Pastor Dave Miller is to be commended for his excellent work as president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference (hereafter PC). I’m too lazy to write out all the specific reasons why he should be commended, so I went all the way in the title. Too far, I’m sure.
Just hold that thought.
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Dave Miller (hereafter DM) strikes me as a humble, experienced pastor. He edits SBCVoices, which I have found very helpful with respect to thinking through many of the rather unique ‘issues’ that arise in pastoral ministry.
I don’t know DM all that well, and he doesn’t really know me, so consider this a fairly objective (or at any rate unbiased) piece written from the perspective of someone who witnessed the fruits of his labor. Also, this was my first SBCPC, so I may be missing a lot. Please forgive my ignorance in advance. Here’s what I appreciated about the PC:
1. Expositional Preachers
Each pastor preached through a portion of the book of Philippians – verse by verse –
drawing out the point of the text, illustrating, and applying it. DM briefly commented upon the role of the Conservative Resurgence in producing such preaching, and he is spot on. Glory to God. Some of the preachers were more expositional in their approach than others. That’s not intended to be an insult, and I will leave it to the readers to decide who they were. But I will say that the future of the SBC is bright. That was obvious from the quality and conviction in the sermons of the younger preachers in particular.
2. Younger and Older Preachers
Of course, I don’t really know how old the pastors were. A few were older. Some looked much younger. And that’s all very good. The continuity of the message of Christ across generations is beautiful. (That sounds sappy, I know, but it gets me out of bed in the morning and motivates me to joyfully shepherd the sheep, many of whom are much older than I am, but share in the hope of Christ.)
3. Diverse Preachers
Diversity in the body of Christ is a beautiful thing, whether that’s in terms of age as above, or in terms of race/ethnicity. Let’s be honest, the SBC doesn’t have the best track record here. (That’s a serious understatement, to say the least.) But there’s hope, and the pastor’s conference this year illustrated that.
4. Female Preachers
Just kidding. There were no female pastors there. I’m just seeing how many “discernment ministries” still follow my blog.
4. “Small” Church Preachers
Small churches in the SBC aren’t small. Let’s say your church has one hundred members. That’s an average-sized SBC church. This realization brings death and life. It brings death to those who hope in numbers or fame regarding their churches or pastors, and it brings life to those who falter through discouragement due to lack of growth or numerical decline and loss of influence. While we are certainly thankful for larger churches and well-known pastors who faithfully preach the gospel, they are not the normal means God has chosen to use “for such a time as this.” The Caskey Center for Church Excellence not only sponsored the conference, but further stressed this normalcy of what are typically considered small Southern Baptist churches, causing the theme to bleed over into the activities of the rest of the week. This sentiment is a ‘solution’ for the obsession with numbers that was once even more prevalent in our churches, and for the fascination younger folks in particular have with ‘celebrity’ pastors who are by definition well-known and often at the helms of extremely large churches.
5. The Gettys
Need I explain this one?
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We can paint a picture where the SBC is in decline, its members old and white, and society increasingly hostile to it. Whether that narrative is true or not, this year’s PC highlighted the health of the SBC that stems, no doubt, from its firm commitment to inerrancy and missions in particular. The SBC is perhaps healthier now than ever before. Certainly the title of this piece is tongue-in-cheek, but the example set by Dave Miller and his team in this year’s pastors’ conference could serve as a major course correction for the Southern Baptist Convention, taking advantage of and furthering the aforementioned health.
By the way, you can have my ESV when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.