|6 agency heads
address SBC Pastors' Conference
-- By Don Hinkle
ATLANTA, June 15--A call for a constitutional amendment protecting children's right
to pray in public schools and an exhortation for pastors to renounce any hidden sins in
their lives were among the messages delivered by six Southern Baptist Convention agency
presidents during the 1999 Pastors' Conference, June 13-14, at the Georgia Dome.
It marked the first time in the 64-year history of the conference
that the heads of the SBC Executive Committee, North American Mission Board, International
Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and
Annuity Board had all addressed the conference in one year.
In his sermon, Morris Chapman, president and chief executive
officer of the Executive Committee, called for a constitutional amendment that would
protect children's' right to pray in public schools.
Recalling how Elijah had prayed, asking for God's fire to fall on
his offering before the prophets of Baal, Chapman called on Christians to faithfully pray
for America and its children.
"We have a government that is suppressing religious
expression," he said. "It is attempting to make our schools religion-free zones.
We do not want government-supported religion, but we need God's presence in our
"We are doomed if we do not become concerned with the
violence [in America]," he said. "The devil is a great deceiver and he is
preying on our children.
"In our lifetime, there has been no revival that has swept
across America. Let Southern Baptists pray for revival and pray for our hearts to be
purified," Chapman said.
LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. acknowledged it has become
difficult to minister in today's world without getting discouraged. Preaching from 2
Corinthians 4:1, he said, "There have to be some affirmations, but there must also be
To be effective, he said ministers must renounce hidden, subtle
and selfish things in their lives.
"We don't preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ. There is no
place [in the ministry] for prima donnas or acclaim. We must learn the secret of servant
leadership," Draper said.
He encouraged the pastors to announce the "simple, clear,
naked, adored truth of God's Word. Preach the Word! Hold up God's Word and he will bless
President Robert E. "Bob" Reccord compared the urgency of sharing the gospel of
Christ with the spirit of urgency that exists on an aircraft carrier.
After a film clip of Naval jets being launched off an aircraft
carrier was shown, Reccord asked: "When the word 'urgency' comes to mind, what do you
think of? Do you see urgency or complacency when you look at the church?"
Preaching from Matthew 16:13-18, Reccord noted how Jesus handled
his disciples differently than he would have.
"I would have taken them to Jerusalem, to the temple of God.
But Jesus took them 100 miles away to Caesarea Philippi, a multicultural city built on
secularism. It was an entertainment center where religions from everywhere gathered. Pagan
idols dotted every corner."
Reccord challenged the pastors to pray and then penetrate
America's cities with the message of Jesus Christ.
He noted that NAMB has committed to taking the gospel to urban
centers such as Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle and Philadelphia in the next two years. He
warned the pastors that some may have to leave their comfort zone to meet the challenge
and they must be willing to accept change so the gospel may be spread.
"God loves us where we are, but he loves us too much for us
to stay there," Reccord said.
He said a study recently completed by researcher George Barna for NAMB showed that while
Southern Baptists were not viewed negatively by the majority of those surveyed, they also
were viewed as not relevant.
Reccord said the Barna study revealed another disturbing fact: Of
people who regularly shared their faith, 25 percent said they don't believe the Bible is
thoroughly accurate, while 33 percent believe people can earn their way to heaven. The
full results of the survey will be released later this year.
Jesus told the disciples what he is telling us, "You'd
better know what you believe, and what you believe had better be in the book
(Scripture)," Reccord said.
Reccord challenged the pastors to "shove forward the
throttle of urgency, salute our Lord with an absolute aversion to complacency, then thrust
off the desk with a commitment ... that brings victory. The victory is not the call.
Obedience is the victory."
IMB President Jerry Rankin said in 1998 his agency commissioned
885 new missionaries and overseas baptisms rose from 300,000 to 348,000. He said the IMB
is halfway toward the goal of having 1,000 new missionaries this year and expects the
number to reach 5,000 in the year 2000.
"Jesus has given us the mandate to go unto all the world and
disciple all nations," Rankin said. "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.
"What we have in our hands and what can respond to the
problems is not humanitarian sociologists or the NATO peacekeepers, but only the ...
message that Jesus died and rose again ... and that Jesus saves," he said.
Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins reminded the pastors that
his organization exists to "serve those who serve the Lord."
"Most of you think you will only need us when you are
65," Hawkins said. "But we want to change the way you look at us. Don't think of
us as your retirement agency but as a life partner."
Hawkins said he would like to see third-party investments
increase to the point where church planters are taken care of for the first two years of
their service. He also wants to see professors placed at all six SBC seminaries who will
teach future pastors financial responsibility, not only for their churches, but for
He told the pastors that of the 28,000 retired ministers,
denominational workers and their spouses who receive Annuity Board retirement benefits,
10,000 get less than $200 a month. On June 27, he said the denomination will observe the
first Adopt an Annuitant Sunday. Churches will be asked to contribute $900 a year so that
one aged minister or widow can receive an additional $75 supplement each month.
"We want to be a life partner with you, so 20-30 years from
now when you're retired ... you can do so with dignity while you continue to serve Christ
in your retirement years," Hawkins said.
ERLC President Richard Land warned moral degradation is rampant
"We are in a time of moral crisis that is unprecedented in America," he said.
"Our only hope is our directions from above, from God's Holy Word. The corridor of
escape for America, ourselves and our families is a vertical corridor to our Savior, Jesus
Christ. If we are going to preach the reconciling message of Jesus, we must do so with the
heart of our Savior."
Land criticized President Clinton, describing him as a reflection
of the nation's moral character.
"Bill Clinton and I are the same age, but I'm an
adult," he quipped as the 5,000 attendees roared with laughter.
He then held high a White House proclamation declaring June as
"Gay and Lesbian Pride Month."
"An appropriate prayer is that God will stay his judgment on this country until this
man is no longer our president," Land said.
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