Danny Burnley, pastor of West Gantt First Baptist Church in Greenville, was elected president of the South Carolina Baptist Pastor’s Conference by acclamation at the group’s annual meeting Nov. 13 at Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Taylors.
Burnley was vice president of the conference at the time of his election.
The new vice president is Hans Wunch, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Ware Shoals. He is the immediate past secretary-treasurer of the conference. Selected to succeed Wunch was Reiny Koschel, pastor of First Baptist Church in Abbeville.
Bill Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, presided over the conference, which precedes the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
The theme of the conference was “The Pastor’s Work.”
“There is no job more challenging on the face of the earth than that of pastor,” Curtis said in presenting the theme, which he said was taken from the advice of the apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy to “complete the ministry God has given you.”
Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, which was host for the convention meeting, said that pastors must be men of God, warning them that “there are giants in the world today that would do us in.”
Page listed factions and divisions as “giants that would destroy us.” He said the existence of “all kinds of groups” do not pose a threat to the fellowship of Southern Baptists “as long as we say, ‘You are my brother or sister, and we will win the world to Jesus together.’”
He challenged the pastors to become “giant killers” like David, noting that “when God’s men become the giant killers God has called them to be, the people will follow.”
Page said the power to be giant killers can come only from God. “David,” he said, “believed in the power of the Lord God Almighty, and we must come against the giants of this land in that same name.”
Widely known author and speaker David Jeremiah, who is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., closed the evening session with a challenge to the pastors to relish their role as teachers.
“You don’t have to make a choice between being a preacher or teacher or evangelist – to decide whether to reach or to teach,” he said. “Every teacher is not a pastor, but every pastor must be a teacher. If not, the sheep will not be fed.”
Jeremiah, noting that Jesus was described 45 times in the New Testament as teacher, declared that as disciples of Jesus, “we ourselves must be teachers.”
He said that pastors as teachers must “intersect truth with the life of a person in such a way that the person is transformed, never to be the same again.”
Jeremiah pointed out that teaching is a passion and not a profession, that it is about reproduction rather than retention, that any who are not teaching need to be taught, and that the joy of teaching is accompanied by God’s judgment of the teacher.
Pastors teach, he said, “with their lips and their lives, with their words and their works.”
“Whatever else you do,” he said to the pastors, “be a teacher.”
Tony Walliser, pastor of Silverdale Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., challenged the pastors to “care for the flock of God,” noting that sheep need to be nurtured and led.
“Pastors are called to be shepherds,” he said, adding that “people need shepherds who love them.”
Characterizing the members of local churches as sheep, Walliser emphasized the need for pastors to “shepherd them, know them and live among them.”
“When we shepherd,” he pointed out, “leading becomes a whole lot easier.”
Pastors as shepherds ought to “serve willingly,” choosing “devotion over duty,” and “serving eagerly” with the “spirit of giving rather than getting,” Walliser said.
He also said that shepherds should “serve humbly” rather than with a desire to control.
“Jesus taught servanthood,” he underscored. “That needs to be the example we show to others, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and cooking breakfast for them after his resurrection.
“In the scheme of God,” he said, “those who serve are the greatest. As shepherds, we are to walk humbly with our people.”
Walliser said that pastors who serve as shepherds will earn “the loyalty of their congregations and the honor of Christ, which is an unfailing crown of glory.”
Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagles’ Landing Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Ga., challenged the pastors to be “good soldiers and athletes,” emphasizing that it takes strength to be a pastor.
“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” he said, noting that serving as pastor is “an awesome privilege, whether you’re preaching to two or 2,000.”
Drawing on the image of the pastor as soldier, Dowdy pointed out that good soldiers “don’t quit when life is tough, they are loyal to a cause, and they remain focused on their mission.”
“It’s going to get tough,” he assured the pastors, “but don’t forget where your loyalty lies. You must remain focused on your mission of service to Jesus Christ while avoiding being distracted by things that don’t really matter.”
