Anthony Jordan delivered his final charge to Oklahoma Baptist pastors in his role as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) during the final session at the Priority of Preaching Conference. The two-day conference at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, Feb. 26-27, featured Jordan as one of the three leading speakers, as well as Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Steven Smith, pastor of Little Rock, Ark., Immanuel.
“What people desperately need in this world that is falling apart around them is to hear us say, ‘There is a better day, and God can change your life,’” Jordan said in his concluding message to pastors. “As I get to ‘take my seat,’ my charge to you is preach the Word… I hope whenever I fade from the scene that you won’t remember I was executive director. I hope that you’ll just remember, I’m a preacher.” Those in attendance responded with a standing ovation.
Gaines spoke three times at the preaching conference. The pastor of Memphis, Tenn., Bellevue opened with sharing the importance of prayer for preachers.
“Years ago I was talking with a country preacher, and I asked him ‘How do you get ready to preach?’ I don’t know if this was original with him, but he said something I’ve never forgotten,” Gaines said. “He said ‘I pray myself hot, read myself full and turn myself loose.’ I don’t think I’ve heard anything better.”
Gaines gave his personal testimony and told how his first two years at Bellevue were “horrible,” but his last 10 years have been “the best years of my life.” He credited his growing prayer life in getting through those early years.
In his concluding talk, Gaines shared some fundamentals of preaching, including the importance of a preacher having assurance of salvation, being committed to preaching as first priority and delivering his own sermons.
“You don’t need to be copying somebody else’s sermon and preaching it like it’s yours,” Gaines said. “If that makes you mad, good, because you’re stealing. God didn’t call you to be a pirate or a puppet; He called you to be a prophet. If you can’t preach your own sermons, resign.”
Smith, who previously served as vice president for student services at Southwestern Seminary also spoke three times at the conference, including two talks of preaching principles as well as delivering a sermon.
“Preaching is more than making disciples, but it’s at least making disciples,” Smith said. “It’s at least working out the Great Commission.”
Along with Jordan, Gaines and Smith being the main speakers, the Priority of Preaching Conference also featured six other Oklahoma Baptist preachers and leaders who offered “text talks,” a variation of the popular TED talks that are given at other conferences and through online videos.
Brett Selby, BGCO pastoral leadership specialist, said he asked these six men to share “the speech of their life” on preaching.
“I’ve asked them to imagine that they only have one chance to talk about preaching and then to bring that message to us,” Selby said.
Hance Dilbeck, BGCO executive director-treasurer elect, was the first to deliver a “text talk.” He opened with a simple instruction to pastors, “Trust the Word like the sower trusts the seed.”
“Preaching is an act of faith in that way,” Dilbeck said. “The Word of God preached to the people of God produces a harvest of unity and purity and maturity and passion.”
Owen Nease, pastor of Oklahoma City, Emmaus, shared about what people remember when they hear their pastor preach.
“The thing that has caused me the most despair as a young preacher is how feeble my 35 minutes on Sunday morning seem against the forces of Facebook and the internet,” Nease said. “But what you are doing in that 35 minutes, you are shaping and preparing them to be discerning to engage with the world.”
Kevin Zecharias, who is a member of Stillwater, Eagle Heights, offered a different perspective, which is from what a church member expects to hear from their pastor.
“I’ve been in church my whole life,” Zecharias said. “I’ve sat under a number of different types of preaching and teaching. Without a doubt, most of the growth in my life has been under text-driven preaching, teaching. My spiritual growth depends on truth, and aside from God’s Word, there’s nothing I can do to get this truth.”
Scott Pace made known his upcoming transition during his “text talk.” The longtime preaching and pastoral ministry professor at Oklahoma Baptist University will begin a new role at Southeastern Seminary after the spring semester. Pace’s talk focused on God’s design for preaching.
“God has given us the mandate to preach,” Pace said. “Preaching is not a divine suggestion. It’s not something we’ve been encouraged to do. It is an obligation and a duty. To preach is something God has required of us.”
Alton Fannin, pastor of Ardmore, First, shared from his experience of preaching for 50 years.
“I have evolved from a speaker to a prophet to a person who is trying to feed God’s sheep,” Fannin said. “Whereas, I, first of all, wanted just a pat on the back. Now, I relish in the fact that people say ‘God said this to me, through His Word, when you preached.’”
Todd Fisher, pastor of Shawnee, Immanuel, concluded the “text talks” with sharing how “good preaching” is centered around two moods—indicative and imperative.
“Good preaching is us presenting the truth that is God’s Word,” Fisher said. “In preaching, we are exhorting people. We are appealing and persuading people, if I can use that word, for them to not just hear the truth but then to go and obey it and have their lives transformed by it.”
The Priority of Preaching Conference recorded 157 in attendance.