Stephen Rummage, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and president of the 2024 SBC Pastors’ Conference, welcomes attendees to the first session of the conference. Photo by Luc Stringer

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Faithfulness to the pastoral calling, the Great Commission and God’s Word were featured themes at the opening session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 9 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

Speakers included Bartholomew Orr, Greg Mann and Hershael York. Worship was led by Christian recording artist Charles Billingsley. Pastors and their wives gathered around the theme “Faithful: Pursuing Your Mission.”

Bartholomew Orr

Like a traffic light tells motorists how to drive, God gives indications in pastors’ lives telling them how to remain faithful to their callings, said Orr, pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss. Those indications tell when to proceed, when to slow down and when to stop.

“If we want to remain faithful to our calling tonight, I just simply believe God is saying to us, ‘Watch the light,’” he said, preaching from 2 Kings 20:12-19, where Judah’s King Hezekiah was visited by Babylonian envoys. Orr stood beside a traffic light as he spoke.

God gives a green light when we serve Him, Orr said, noting that God wanted Hezekiah to keep trusting Him. “Aren’t you glad that when you trust in God [and] obey His Word” and “put God first in everything you do,” He says, “Go for it”?

God gives the yellow caution light when life changes – either in a good or bad way. In those moments, we need to evaluate our actions and motivations, Orr said. Hezekiah should have done this when God saved him from his enemies and made him famous.

A red light from God comes when we do something He says not to do, Orr said. Hezekiah ran a red light when pride led him to show the Babylonians all his treasures. The Lord “sits high and He looks low. He sees everything … God has simply said, ‘I want you to stop’” sinning.

Greg Mann

Concerning faithfulness to the Great Commission, Mann said believers must be passionate about what God is passionate about, and based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:18-22, He is passionate about fishing for men.

“Mankind is lost and needs to be found. Or in Matthew 4 language, mankind needs to be caught and pulled out of their current state,” said Mann, the International Mission Board’s affinity group leader for Asia-Pacific Rim peoples. “… The fish which we are to catch are in a state of imminent and eternal danger.”

Believers must admit that apart from Christ they lack what is needed to pull lost souls from the brink of destruction, Mann said, but Jesus promised to make them fishers of men, to equip them for the urgent task.

Jesus’ admonition to follow Him is a display of grace because He chooses to use believers as the means to catch men for His glory, Mann said.

“Not even the vainest among us, brothers and sisters, can pretend that the things we sacrifice in the name of Jesus are worthy to repay such amazing grace,” Mann said. “For the disciples, this was such a disproportionate exchange: boats and nets and even [their] families for Christ, for the Kingdom, for the lost. It’s not even comparable.”

Hershael York

Pastors must be faithful to the primary purpose God has given them: preaching the Word. That was York’s admonition to close the opening session of the Pastors’ Conference.

“With no regard for the season or the age or the tenor of the time, you avoid no subject. You compromise no truth. You fear no reaction. You spare no passion. You preach God’s Word just exactly as He put it there,” said York, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preaching from 2 Timothy 4:1-5, York said pastors must proclaim Scripture because the Lord has inspired it to change lives. As God uses the Scriptures to accomplish His work in pastors, He uses pastors to work in His people.

“The primary care we give our churches is the ministry of the Word,” he said.

York recounted a phone call he received one Sunday evening after church at Buck Run Baptist Church, where he was pastor 20 years. A church member whom York did not know well said her mother was about to be disconnected from life support and she wanted York and his wife to go to the hospital. So, they did.

“Why did she want me in the room with her mother?” he asked. “Because I had done one of the most intimate things in the world: I had opened up the Word of God to her week in and week out and pointed her to Christ. When it mattered … she wanted the one who preached the Word to be there.”

This article was originally published to the Baptist Press. Feature Photo taken by Luc Stringer.