June 23, 1999

Pastors encouraged to be
'empowered for tomorrow'

___ATLANTA--The Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference examined a range of issues as they explored how to be "empowered for tomorrow" during their 1999 annual meeting, June 13-14 in Atlanta.
___New conference President Jerry Sutton called on Christians to experience God's glory by seeking it in prayer and securing it in power so that they may see it in practice.
___Experiencing God' glory in prayer involves taking on a humble posture before God, which is a holy privilege, said Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
___To secure God's glory in power, Christians must utilize the resources of God to be empowered concretely out of God's riches, to be indwelled considerably by Christ, to be
enlightened completely in understanding the love of Christ and to be in-filled completely with the fullness of God, he added.
___When believers seek the glory of God in this way, Sutton said, they will see it in practice.
___Other exhortations the pastors received included:
___God needs pastors who have and keep and cast God's vision for churches, insisted Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
___"The world is full of visionary businessmen," Bowman said. "God wants you to be a visionary for the kingdom."
___Growing and healthy congregations have visionary leaders, Bowman said, citing religion researcher George Barna.
___"Someone has said, "The world makes a way for the man who knows what he wants," Bowman said. "Lord, give us a vision."
___He encouraged pastors to keep their vision despite discouragement. "The Holy Spirit of God calls men to churches to preach the word of God," he said. "Not even the flames of hell should stop you if God says go forward."
___He also encouraged pastors to keep their vision with a sense of destiny. "If you saw God's hand in the past, you saw God's hand in the past pointing to the future."
___Pastors must recognize positive cultural changes, urged Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship in Washington, D.C.
___"The signs are beginning to turn our way," he said, pointing to decreases in the numbers of abortions, welfare recipients, crimes and teen pregnancies.
___"This is going to be a great period of Christian renewal in the new millennium," Colson added. "...Modern men and women have run out of (other) options."
___Too many Christians are unavailable for service to God because they have been distracted by the things of the world, Christian financial counselor Larry Burkett claimed.
___"In large part, the army of God have deserted the ranks," said Burkett, president and founder of Christian Financial Concepts.
___Citing a laundry list of statistics, Burkett said Christians' financial situations prove they are trying to "serve God and mammon."
___"They are no longer available to the one who has enlisted them," he noted.
___"At some point, we--God's people who are in positions of leadership--have to ask God's people, "How much is enough?"
___The ultimate issue is putting one's life under God's control, he said. To help, churches can teach God's principles for handling money, require a pre-marital budgeting class for every couple desiring to get married and require couples to be mentored for at least a year after marriage.
___Americans need to pray for America until Bill Clinton no longer is president, insisted Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
___He displayed a copy of a recent presidential proclamation that designates June as the beginning of "Gay and Lesbian Month," encouraging Americans to observe it with appropriate programs. The audience erupted with cheers and applause when Land said the program Americans really need is to pray for the nation until Clinton is no longer president.
___Clinton is a moral barometer of how bad the nation's firestorm of sin is, he said, because Americans elected him. Never before, Land declared, has America needed the people of God to be the people of God any more than today.
___In a message based on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Land encouraged pastors to be "ambassadors of reconciliation."
___God already has been reconciled to humanity, he said, but humanity needs to be reconciled to God.
___Christians need to be revived, Land said, noting that people must be "vived" before they can be "revived." Christians are called to be salt and light, he added, becoming effective witnesses to those who are mired in sin, grieving with them over their moral failures.
___All ministers must deal with difficulty and brokenness, reported Jimmy Draper, president of the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources. Using 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 as a text, he offered a recipe for how to minister without losing heart.
___Ministers must begin by renouncing all secret things, shameful things, subtle things and selfish things, he said. There must be no hidden agendas in the pastor's heart: pastors must be what they claim to be.
___Ministers must appeal to others by letting them see the reality of their faith, Draper said. Pastors should not seek for others to be impressed with their eloquence or mental abilities, but with their genuineness. Ministers should crave reality, search for reality and beg God for reality, that others might see Christ through them.
___Bob Wieland of Arcadia, Calif., brought a message of encouragement. Wieland stepped on and detonated a mortar round while running to assist fellow soldiers after an ambush in Vietnam. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital but survived, though without legs.
___Wieland chose to rejoice in his survival rather than dwelling on his injuries. He later
became a world champion weightlifter, and in 1986 he completed a walk across America on his arms alone.
