'Portraits of a Pastor' fill MBTS conference
More than 1,000 pastors, students and ministry leaders from across the Midwest and beyond heard keynote speakers Jason Allen, Danny Akin, Owen Strachan, Ronnie Floyd and Jared Wilson preach messages revolving around the conference theme "Portraits of a Pastor."
"This is a conference specifically designed to encourage pastors and ministry leaders from across the country as they serve the local church," said Allen, Midwestern Seminary's president. "Our goal is to provide messages from Scripture, provide resources and offer genuine fellowship which will strengthen the resolve, cheer the spirits and stir the affections toward Christ of these who have accepted His call to ministry.
"For the Church -- these three words, for us on this campus, are much bigger than a website, Twitter handle, publishing imprint and even this conference or this seminary," Allen said. "Our prayer is that through this time together God would be pleased to grant us a movement -- not of man, but of God -- to strengthen and renew His church."
The Pastor as Preacher
Allen led the conference's first session, "The Pastor as Preacher," drawing his message from Romans 10.
"Preaching is the ultimate, non-delegable responsibility and the most urgent and consequential point on the pastor's job description," he said. "For the pastor, preaching is priority one."
Allen cited three key reasons why preaching should be a pastor's top priority: the depravity of man, the simplicity of the message and the necessity of the messenger.
Many pastors are taking away from the simplicity of their message by adding unnecessary and distracting props or illustrations," Allen noted as part of his message.
Referring to Luke 16:29-31, he exhorted, "Let me ask you something, preacher. If one rising from the dead will not do what the Word of God cannot do, then what in the world will your prop do? Nothing. The sooner you come to understand that it is not about the props or the personality, and it is not about swift speech, rather it is about preaching the Gospel, then the sooner your pulpit ministry will be strengthened and the sooner your ministry will be authenticated."
Allen ended by challenging pastors in attendance, "You are called to preach and to teach the Word. Wherever you go, however tremendously your church plant grows, however dramatically your revitalization story is, whatever ministerial fruit God gives you along the way, never let any of that eclipse your primary calling…."
The Man of God and his Family
Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., next preached on "The Man of God and his Family," how the leader of a local church must interact with his family.
In his message from Ephesians 5:18-6:4, Akin noted that two overarching principles from the text: the man of God will love his wife and the man of God will train up his children.
Of these passages, Akin noted, "Ephesians 5:25-33 and 6:1-4 are for every man; but if it is for every man, it is specifically, particularly and essentially necessary for those who would lead and shepherd the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ."
In loving one's wife, Akin said it is a good exercise to regularly ask this question, "Is the way I am loving my wife enabling her and encouraging her to grow and be more like Jesus or is she going to be like Christ in spite of me?"
He added, "Brothers, if you only disciple one person in your entire life, I pray that one person is your wife. If you are given the privilege of God to disciple a few more than that, it is my prayer that it will begin with your children. And if you are to disciple no one but your mate and your children, I think you will probably still have lived a fairly successful life."
The Pastor as Theologian
Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern, in a message on "The Pastor as Theologian" noted that this concept is derived from 2 Timothy 1:5-14. Citing three points to keep in mind, Strachan said the pastor must possess spiritual ambition; the Gospel powers the pastorate; and the pastorate summons pastors to play theological offense and defense.
Encouraging pastors to overcome the fear they may experience in proclaiming the Gospel in today's culture, Strachan reminded that their calling is directly from God, grounded in the Gospel, and drawn from a spirit of power, love and self-control from God.
Strachan cited two major avenues of attack planned by Satan against pastors: softening of doctrine and softening of personal morality. To confront this offensively, he said a pastor must offer his congregants a strategy to hunt down sin and rid themselves of it. Then defensively, the pastor is to guard the truth he has been given to defend.
"By the Spirit we do this," Strachan said. "It is not of our own strength, but it is also not a degree, a writing ministry or a fancy pedigree that equips you to ward off the lion who would devour you and your people. It is the Holy Spirit."
Additionally, he noted, "We regularly hear today that the Word is not enough…. But here is the thing, my friends, Jesus is enough. The Word is enough. There is nothing else we need for ministry."
The Pastor as Leader
Floyd, immediate past president of the SBC and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, preached on "The Pastor as Leader," drawing from Galatians 6 to discuss what makes a pastor unique and set apart in his leadership.
Just as the apostle Paul was opposed by Judaizers on the topic of salvation and Jewish customs, Floyd noted that today's pastors will be accosted by those in the culture who disagree with them.
The world will try to "brand" a pastor in a certain way, but the pastor would do well to remember who called him and to whom he belongs, Floyd said, adding that a pastor also must be careful how he brands himself as well.
"You see, the apostle Paul was even branded outwardly for Jesus Christ…. We must be the same.
"Also, sometimes we think that we are somebody that we are not," Floyd said. "If you let a degree define you, then you are one of many. If you let your charisma, your look or your dress define you, then you are one of many…. We do not become defined by a degree, a group of friends, our denomination or even our church. We are defined by one person alone, and it is inconceivable that we could ever celebrate ourselves or anyone other than Jesus Christ."
Floyd noted seven applications for pastors to become distinct leaders like the apostle Paul: giving your mornings to God; letting God promote you; refusing to sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry success; not "dying on every hill"; never letting anyone be outside of your circle of love; always being willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything for God; and understanding that God can do more in a moment than you can do in a lifetime.
The Pastor as Shepherd
Wilson, director of content strategy and managing editor of Midwestern's For the Church website, addressed "The Pastor as Shepherd," suggesting three takeaways from the restoration of the apostle Peter in John 21 that can be applied to pastoring and help the attendees "re-grasp the pastoral vocation."
Wilson noted that God's shepherds feed the sheep; love the Lamb; and trust the Good Shepherd.
In his counsel to "feed the sheep the Gospel," Wilson noted that it is the only power of salvation. It is the only power of sanctification, and the only reason you would not feed them the Gospel … is if you think the Gospel is not good enough…. Let's commit together to send our people home fat with the Gospel!"
In loving the Lamb, Wilson cautioned, "I have failed the greatest of failures if I can turn a good phrase, preach a good sermon, explain good theology, give out good advice, even articulate the Good News, but people cannot generally say about me, 'More than anything Jared loves Jesus.' Brothers, do you love the Lamb?"
Wilson encouraged pastors to trust the Good Shepherd even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. "Even if the call of the pastor is to die, we trust the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. You have no other foundation than this. There is nothing left to trust in."
Tuesday afternoon breakout sessions were held on "Expository Preaching from Start to Finish" led by Allen; "Pastor as Missionary" led by Jason Duesing, Midwestern's provost; "Pastor as Church Historian," led by Christian George, MBTS assistant professor of historical theology; "Pastor as Theologian," led by Strachan; "Pastor as Evangelist" led by John Mark Yeats, Midwestern College dean; "Portraits of a Woman in Ministry," led by Susie Hawkins and Karen Allen; "The Pastor and Social Justice," led by Ryan West, team leader of mercy ministry and community development at the North American Mission Board; "Pastor as Worship Leader," led by Aaron Ivey, pastor of worship at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; and "Gospel-Centered Leadership," led by Charles Smith, MBTS vice president of institutional relations.
Worship during the Sept. 26-27 conference was led by Ivey and the worship team from Austin Stone Community Church.
To view the For the Church Conference, click here.