Dowdy said that athletes are “competitors, not coaches.”
“Coaches,” he said, “never get into the game. God has goal lines, but no sidelines.”
He encouraged the pastors to “keep fit for the task,” studying the Bible with discipline so that “we’ll know what we’re talking about.”
He said the work of the pastor can also be compared to that of a farmer, who must be “willing to roll up his sleeves and go to work.”
“Be faithful,” he said, “and don’t worry about success. Just be faithful and watch what God will do.”
He also said the pastor must be patient – planting, weeding and watering each day until one day the reward comes. “We expect people to change overnight,” he said.
Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., called upon pastors to be involved in the life of their communities, a role that will “get you in trouble if you preach the word of God.”
“We ought to be doing good works in our communities, showing that we care about people,” he emphasized, “but we must also be preaching the word. And when you do, some people will not want to hear it.”
He encouraged the pastors to be soul winners, practicing the “Great Commission,” fulfilling the “Good Commission” by caring for hurting people, and carrying out the “Godly Commission” by “taking the message of righteousness into the culture.
“If we as pastors don’t get our message outside the walls of the church,” he asked, “who else will do it?”
“God has not called us to build the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but to stand up for righteousness, even when people don’t want to hear it,” he declared.
Fox said the church should be more interested in being a lighthouse rather than an institution in the community.
John Avant, vice president of evangelism for the North American Mission Board, said there are three keys to evangelism: “the pastor, the pastor, the pastor.”
“You,” he said, referring to the pastors, “are what it will take” to win the lost for Jesus Christ.
“God is ready to show his power,” Avant said, “if we’ll say, ‘Lord, I’m ready.’”
Avant said pastors as evangelists must have power as people “with the favor of God upon them.”
God’s favor, or grace, “rests on humble, servant leaders,” he explained. “If you want the favor of God, become servant leaders with a desperate love for depraved people.”
He described servant leaders as “spirit-led adventurers” for Christ, demonstrating “true community” by the unity they exhibit.”
He called on Baptists to “stop tearing each other apart over issues less important than the word of God.”
Avant said Southern Baptists must decide whether to be “people of the book” with a “desire to reach lost people” – which he said will determine “whether God has a use for us as Southern Baptists.”
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said that evangelical Southern Baptists are in “serious trouble” because many have rejected their role as pastor-theologians.
Alluding to what he called a “crisis” in the evangelical community, Akin said “people don’t act like Jesus because they don’t think like Jesus.”
He attributed the problem to pastors “who are not teaching the Bible, who are not teaching theology.”
He urged pastors to “love truth, embrace the church and be defenders of the truth.”
He noted that truth and love travel on “dual tracks.”
“Truth without love becomes legalism,” he said, “and love without truth becomes sentimentalism.”
Akin underscored that “what you believe about Jesus will determine what you believe about everything else, but most people don’t know what they believe about Jesus.”
He called for the expository approach to preaching, in which the text “defines the substance of your preaching.”
Charles Lowery, president of the Lowery Institute for Excellence in Lindale, Tex., spoke on the importance of relationships because “people are everywhere.”
Noting that it is “not good for man to be alone,” Lowery said that pastors as well as other believers “need to be around other personalities to be what God wants us to be.”
“You can’t be what God wants you to be by yourself,” he emphasized.
Pointing out that “relationships take work,” Lowery added that they are “spiritual” in nature.
He said that “people need love the most when they deserve it the least.”
By example, Jesus “loved people the way that God wants them to be loved.”
The pastors also heard a testimony from Sen. Jim DeMint of Greenville, who told how he at one time ran from God because he resented “rules” that limited his freedom, but how he eventually found real freedom in Jesus Christ.
“I finally was able to see the Bible in a way that set me free,” he said. “I had sought freedom, and I found it in Christ.”
DeMint told of the importance of faith in his life, saying that it is an “integral part of my politics.”