JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 26, 2003– Pastors have one of the most stressful jobs in the world, according to James Merritt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga.
Merritt’s words came at the PreachingPoints conference at Union University Feb. 25 featuring Merritt and Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. Designed to equip and encourage pastors and ministry professionals, PreachingPoints events will be held 3-4 times a year.
Merritt encouraged ministers to preach the word boldly, in spite of the world’s decreasing willingness to hear it. “The gospel is not addressed to a felt need,” he said, “but to an unfelt need.”
He encouraged ministers to focus on who God is so that worship in their churches might be the marriage of spirit and truth commanded by Jesus in John 4. “If you come to church for any other reason than to worship, you come for the wrong reason,” Merritt said.
David Taylor, minister to young adults and men at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, found Merritt’s instruction edifying. “I appreciated his emphasis on continuing to preach the word, no matter what. We sometimes focus on what is new and different, but we always need to remember that the gospel is the most important thing,” Taylor said.
Ezell instructed participants to “check your ego at the door” when leading a church. Providing an example of devotion, passion, humility and humor will bring growth to a church, he said.
He encouraged ministers to “never believe the lie that you are fine the way you are,” but to dream great dreams for the kingdom of God. Ministers must invest their energies as well because “vision without action is fantasy,” he said.
“This conference was very meaningful to me, and I feel that it was meaningful and challenging for all who attended,” said Charles Fowler, vice president for development/church relations at Union. The university is committed to maintaining the practical nature of the conferences and will continue to focus the event on ministry in the local church, Fowler said.
The next PreachingPoints conference will be held April 1 and features Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
For more information on the conference, call (731) 661-5160.