Sunday night's Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference was held at the Kentucky Exposition and Fair Grounds just about five minutes south of downtown Louisville. I arrived at 6:00 p.m. and walked into the main lobby to the wonderful smell of freshly baked donuts. It seems some entrepreneurs have brought in a donut machine that makes hot, white sugar coated minature donuts - selling them for $4.00 a dozen. The line for donuts was longer than the line for Convention registration, and I can vouch that the donuts are worth the wait.
J.D. Greear started the preaching off at 6:30 p.m. I have heard a great deal about J.D., but have never had the privilege of hearing him preach. He pastors The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, a fast-growing church composed of mostly young adults. J.D. did an excellent job showing the six characteristics of Christians who have substituted religion for the vitality of knowing Jesus Christ. His text was Matthew 23 and he showed how the Pharisees (1). sought personal recognition, (2). substituted religious rituals over and against love for God, (3). substituted religious rituals over and against love for people, (4). considered only themselves holy and other people sinful, (5). raised tertiary issues to the place of primary doctrine, and (6). sought fellowship around conformity to their own ideology and not the life transforming power of God.
J.D.'s message was superb. My only reservation is the manner in which J.D., like many trained in modern Southern Baptist seminaries, used women in ministry as an illustration of a "primary" doctrine. One of these days I believe J.D. will see that this "doctrine" is secondary, if not tertiary - and disagreement among evangelicals in this area should not lead to separation in fellowship or cooperation.
Mac Brunson followed J.D. Greear and preached a message from I Peter. His theme was on how the people in Christ's church should love one another and treat each other with grace, civility and love - so that the world will see how we treat one another and glorify God. Mac is a great communicator and I enjoy listening to him. He is faithful to the text, which is more than can be said of many preachers. However, I couldn't help but have two thoughts reverberate in my head as Mac preached on Christian civility and love - (1). Why is he yelling so loud? Usually, loud preaching is not bothersome, but there seemed to be a disconnect between a preacher talking about Christian civility and love while yelling at the people who he says (those of us in the congregation) aren't showing it, and (2). I wonder what Mac's church member - the one who criticized Mac on his blog and then was issued a trespass warning without ever being personally contacted by Mac - was thinking?
I didn't have to wonder long because as soon as the message was over I received a text message from that church member. He let me know what he thought of the message -and I discovered that he was thinking what I thought he must be thinking.
Chuck Colson closed out the evening. I really enjoy listening to Chuck. He is casual, conversational and most often insightful. He spoke about "The Great Storm" our nation faces - caused not by economic or political catastrophes, but by a moral vaccuum in the hearts and lives of God's people. He spent a great deal promoting his new book "The Faith" - which he will be signing today in the LifeWay store - but his words were, as usual, insightful. If I have any complaint about Chuck's message it would be he is often too focused on "culture" and what he calls "The Christian Worldview" to the point of warning the congregation that in just a couple of years we all might be imprisoned for "speaking out against homosexuality." In the first message by J.D. Greear we had an example of a young SBC pastor who encouraged us to live out the gospel - while in the last message we have an elder SBC statesman who seemed to indicate that it is more important to speak out against a sinful culture. I don't know that either is necessarily "wrong" or "better than the other" - just illustrative of the divide between two generations of Southern Baptists.
If you would like to watch Monday's Pastor's Conference, you can watch the live feed here.
In His Grace,