You may have heard that our band of merry men picked up a little gig this week. I wish I could tell you all the things that have happened behind the scenes – encouraging, frustrating, exciting, glorious, and affirming that God has allowed us this great opportunity. We are committed to putting on a Pastors Conference in Phoenix that will be worth your time and travel. We are already working on logistics, fund-raising, music, and all the other aspects, but the most important thing in this conference will be the preaching.
We ran for this office because we believed in a principle – that there was power in the word and that the servants of God would be encouraged by the exposition of that word in the PC. We are going to stick with our “plan.” We have a million ideas coming at us from friends with good hearts who want to help, and we are listening to every one from everyone. But at the core, we will stick to the heart and soul of our idea – preachers from average churches proclaiming the unsearchable riches of God’s word.
What is an average church? Good question. A friend told me a while back that 95% of the churches in the SBC run 400 or less on a Sunday morning. So it seems that average would fall into that category. Our arbitrary, non-binding guideline is that we will be looking for preachers from churches that average 500 per Sunday or less. We may stray higher than that, but our norm will be to stay in the “average” range. Our speakers will come from average churches in the SBC – that means about 500 or so in average attendance or less. We might go a little higher than that, but not much. We love and appreciate the big churches, and we assume they will be back in 2018, but this year we are going to hear from the folks we don’t get to hear from at other times.
I’ve been in churches like this all my life and I’ve heard some excellent Bible preaching! That is the bedrock belief that drove our effort – there are a lot of good men who handle God’s word carefully, skillfully, and powerfully, who preach in churches that are not huge. We have no interest in taking over the pastor’s conference – we will look forward to attending in 2018 knowing that another godly leader will be in charge and putting together a great conference. Ours is a one-time project to do something positive, though a little different, and we are going to do everything we can to make it work, and work well.
We are thinking through which book or passage we are going to exposit – did you know there are 66 to choose from? We’ve narrowed it down to the New Testament for our purposes but we have three or four major “nominations.” I suppose that in the end I will make the final choice, but we are going to be discussing this among our leadership team for the next couple of weeks, and will make a final decision soon. I’m not going to reveal our current front-runners, but you can put your ideas in the comments. It is a tough choice – all of God’s word is profitable and powerful but picking which part to focus on is not easy.
Of course, the biggest part of this is the search for twelve preachers to deliver God’s word.
We are looking for preachers from average-sized churches, but we are looking for extraordinary preachers of God’s word.
We want men who boldly, accurately, and powerfully proclaim God’s word. We are looking for a very specific type of preacher for next year’s PC. You can help us. In fact, You MUST help us. We can’t do this. We need your recommendations. I’ll be honest. It’s killing me a little. I’d rather be preaching next year than be president, but we agreed that none of us who were the leadership team would fill the pulpit. Preaching at the PC will have to remain on my bucket list.
Let me spell out what our search parameters. Since we are preaching through a book of the Bible, we need preachers for whom verse by verse exposition is the norm. But it is a little more complicated than that.
Our Preaching Parameters
1. Our preaching will be text-driven. When you leave, we want you to know the word better and be encouraged from it. We aren’t looking for topical sermons on church growth or ministry principles. Those are fine, but not next year. We are looking for text-driven, exegetical, expositional sermons. Our focus will be on the biblical text.
2. Our preaching will be passionate. I love God’s word, but I’ve heard some “text-driven” sermons that were pretty boring. Some expositors seem to get more interested in showing you how much they know about the passage, not what that passage means and how it impacts our lives for Christ. We are looking for preachers who dig deep into God’s word, mine its treasures, and show us God’s heart and God’s will. We hope you will be challenged, perhaps convicted, encouraged and energized to serve Christ more faithfully.
3. Our preaching will be focused. There are many issues that divide us as Baptists and they all have their place, but we are working to see that only primary issues have a place in Phoenix. Our speakers will be from all sides Baptist soteriology, but our hope is that Calvinism will not be a factor in sermons, except in the most tangential ways. We want to focus on big issues, on common ground, not on divisive and secondary matters.
4. Our preachers will be diverse. This will be a challenge since there are only twelve preaching slots. If we are not intentional about diversity we tend to drift toward uniformity, so we are working hard to counter that. We are not going to have quotas, and handling the word of God will be paramount, but we want to hear the voices of some of our non-Anglo brothers. We want geographic diversity, a variety of ages – there are several issues to consider. And there are only 12 slots!
There are some great preachers out there who don’t fit our parameters, but this is what we are looking for. In a few days, we will publicize the formal nomination process – probably an online form. Right now, just be thinking and praying about someone you can suggest. One thing. We’ve got to be able to hear a few of their sermons – online is preferable. The task of selecting 12 preachers out of the many thousands who qualify as “average” church pastors in a denomination of nearly 50,000 churches is daunting. We will take nominations, listen to sermons, and try to pick a slate as soon as we can.
We are trying to hit the ground running on this!
We intend to do some things never done before. Our hope is that it will be such a blessing that you will decide to head all the way out to the wild, wild west to join us in Phoenix.