Pastors find hope and encouragement at Riverland Hills

Meeting at Riverland Hills Baptist Church Nov. 14 in sessions featuring the theme of “Hope and Encouragement,” Pastors Conference attendees heard messages from their retiring state executive, two pastors from Easley, and another from Greer.

South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Gary Hollingsworth opened the conference with a message from the book of Nehemiah.

“Our firm call has to be followed by our strong faith,” Hollingsworth told pastors. “We have to know that it is time to roll up our sleeves and continue to persevere, … to keep doing what God has called us to do.

“We are not in this by ourselves,” Hollingsworth reminded pastors. “We do need each other,” he said, adding, “Thank God for the brothers and sisters that God puts in our lives.”

Highlighting two recurring themes in Nehemiah 3 — “next to him” and “after him” — he said, “Let’s not miss the point of teamwork.”

“So, let me ask you, who’s next to you?” he asked. “Somebody is going to come after me, and somebody is going to come after you,” he added, emphasizing the need to be encouraging and mentoring others in ministry.

Artis Bufford, pastor of One Church in Easley, an African-American congregation affiliated with the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, urged pastors to take some time and sleep, finding significance in Jesus going to sleep in the back of a boat in Mark 4.

“As ministers, we should seek to move the hearts and heads, or minds, of men and women toward the Master and call them from sin to salvation,” Bufford said. Some movement should be happening in churches, he asserted.

“But a moving ministry will quickly create a tired minister,” he continued, noting that if Jesus, the Son of God, took time to sleep, then surely pastors should take some time to rest, too.

“The reason you need to sleep is because while ministry is rewarding, ministry is also hard work,” he said. “We don’t have to die for a church that Jesus has already died for,” he added. “Take time to sleep.”

Keith Kelly, pastor of His Vineyard Church in Greer, focusing on Jeremiah 12:6, encouraged pastors who are “faithfully withstanding the firing squad.”

“The elephant in the room is that somewhere over the past 15, maybe 20 years, we’ve begun to think that God has called some of us to serve on the firing squad,” he said. “We’re taking each other out on the right and left.”

Some pastors and church members, he said, are “giving him [Satan] a break. He’s not even having to take us out. We’re doing it to one another.”

“We are members of the same team,” he reminded pastors. “It is most evident that we have not prayed about each other as we should. If we had, we would not talk about each other as we do,” Kelly said.

“If God can be so merciful to us, how then can we not be to one another?” he said.

David Gallamore, pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, preaching from Galatians 6:9, counseled fellow pastors to “be careful how you judge another brother.”

“Pray for the person beside you, in front of you, and behind you,” he urged. “You never know what they may be going through.”

“We live in a cold, cold world, and sometimes we need a brother to pick us up,” he added.

 Speaking to pastors who have found themselves in difficult circumstances, Gallamore exhorted, “Hang on to this promise: In due season, you shall reap.”

“Sometimes we misunderstand the seasons, and we get down,” he continued. “We feel like we’re spinning our wheels … . You don’t see any fruit from your labor.”

Urging pastors who may be tempted to give up to remain steadfast, Gallamore asserted, “Don’t give up. Hold on. One of these days, God’s going to give the reward. … Keep on, and in time you will reap — if you faint not.”

Mark Kreiger, of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in Belton, will serve as the 2023 president. Stephen Cannon, of Millbrook Baptist Church, Aiken, was named president-elect, and Kyle Caudell, of North Anderson Baptist Church, will serve as treasurer.