By Tim Ellsworth
Contributing writer, B&R
KNOXVILLE — Speakers at the 2019 Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference held Nov. 18 at First Baptist Concord addressed the theme “Run with Endurance” as they encouraged pastors to persevere in their ministries, even in times of difficulty and struggle.
The theme came from Hebrews 12:1-2. Scott Parkinson, lead pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville and president of this year’s conference, said he hoped pastors would have a fresh encounter with God through the event and be empowered to serve Him with increasing fruitfulness.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said one of the issues that repeatedly surfaces in his conversations with Tennessee pastors is the challenge of holding onto convictions while still being compassionate in a culture that is increasingly anti-Christ.
Davis said the TBMB will be addressing that question in the days ahead, but he encouraged pastors with a short answer: preach the word.
“Go into the pulpit with a word from God,” Davis said in the conference’s final message. “Do not be so concerned with being as clever as the guy is at the conference. Don’t be so concerned with illustrating your message by driving a tank onto the stage.
“It will be far more productive if you take the message that God has laid on your heart and enter into a prayer closet and not come out until He’s anointed your heart, anointed your life and anointed the message.”
Roc Collins, strategic objectives director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, told pastors they need to get in the habit of “looking up,” based on the words of David in Psalm 3.
“If we look up, it means we’re not looking at ourselves,” Collins said. “Sometimes when we look at ourselves, we see all of what we can’t do.”
According to Psalm 3, Collins said, when David looked up, he saw his attackers and that they were multiplying against him. But Collins encouraged pastors when they felt attacked, even by multitudes of people, to remember their calling. David, after all, was the one anointed by God as king, and not Absalom, who was seeking to overthrow him.
“Look up, and remember it was God who called you,” Collins said. “And though the enemy may increase, and though there may be many and you can’t count them all, it’s still God who called you.”
Kewon Foster, pastor of Out of Love Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia, said the position of pastor is one that often requires a “spot,” much like weightlifters who are trying to bench press a heavy load need someone to stand over them and “spot” them if they struggle to lift the weight.
Foster preached from Exodus 18:13-27, in which Moses’ father-in-law advised him how to handle leadership of the children of Israel by appointing men to help judge disputes.
“God did not design us to lift the burdens of ministry on our own,” Foster said. “God will send people into your life to give you a spot, to help you out, to help lift the burden of ministry off you.”
Josh Carter, pastor of Remedy City Church in Portland, Oregon, said pastors are in a spiritual battle and often feel unequal to the task. He cited statistics indicating that 1,700 pastors a month leave the ministry.
Preaching from John 21, where Jesus restored Peter after Peter’s denial, Carter gave pastors three realities to help them endure spiritual hardships of ministry.
First, Carter said that God must first do in the lives of pastors what He wants to do through them. Second, God’s ultimate plan for their lives is not ministry but intimacy. And third, intimacy with Christ leads to endurance that bears fruit for eternity.
“Peter had to realize that he wasn’t enough for the ministry, that he didn’t have enough strength for the ministry,” Carter said. “It was Jesus’ strength in him.”
Brady Cooper, pastor of New Vision Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, shared about his struggle with depression and admitted that envy was one of the reasons for it.
Envy, Cooper said, is an enemy to endurance. Envy reveals spiritual immaturity, rots the soul, is an organizational cancer and in essence says that God made a mistake with how He planned things.
“Envy is not ultimately horizontal,” Cooper said. “Envy is ultimately vertical. When we have envy and jealousy, we’re really denying the sovereignty of God in our lives.”
To combat envy, Cooper encouraged pastors to “run in their lane” by refusing to compare themselves to others and by learning to celebrate the successes of others.
Corey Cain, pastor of Maplewood Baptist Church, Paris, preached from Acts 20:28-29 about how pastors can endure the dangers that come with their ministry.
Cain said guarding the flock and proclaiming the Word of God are the two main tasks to which God calls pastors, and those tasks come with occupational hazards.
“We don’t preach our opinions,” Cain said. “We don’t preach to elevate ourselves. We don’t preach to enrich ourselves. … We will be held responsible for how we handle God’s Word.”
Cain told pastors that by understanding their calling, by being humble and by being accountable they can more effectively face the challenges that come their way.
Cain, the president-elect for this year’s conference, will serve as the president for the 2020 conference at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood. In officer elections, Derek Smith, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church, Clarksville, was chosen as president-elect for 2021 while Frank Bowling, pastor of First Baptist Church, Medina, was selected as treasurer. B&R — Video of all conference messages is available at tnbaptist.org/summit-2019.