I rarely like the assumption that all pastors are discouraged and need to be propped up by those who have the appearances of greater successes. I will admit that my first impression of the theme of the conference was less than an “oh boy.” Even among the “vintage” years of my attendance, and the highest times of my spirit I have always disliked the underlying tones that come from “big preachers” reminding “small preachers” that we’re all the same “preachers.” I have always thought, “we know that” but apparently they don’t. Sometimes it’s not the little known preachers that need to know there’s no difference in small church pastors, and large church pastors. Sometimes it’s the other way around. If I had one “tone” about this conference that I’ve never liked that’s it.
However, it was a pleasant surprise to me that even with the theme of Endurance, I did not sense this tone this year to the same degree that I have in years past. It did have moments that I still heard it, but I have become oversensitized to it and may have heard signals no one was really sending.
I must give credit where credit is due. I stand in stark opposition to Al Mohler on the issues of Calvinism. I will say from this day until the last day that the teaching of Limited Atonement, is an inright, outright, upright, downright Heresy with a capital H. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2. Now that being said, Mohler hit a home run. My heart was touched and my spirit was saying amen, as he addressed the issues of God’s people having a lack of knowledge in our day and age. His call for a revival of Biblical knowledge among our people is past due, and under emphasized. His message Sunday night was the best that I personally have heard him preach.
I had never heard Jim Shaddix preach prior to this conference. I am glad that I did. To finally put a pastor on stage who is honest about the less than explosive growth in his church was suprisingly and wonderfully refreshing. The Lord is blessing our church, people are getting saved, numerically we are increasing, spiritually we are growing,but the roof is still on, and the doors haven’t come loose yet. Our people have the same desire for growth (deep and wide) as any other church that the Lord has, but the results have not been as earth shattering as we would like. For Shaddix to preach from the standpoint of someone whose church is not booming, and being honest about it, and approaching it from a scriptural point of view, refreshed my mind and recharged my stamina, and for that I am grateful.
As always Paige Patterson and David Allen, two of my favorites, were surgical with the texts, and dynamite in their message.
James Merritt deserves the “Kiss My Grits” award! Addressing the issue of anonymous “writing”, and “people writing about their pastor” in the face of Mac’s friends and enemies, took more grits than Granny Clampett could conjure up. I was, to say the least, impressed with his brazenness, as he rather boldly took up the issue and looked the camera in the the eye and the crowd in the face. What he said was true to the Word of God, and he would not back up one inch.
My heart hurts for the people of FBCJax. The crowd being significantly smaller than years past, and the children’s choirs 1/2 of what they used to be, cannot be easy for those precious people. I did not see Jim Smyrl, Fran Hawk, or the gentleman with the “rock crosses,” and I looked. I may just have missed them. I did see Robert Jones, Andy Anderson, Al Broyles, and some of the other ushers that we have grown accustomed to shaking hands with when we enter.
The choir and orchestra is still out of this world, and worth every accolade that comes their way.
What other course people and pastors may choose, I know not, but as for me and Pinecrest, we will serve the Lord, and I will pray for those people. Doing so would definitely be a change worth making.