a nice office. He doesn’t have a bonus or a retirement plan. He’s about to pay the ultimate price for his loyalty to Jesus. He’s going to be killed for it.”
MacDonald challenged pastors to remain faithful in preaching the Bible.
“If most of what you’re saying when you’re preaching isn’t things you learned with your nose in this book, you’re not preaching the Word,” he said. “You preach what you learned when you studied God’s Word. That’s what preaching the Word is.”
MacDonald also encouraged pastors by telling them they were fully equipped by God to fulfill their ministry.
“God doesn’t want you to be Steve Gaines or Jack Graham,” MacDonald said. “God wants you to be the most authentic version of yourself that you can be. You’re not lacking anything to do to the maximum what God’s called you to do. There are no gifts missing. There’s no message missing. There’s no spirit missing. … No one here is deficient in any regard to fulfill the call that God has given them to preach the Word.”
Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, served as president of this year’s conference. In officer elections, Jim Collier, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, was selected as president-elect for the 2017 conference. Todd Stinnett, senior pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, was chosen as president-elect last year and will serve as president for the 2016 conference in Sevierville. Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg, was re-elected as secretary-treasurer.