2014 SYNC Conference at CSU: Effective Churches Require Strong Leaders

Speakers at Charleston Southern’s recent SYNC conference had strong words for church leaders about stepping up and leading.

D.J. Horton, senior pastor of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church in Moore and the current president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said the majority of the 2,100 Southern Baptist churches in South Carolina are baptizing no one and making no disciples.

To revitalize the church, he said, Christ-followers need to join God in transforming the local church that is not consistently making disciples in Christ into one that is. Horton stressed that programs, processes, plans and priorities don’t revitalize churches – people do. “If you look at the most effective churches in our state, you will find a strong leader leading them,” he said. Pastoring and ministering are about leading people, he said.

Will Browning, teaching pastor of Journey Church in Summerville, spoke on vision casting. He defined leadership as the ability to influence people to make different decisions and casting a vision as influencing people toward a decision that is a vision for the future.

Browning said, “The first question to ask is, what is the problem that has to be addressed for this vision to be cast?” The church first needs to understand the compelling reason why something needs to be done, he said.

Browning tied the concept of casting a vision back to the church leader. “Vision cannot be disconnected from the life of the vision-caster,” he said. “You can’t say to others, ‘This is critical in your life, but I am too busy to do it.’ If you want a church that shares the gospel, that prays, you better be doing it yourself. You cannot disconnect the vision from the person who is casting it.”

D.A. Horton, executive director of ReachLife Ministries and the national coordinator for urban student missions at the North American Mission Board, emphasized living a gospel-centered life, citing Colossians 1:3-8.

“A gospel-centered life is made evident when thankfulness and prayer are practiced regularly and we personify faith, hope, love and a healthy commitment to the local body God has called us to be a part of,” said Horton. One suggestion he offered church leaders was to pray through the membership roll. “When we are praying, the entire godhead is involved in our prayer. Praying for the saints with an attitude of thankfulness – that is a gospel-centered life,” he said.

Horton listed the three elements of ministerial success as:

  1. Faithfulness to the Scripture (Acts 20:24)
  2. Reality of spiritual maturity becoming the normal rigor for our context, holding Ephesians 4:11-16 as the goal of the church
  3. Setting up the generation that is going to come after us; leaving a legacy. “If I’m not to be Billy Graham, that’s fine – help me to be content in shepherding these faithful few, to be faithful to the Scriptures and to love them with your love.”

Rob Pierce, pastor of Latta Baptist Church, said, “I came away from the conference this year with a renewed vision for ministry in the local church and community. Ideas and strategies for innovative approaches to ministry were relevant and applicable. I look forward to SYNC ’15 and hope many of my colleagues in ministry across our state will be there as well.”

The annual SYNC conference at Charleston Southern teaches church leaders to be “Gospel-Centered and Missional Leading.”