By Tim Ellsworth
Union University News Office
HENDERSONVILLE — A sick church in today’s culture is likely the result of ineffective and ailing leaders and ministers, David Platt said Nov. 13 at the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference.
Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, was the final speaker for the conference at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville. He said the Old Testament prophets were addressing not just the sickness of the nation of Israel but their own shortcomings as well.
“It’s time for our hearts to be right before the Lord,” Platt said.
Preaching from Exodus 32 and the story of Aaron making the golden calf, Platt identified four “golden calves” of the contemporary church, saying that pastors have become leaders without conviction, have celebrated salvation without dedication, have manufactured worship without humiliation and have created a God without retribution.
“We’ve created a whole cultural Christianity that prioritizes all sorts of man-centered traditions over God-centered truth,” Platt said. “We’ve created a cheapened Christianity that promises people everything and costs people nothing.
“Could it be that we’ve led people to be casual with sin because we’re casual with sin?” he continued. “God help us to see He is more interested in the sanctity of our lives than He is in the success of our ministry.”
Tim McGehee, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma, said pastors must be compassionate people if they are to reach the lost for Christ.
“Our denomination with all of its resources, all of its money, all of its talents, all of its personnel, can equip us for ministry, but the one thing that our great denomination cannot do for us is give us a deep-rooted sense of compassion for people around us who need God’s love and forgiveness,” McGehee said. “That is something the Lord himself must give us.
McGehee said Matthew 9:35-38 shows how Jesus was moved by the sight, size and sufferings of the multitude, and pastors must follow that example in taking the gospel to those who are sick, weak, hurting, addicted, homeless and suffering.
“God did not call us to be a coffeehouse, a concert hall or a country club,” McGehee said. “He called us to be a lighthouse.”
Todd Stinnett, pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, showed from I John 2:1-2 how Jesus is the best friend a sinner can have.
Jesus is a sinner’s advocate, Savior, Messiah, righteousness, and redeemer, Stinnett said.
“There’s going to come a day and a time when you are going to stand before the judge,” Stinnett said. “Either you will stand by yourself, or Jesus Christ, your advocate, will stand with you. If you stand by yourself, if you stand in your own righteousness, you will be cast into hell forever.
“But if Jesus Christ stands with you, you will never spend one moment in hell, because Jesus said, ‘I have gone to prepare a place for you.’ ”
Afshin Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, told pastors that the gospel has the power to transform lives and send people out on mission.
“A proper understanding of the gospel is fuel for radical discipleship and mission,” Ziafat said.
Ziafat, who became a Christian as a teenager after being raised as a Muslim, shared about the challenges he faced as a result of his conversion and the conflict it caused with his family, especially with the father who disowned him.
“You become the greatest example, worthy for others to follow, when you follow Jesus — not when everything is going good in your life, but when everything is falling apart, and you’ve got affliction, and you keep following Him,” Ziafat said.
Stan May, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Miss., encouraged pastors to lead their churches to give sacrificially to missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. He used the example of the Apostle Paul’s life to show that one person can make a difference in such endeavors.
Paul’s ambition was to please Jesus, May said, preaching from II Corinthians 5:7-10.
“You and I have been given one divine task, and that is to train our people to be like Jesus, and to love the Lord Jesus Christ and to live to please Him,” May said. “If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to lead to please Jesus.”
Bartholomew Orr, pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, said the church cannot keep the gospel to itself but must “unlock the door” and take it to a world in need.
Preaching from John 20:19-23, where Jesus appeared to His disciples who were hiding behind locked doors, Orr said that Jesus gave His people peace, proof and purpose.
“Despite what is happening on the outside — we’re living in crazy times, there is a lot of darkness and division all across our state, all across our land and country — but because of what Jesus has done on the inside, we must unlock the doors and go,” Orr said.
McGehee, the president-elect for this year’s conference, presided over the event because Jim Collier, who was to serve as president, moved from Kirby Woods Baptist Church to a church in North Carolina. McGehee will serve as president for next year’s conference in Jackson.
Scott Parkison, senior pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, was selected as president-elect for the 2019 conference. Daryl Crouch, senior pastor of Green Hill Baptist Church in Mount Juliet, was elected secretary-treasurer.