___Drawing on Hebrews 3:13, Wieland encouraged all discouraged people to never give up, but to take one step after another toward the victory God has promised. To be empowered for tomorrow, Christians must encourage their brethren today, he said, believing that with God all things are possible.
___Florida evangelist Jay Strack challenged pastors to seek God's vision and provide real spiritual leadership in the troubling times in which they live.
___Strack, preaching from Habakkuk 2:1-4, titled his sermon "vision@work.com," and utilized a number of computer world analogies.
___"We need a heaven-sent vision," Strack stressed.
___He said the "hardware" of personal vision is that vision must be requested, revealed, received, and recorded, as was the case with Habakkuk.
___The "software" of personal vision, Strack said, includes intimacy, isolation, integrity, imagination, intensity, involvement, and investment, as Habakkuk demonstrated.
___"Let's do the greatest things we've ever done for the glory of the Lord," Stack said in closing.
___ Georgia motivational speaker John C. Maxwell challenged pastors to be true leaders in difficult times.
___"The greatest leaders all rose because it was the darkest hour for their nation. Every change calls for a courageous leader," he said.
___Maxwell urged pastors to look to God for courage, and he listed the attributes of God-given courage as exhibited by Moses and Joshua: procrastination, doubt, distractions, and loneliness are removed; and God's leaders become more aggressive about following his will.
___Maxwell offered a prayer for the pastors that included a plea to God to give them more courage for the "quieter, inside issues" and the weaker areas of life, and that God will send them someone to encourage each of them.
___God needs pastors who can lead their congregations through revival, reminded Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, N.C.
___"Churches are getting reorganized for the 21st century, but God wants to send revival, and people must get ready for it," Corts said, "You don't have to beg God for revival. You don't have to beg God to do what he wants to do."
___Preaching from 2 Chronicles 30, Corts said four elements prompt revival--a call, correction, consecration and commitment.
___"Part of consecration is going though every are of your life (and) submitting it to God," Corts said. "If God were to blow the winds of revival on Southern Baptists, would there be enough consecrated preachers who would know what to do with it?"
___Corts urged pastors not to be distracted by the worship wars related to music, saying godly songs have been written both before and after 1980. "We have a right to sing songs of Zion that come from this generation."
___Christians must be willing to do whatever it takes to finish the task of reaching people for Christ, missionary Troy Haas demanded.
___"There is an unfinished task. There are people who have not heard, and we must be willing to do whatever it takes to finish that task," said Haas, a Southern Baptist missionary to Kenya with the SBC International Mission Board.
___Haas said Christians must realize three things that will make them willing to do whatever it takes to reach others for Christ.
___First, they have people to reach, he said. About 1.7 billion people never have heard the name of Jesus Christ, he said. "We tend to miss those 1.7 billion because we're all wrapped up in our own world."
___Second, they have power to change lives. In the past four years, Haas said, he's seen hundreds of people in the Trakana people group become Christians and eight churches started.
___"The power is there to change lives," he said. "If we're not careful, we're going to be so busy with our own programs that we're going to miss his power."
___Third, priorities need to be examined. "We're going to have to realize that there's nothing more important" than being in love with God, Haas said. "We must do whatever it takes to have a heart for God."
___Haas said he sometimes wonders what would happen if he truly were committed to God. "What if my heart beat solely and completely for a soul relationship with him?"
___Rather than murmur, God's people should remember God's provision, presence, protection and power, instructed Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
___"I long to be a part of God doing something in our midst that would be inexplicable to the minds of men," Chapman said.
___"In our lifetimes there's been no revival to sweep America," he lamented. "How I pray that God would bring revival among us that would turn our world rightside up."
___God wants to use Southern Baptists, Chapman said. "God wants the fire to fall upon us. God wants to change us, and he wants the world to see the change that comes in our lives."
___During his sermon, Chapman said the country needs a constitutional amendment for school prayer.
___"We still have government suppression of freedom of religion," he said.
___"The government is attempting to make our schools religion-free zones," he added. "We do not want government-sponsored religion, we do want the government to quit repressing the religious beliefs of our children."
___Christians ought to remember God's goodness in the face of difficulty, urged Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
___"The devil would have you remember nothing but the low times ..., when you need to reflect on those high times," he said.
___America needs covenant-marriage laws, claimed Fred Lowery, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, La.
___"The goal is to get rid of no-fault divorce," he said. "That's an oxymoron. It's always somebody's fault. That's like saying, 'no-fault adultery.'"
___The SBC Annuity Board exists to "serve those who serve the Lord," board President O.S. Hawkins told the pastors. "Don't think of us as your retirement agency but as a life partner.
___He urged Southern Baptists to observe Adopt an Annuitant Sunday, June 27. Of 28,000 retired ministers, denominational workers and their spouses who receive Annuity Board retirement benefits, 10,000 get less than $200 per month, he reported.
___Churches can contribute $900 per year and provide an additional $75 per month for a needy retired minister or widow.
___Missions took the spotlight for two speakers, Bob Reccord, president of the SBC North American Mission Board, and Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC International Mission Board.
___America's cities need to be penetrated with the Christian gospel, Reccord urged, noting his mission board has committed to reaching cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle and Philadelphia in the next two years.
___Calling on pastors to get out of their "comfort zones" to minister to America, he said, "God loves us where we are, but he loves us too much for us to stay there."
___Rankin said the International Mission Board commissioned 885 new missionaries last year, and overseas baptisms rose from 300,000 to 348,000.
___"Jesus has given us a mandate to go unto all the world and disciple all nations," he stressed. "We go only in the power of the gospel and with a vision of winning the lost nations of the world to Jesus and to the glory of God."

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