On Nov. 10-11, pastors and families from Baptist churches across the state gathered at Southside Baptist Church in Spartanburg for the annual South Carolina Baptist Pastors Conference. The theme of the two-day event was “Speak the Truth in Love,” a message affirmed through the various messages delivered by six speakers, including renowned author Bruce Wilkinson.
On Sunday, Ryan Pack, senior pastor of Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Irmo, spoke on the pastor’s burden. Using Mark 14:32-36 as his text, Pack pointed to Jesus as the pastor’s example.
“We often come to God as pastors; we often come to God as ministry professionals,” he said, “but how often do we come to God as a child?”
Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Church in Arden, N.C., spoke on gospel-centered compassion and convictions from Luke 7:36-50.
“You’re beating your head against a wall if you are asking a lost person to act saved,” Frank explained. “The real question is: Are saved people acting like saved people?” Pastors are often judgmental, he said, rather than demonstrating the love of Jesus toward those who desperately need it.
On Monday, Ken Reid, senior pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Walhalla, asked, “Are We There Yet?”
Preaching from Luke 22:54-62, Reid emphasized Simon Peter’s failure as a result of “following Jesus at a distance.” Until the pastor draws close to Jesus, he said, he will not be effective in ministry or satisfied in his soul.
After a special recognition of military veterans present, Dondi Costin, president of Charleston Southern University, compared the Berlin Wall to a spiritual wall in America.
“Our culture has, unfortunately, today built a wall – a wall that separates them from the truth of the gospel,” said Costin. His text was Judges 6:1-15, and Gideon was his example of a leader who ran from —but ultimately embraced — the call of God to bring revival to His people.
On Monday afternoon, Jason Jimenez, founder of Stand Strong Ministries, urged attendees to start healing conversations in ministry, beginning with the caring question, “Can you help me better understand your position?” Pride, insecurities and sexual sins are keeping pastors from leading healthy congregations, he said.
Keynote speaker Bruce Wilkinson of the Exponential Group challenged attendees from 2 Timothy 4:2. He pointed out that pastors gravitate toward people who agree with them, but most of the New Testament is about correction and not agreement.
There is a great need to speak directly to the moral and cultural issues that church members are no longer clear about, said Wilkinson. He lamented, “We value the lack of offense rather than the change of repentance.”
Schuyler Peterson, president of the Pastors’ Conference, said the event was successful and felt the theme was clearly communicated. “Though each speaker’s approach was different, one message that was clearly communicated by all was that judgmental attitudes, division, conflict and sin in our churches and in the pulpit hinder every effort to reach the lost souls in our state with the gospel message,” he said.
Worship was led by Roger Ferrell, missionary to Maine, his wife, Caroline, and their daughter Emmie. Special music was also provided by Christie, Elena, and Saige Peterson, and by Dillon Hollifield and Josh Epton.
Officers for this year’s conference were Peterson, Chad Campbell, vice president, and Michael Welch, treasurer. The 2020 Pastors Conference will be led by Campbell, Welch, and Zach Shaw of Jones Avenue Baptist Church in Easley, who was elected treasurer.