When the doors of the chapel at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston opened on Nov. 12 for the South Carolina Baptist Pastors Conference, pastors from all over the state gathered to worship, fellowship and receive encouragement. The number of pastors and wives grew throughout the day until the expansive chapel was nearly full by the evening session.
Attendees to this year’s meeting were greeted by Bennie Durham, this year’s conference president, who detailed the theme of the day: “Faithful to the End.” Travis Burns, the music pastor at Clearview Baptist Church in Travelers Rest, along with his parents on piano and organ, provided the music. This was followed by a welcome and prayer from Mt. Moriah’s pastor, Augustus Robinson Jr.
Durham, currently a chaplain-deputy with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, shared his testimony of how God called him into the ministry and, in particular, into chaplaincy. After music by a Southern gospel trio from Clearview, Durham introduced his pastor, Michael Welch.
Welch used 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 to pose the question: “Is the Church Beautiful?” His sermon answered the question in the affirmative, owing to the fact that the church belongs to Jesus. Despite its problems and issues (going back to New Testament times), Christ makes His people beautiful.
Attendance increased in the afternoon session. After thanking the sponsors of the Pastors Conference, Durham introduced Randy Bradley, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association in Taylors. Bradley preached on “Losing Your Edge,” referencing 2 Kings 6:1-7. Comparing the burnt-out pastor to the prophet who lost his ax head, Bradley challenged our state’s pastors to stay sharp.
His Vineyard founding pastor Keith Kelly preached the next message from Jeremiah 12:5. With great enthusiasm, Kelly urged pastors to prepare themselves in advance to meet great adversity.
Next on the program was James Noble, assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Anderson University. Noble began his message by recognizing the military veterans present in the congregation. He then preached about “The Truth of God,” reminding his listeners that the Bible is “the only thing that will stop ‘truth decay’ in our culture.”
After the dinner break, Retta Durham led a women’s Bible study in a breakout room, while those gathered in the chapel enjoyed music from Clearview’s adult choir. Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and 2018 president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, spoke to a full house about “Building Bridges,” the theme of the convention for the following day. Bob Cline, vice president for church relations at Anderson University, then presented the school’s annual Pastor of the Year awards.
After the women’s group returned to the chapel, Gary Hollingsworth, executive director-treasurer of the SCBC, spoke on “The Mystery of God” from Ephesians 2:14-15. “Why did God bring us into his family?” he asked. His answer: “Because He loves us.” Hollingsworth urged pastors to preach the biblical message of love and empathy and related it to the convention theme of “Building Bridges.”
Ken Weathersby, the final speaker, spoke directly to the conference theme of “Faithful to the End.” Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, used Philippians 3:14 to motivate pastors to rejoice always, even in suffering.
The Pastors Conference closed with a four-member panel that briefly discussed issues of racial reconciliation, giving those in attendance a taste of what would come the next day.
The 2019 South Carolina Baptist Convention and Pastors Conference is slated to be held in Spartanburg. Officers are president Schuyler Peterson (Southside Baptist Church, Spartanburg), vice president Chad Campbell (Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Easley), and secretary-reasurer Michael Welch (Clearview Baptist Church, Travelers Rest).