Right now, gathered in the hot city of Phoenix, AZ, are thousands of my fellow brothers and sister in Christ for the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2017 Annual Meeting. I know several pastors that are attending (out of the thousands), and I would love the opportunity to be able to attend the meeting sometime in the future.
However, here, I write to those in attendance…Do not forget about your congregations. Do not forget about the faithful Christians whom you lock arms with on a regular basis as you face the enemy in Spiritual Warfare. Do not forget those for whom you do battle. It is easy to get lost and distracted when at such an event (TGC, T4G, etc.). Now, I am not saying it’s wrong to attend or have fun. My wife and I have been to several conferences over the years and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Who doesn’t love fellowship? Who doesn’t love food? Who doesn’t love free books? I enjoy all of these things. However, you must not, you CANNOT, let these things pull you away from the point of all of this: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). These meetings are personally edifying as well as enormously beneficial for our local bodies of Southern Baptist Churches however, this is only so if we intentionally listen and bring back what we learn. Just as the Psalmist in Psalm 78 exhorts us to “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” (Psalm 78:1, ESV) so that the people of God will not continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, we need to “Give ear…to” and “incline” our ears to the convention so we can learn, grow, and not repeat the mistakes made in the past.
To all of the various institutions and other “vendors” in attendance (I hesitate to use the word “vendors” here because it inadequately describes many of the organizations that are there, such as seminaries and other ministries)…Do not forget that while you are there representing your “brand”, you are ultimately representing our Lord Jesus Christ, and are also called to, first and foremost, bring glory to God in all that you do (1 Corinthians 10:31). There are many ministries and seminaries that I have seen advertise their booths and all the books and merchandise they are going to be giving away for free. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, as I would love some free books and one of MBTS’s state “For The Church” t-shirts (hint hint, anyone). But, we cannot let these things pull you (ministries, seminaries, etc.) away from pointing people to Jesus, or, in the case of the SBC meeting, helping pastors and churches point others towards Jesus. And, we cannot, we must not allow the use of such things to be the instrument of the devil to point people away from God towards other things. While I don’t have any statistical or empirical evidence of this, I would venture to say that one of the biggest things that could be idolatrous to a pastor are his books. Every pastor I know loves books and loves reading his books…and loves talking about his books. But, as I have said before, there is nothing wrong with this, as long as we do not forget that we are to glorify God in all that we do. Because as soon as we stop doing that, we fall into idolatry.
So, while the many are out at the Southern Baptist Convention 2017 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, and others may be at other conferences or assemblies, I urge you, do not forget your congregation. Your staff. Your mission… Do not forget : “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). With that being said, do enjoy yourselves, have fun, fellowship, food, and free things. Pastors, you deserve it. You work day-in and day-out in one of the most difficult professions and also one of the most thankless professions. I appreciate you. We appreciate you. Now, go on, have fun and glorify God!