LAWRENCEVILLE – Tom Rush, president of the 2017 Preaching Conference, selected “It’s Not In Vain” as the theme for this year’s conference at North Metro First Baptist Church. The idea for the theme came from I Corinthians 15:58, where the Apostle assures God’s servants that their “labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
During the Preaching Conference Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, presented to Dr. J. Robert White, Georgia Baptist Mission Board executive director, the Distinguished Alumnus Denominational Service Award. The award stated: “After years of faithful service as pastor of Southern Baptist Churches, he (J. Robert White) has led Georgia Baptists with vision, faithfulness, and integrity.
Through these churches a lifetime of support has been given and through the years the multiplied ministry of the Georgia Baptist Convention has served as an example for other state conventions to follow.”
The award is singularly significant, because Southern Baptist Theological Seminary does not typically give honorary doctors degrees, but the Distinguished Alumnus Award is given only on special occasions and to deserving individuals. White joins E. Y. Mullins, W. A. Criswell, and Hershel Hobbs as the recipient of this prestigious award.
Throughout the Preaching Conference Rhon Carter, worship pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro, was the featured musician and soloist.
A faith adventure to the Major Leagues
In addition, Major League Baseball umpire Marvin Hudson presented his Christian testimony.
Hudson told about his ascent from the minor leagues, (including the Appalachian League, South Atlantic League, Florida Instructional League, Florida State league, Southern League, Hawaiian League, International League) and several bizarre experiences umpiring in the Dominican Republic to Major League Baseball, where he umpired in the 2004 All Star Game and 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.
The Washington, GA resident acknowledged that although he became a Christian at a young age, his faith adventure that led him to the top strata of baseball umpiring bonded him to his wife and gave him a testimony about God’s faithfulness and provision. Today he is not ashamed of the Gospel and gladly shares his faith on a regular basis.
Stepping over the line
Pastor Mike Griffin of Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell was the first preacher for the afternoon and took his text from Proverbs 24:16. He stated, “(1) Life is never as simple as it use to be; (2) Life is never as bad as it could be; (3) Life is never as good as it is going to be; (4) Suffering is never as lasting as it seems to be; and (5) You are never as strong as you ought to be.”
Griffin’s sermon was a powerful message of encouragement to pastors and laity alike. He concluded with the words written by a pastor in Zimbabwe whose life ended when he was martyred for his faith.
Here some of the words Griffin shared, “I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
“I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.”
What it takes to finish well
Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear followed with a message from Acts 20 where the Apostle Paul called for the elders of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. He further spoke on how to have a “good goodbye” on every stop on one’s missionary journey and one’s final stop.
“It is important to have consistency in your service,” Stone said. “Anybody can start a race, but it takes faithfulness and commitment to finish well.”
The Emmanuel pastor recalled the success that his church had experienced in the past and one day said to the Lord, “I have no right to pastor this church.”
Stone said that he could imagine some of the answers God might have provided to his statement, but was properly rebuked when it seemed that God replied, “Yes, that is right; and you will have good success if you remember that.”
Stone challenged his audience to serve faithfully in times of triumph, in times of tears, and in times of trials. He thundered, “Not everyone is going to like you. Alexander, the coppersmith, did great harm to Paul. Demas moved his membership to another church and even John Mark left Paul for a season. But regardless of what happens stay with the stuff.”
Stone emphasized the importance of preaching with conviction and stated, “We have too many opinions and not enough convictions.”
He also spoke about having the right motivation for the work of the ministry and told the story of Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who cared for the poorest of the poor of India. He said, “Mother Teresa said the nuns in India are not simply social workers. It is the presence of Christ which guides us.”
A man once saw her cleaning the wounds of a leper and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.”
Mother Teresa replied, “Neither would I. But I would gladly do it for Christ.”
Who are you?
The final speaker for the afternoon was Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He took his text from Acts 19:11-20 and talked about the sons of Sceva and the reality of demons. Mohler stated, “If you are too sophisticated to believe in demons, you are too sophisticated to believe in the one who conquered them.”
Reflecting on verse 15 of his text, Mohler exclaimed, “My worst nightmare would be for a demon to say to me, ‘Jesus we know, and Paul we recognize, but who are you?’
“Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not preach something else. There is no help to unbelievers if they leave church just thinking better of Jesus. They need to know Him as Savior.
“You can get the Word of God from your lips to their ears, but the Holy Spirit must plant it in their hearts. But remember that the Word of God prevails when it is preached.”
Barry Snapp, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Rockmart, was elected the president of the Preaching Conference for 2018 and pronounced the benediction.