First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida Pastor’s Conference

(This article is intended for those in the Ministry)

In a just a little over week , (Lord be willing) my wife and I will be attending the Pastor’s Conference that is held at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  It has become an annual trek for us intended to be a time of refreshing, renewing and restoration.  And at this point I can still recommend it to my brethren, I am not certain as to whether or not that will always be the case.

As I stated in a previous post, we began attending back in 2004 and it became a personal favorite of ours.   Being theologically landmark in Baptist doctrine, and conservative in all areas, I was absolutely overjoyed at the size, scale, and influence of this conference.  Not being in the convention, coupled with being in a smaller national group had lead me to the mindset that pastors, preachers, and believers, of my mind and spirit were relegated to the small, unnoticed, and a minimal, if at all, influence on the culture.  The conference was a wonderful encouragement, and inspiritation to me and my wife at just the right time.

While Adrian Rogers has been my favorite preacher for many, many years, I was also encouraged by the rest of the group.  Bailey Smith, Jr. Hill, Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, David Allen, Fred Luter, Ergun Caner, Ed Young, Bobby Welch, and John Sullivan were some of the men in that first conference that I attended.  Some of these men still attend, while new ones have also been brought in.  

I understand completely the need to stay fresh, when you have an annual conference.  Some things need to change over time.  However one of the most dramatic changes that I have noticed in the last few years has been a perceived shift in the tone of the conference concerning Calvinism.

I still have some CD’s from the first conference, and a fairly good memory, and it was decidedly, flamingly, anti-Calvinistic.  It seemed as if there was no room for debate or discussion, the tone clearly landed on the right side of the issue, and left the other side, where it should be, in the boat of heresy.  (At least that’s what I remember)

It seems also that some of the attitude has changed concerning “Methods” of ministry.  I remember distinctly attending Calvin Carr’s seminar on youth ministry, and finding very refreshing the churches stand on the issue of “separation” from the world.  “Cotton Candy” youth ministry was the name of his seminar, and he did a masterful job of explaining why there were certain things their youth group didn’t do, and things they didn’t condone, or allow; and I am speaking of things that come with the label “Christian” on them.  (Which by the way, this was the youth group of Tim Tebow – which he was a member of at the time.) 

They were clear, they were solid, and they were settled strong on one side of nearly every issue.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  I know that Vines has retired, and Rogers has relocated.  I know that Mac Brunson is a different man, and I have never had a problem with him at all.  However it seems that the issues on which they once took a strong clear stand, they are now giving a soft blurry touch.

It was either last year or the year before that  Tommy Nelson loudly declared – “I paid good money to be a five star calvinist”  Al Mohler, of course we know is a Calvinist.  But even the non-Calvinist are less and less distinctive  about their stand.  They are no longer adamant about Calvinism being a heresy.  The Doctrine of Separation does not seem to be given the same press that it used to, at least with what I have seen in recent years.

I am fully aware of the controversies surrounding Mac Brunson, and the watch dog blog.  I believe offended church members had some legitimate points, and Dr. Brunson could have handled it better.  I don’t believe that Dr. Brunson is a greedy, grumpy, sheep beater.  I believe that some of my church members could raise legitimate points with me, and I believe that I could have handle many things better in my ministry than I have.  Because church members have legitimate complaints, and because pastors do not always handle things the best, doesn’t mean anything more than churches, and pastors, are sinful human beings, trying to present a perfect loving Savior to a lost and dying world.

With that being said, Dr. Vines, Dr. Hill, Dr. Allen, and Dr. Patterson are worth the price of admission.  The sermons they bring have always been eye opening, and soul touching messages straight from the Word of God.  I have always been refreshed and renewed by what they have prepared for this meeting, and their dedication to expository preaching.  The members of the church are beyond outstanding.  Their kindness, and warm friendliness, and whole hearted effort, make this a truly enjoyable occasion. 

If you are in the area, or have the time and resources, it is still generally worth the trip.  (And I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful music that is led by Jim Whitmire.) 

I can certainly say for me and my wife that making this an annual trip thus far, has been a change worth making.


8 comments on “First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida Pastor’s Conference

  1. Scott says:

    You do realize that when you say that a person is a heretic, that you are saying that they believe a fundamental error that means that they do not believe the Christian Gospel. So if Calvinism is heresy, as you say, aren’t you insinuating that Al Mohler and Tommy Nelson are not Christians? If you are going to use the word “heresy” to describe Calvinism, that is what you are saying.

    • Scott,

      Thanks for there not being any vitriole in your email. Some I have received have been pretty ugly.

      I will post and respond more in depth when I have some more time. Pastoral duties are preeminent right now. I will however say that’s not quite true.

      “Heresy” is “error.” It is not necessarily tied to one of the fundamental tenets of the faith.

      I did not say that they were guilty of “Apostasy”. Apostasy is turning from the faith. Heresy is merely “error”. Because someone may be in “Theological error” or “Theological heresy” does not mean that they are not a Christian. A Saved man can be wrong about many things and still be saved.

      As I said in a previous post, “unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistable grace” are not true. They are theological errors, or heresies. (I didn’t say “damnable heresies” I said heresies, errors, incorrect.

      When I have some more time I will post a fuller article.

  2. Please urgently pray for me concerning with being refilled with the power of the Holy Ghost on the inward parts. I have recently rededicated my life back to Christ Jesus and seek to do my first work for the Lord. I was baptised some years ago but, strayed away from God. I have a wife and five children who need my spiritual leading. I seek to be an effective witness for Christ Jesus our Lord. I have started out in a new ministry for Christ and also seek a spiritual gift of the five fold ministry so i can edify the body of christ. Also, i am in need of healing mind, body, and soul. I urgently need healing in my left ear and my left eye because i am losing my sight and hearing seems like but i look to Jesus with everyone standing in agreement with me for a miracle. Also, I am getting tightness and pain in my chest area. Please every believer pray with me i urgently need help from God. I want to be
    effectively used by God to win souls to Christ. I need empowerment, enablement, and endowment from on high to tread apon serpents. Also my wife and i are in serious need of a financial miracle. We are overwhelmed and sinking in serious financial problems. We are in danger of losing our house and car. But we believe in divine provision from God. With your agreement prayer and intercession with us ‘ It shall be done of our father in heaven.( I Thank everyone in advance, In Jesus name, amen).

  3. I have been going since to the conference since 2001. I am not a Calvinist. Some of the earliest baptist 400 years ago were Calvinist. I have noticed a change but it seems more about making the conference even more substantive. Dr. Vines is a great man and Dr. Brunson not only had big shoes to fill he seems to be doing a great job in spite of those who zealously seek to sow discord. I am excited about this year. May God be glorified in all of us. Nathan Morton

  4. I have been going to the conference since 2001. I am not a Calvinist. Some of the earliest baptist 400 years ago were Calvinist. I have noticed a change but it seems more about making the conference even more substantive. Dr. Vines is a great man and Dr. Brunson not only had big shoes to fill he seems to be doing a great job in spite of those who zealously seek to sow discord. I am excited about this year. May God be glorified in all of us. Nathan Morton

  5. This is wonderful. Yes the conference is differences than any. The presence of the Lord was there when I visited in 2004, coming year I want to participate again.

  6. gene crim says:

    is the music from the 1996 pastors conference available

    • Gene, I would have no idea. Probably the best thing to do would be to contact the church. They do have a media store in the church which has music and videos from past conferences. Sorry it took so long, I’ve been away from the computer. I hope that is some help.

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