Speaking to a room full of pastors, Charlie Dates warned that what they say now will outlast anything they do.
“The Word we preach will outlive our ministries,” said Dates, pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago. “What you proclaim will outlive what you’ve done.”
Dates spoke during the final session of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, held in Dallas prior to the annual meeting. Centered on the theme “Fulfill Your Ministry” drawn from 2 Timothy 4:5, the conference’s 12 speakers challenged attendees to finish strong in their calling to local church ministry.
The Chicago pastor preached from 1 Peter 1:22-25, anchoring his message in the last part of the passage: “The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”
Dates cited examples of this truth in recent centuries, noting theologians Charles Spurgeon, Gardner Calvin Taylor, and Billy Graham may have passed away, but God’s Word lives on. It’s the same for all pastors, he said.
He urged all Christians to love one another, noting the words Peter wrote: “Because of our redemption in Jesus Christ we are bound in Jesus Christ to one another.”
“I wish everybody in the church I serve felt this way,” Dates said. “Don’t you wish everybody in the church, in the association in which you serve, loved one another? Where they’re glad you came?”
Dates acknowledged it isn’t easy. “One of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life is to love the folks you go to church with…Our love for one another is not the basis for our salvation, it is the result.”
Using an illustration about a beautiful floral bouquet he gave his wife, Dates said, “When God decided to be the architect of our salvation, he did not pick something that would fade, he picked something that would last forever.”
The audience applauded as Dates picked up his cadence and used a litany of phrases to describe God’s living and enduring Word.
“It will build your faith, it will light your path, it will feed your soul, time cannot age it, the ages cannot time it, it’s the only book that’s ever read you…”
Summing up the statements, Dates declared, “Not only that the Word is alive and enduring, when you get the Word in you it sustains you. The Word will keep your feet moving and your gaze steady.”
“The Savior has come, be not dismayed, because the Savior has come,” Dates proclaimed. “His Word has come! The Word of God endures forever!”
Truth in chaos
Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas encouraged pastors leading churches in a world of chaos.
“God will cause distress to get our undivided attention and in order to do something new,” Evans said, speaking from 2 Chronicles 15:3-6. “God determines what he is going to do in a society by the presence, or the absence, of the influence of his people.”
Evans used the 2 Chronicles passage as a biblical example, pointing out three key elements to the chaos it reports—there was no true God; there was no true teaching priest; and there was no law. The God worshiped in 2 Chronicles is a dumbed-down version of the one true God, Evans said—and the same is largely true today.
“Everybody wants God, they just want him on sale,” he said. “As long as they can get God cheap, they’ll get all they can handle. But the moment he comes at full price, they’ll shop elsewhere.”
Christians are called to seek after God, Evans said, noting that in the Scripture passage, “when they turned to the Lord God of Israel in their distress and sought him, he was found by them.”
Pastor Frank Pomeroy certainly can speak from experience about living and ministering in a chaotic world. His church, First Baptist of Sutherland Springs, Texas, was devastated last fall when a gunman charged in on a Sunday morning and killed 26 worshipers. Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, who were both out of town that day, lost their 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in the shooting.
Pomeroy said he kept Jesus as his focus as the events of that morning threatened to sweep him away. Then God told him to go talk to those in the hospitals.
“At the hospital, every person capable of speech could not wait to express how blessed they were and how they could not wait to share the gospel,” he said. Pomeroy explained the church averaged about 75 in attendance at the time of the shooting but now has about 200.
“We have a temporary facility. We’re meeting in a tent. The worship leader is now paralyzed from the waist down. In the midst of that turmoil, people chose to stand in unity with Jesus Christ. In the midst of that uproar, our church chose to latch their arms with Christ. Because our people stood for Christ, revival is coming.”
– Lisa Misner, with additional reporting from Baptist Press