LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) – Nationally recognized speakers did not shy away from controversial topics as they spoke boldly about sexual, political and racial identities at the Kentucky Baptist Pastors’ Conference on Monday.
Hundreds of Kentucky Baptist pastors and church leaders attended the conference at Immanuel Baptist Church held on the eve of the KBC 182nd Annual Meeting.
Burk on Sexual Identity
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, spoke on the issue of sexual identity.
“The world says there are only two options when speaking about this: Tolerance and intolerance. The intolerance option is the idea that if you oppose homosexuality, in any way, then you are intolerant of gay people as persons. You hate their sexual identity and therefore you hate them as persons,” Burk said, “There is another choice. The biblical choice.”
”What they need is for someone to love them enough to build a bridge into their lives, to love them and bring the message of Jesus, which means they need you and they need me to speak the truth, to speak the gospel and to speak with humility,” Burk said. “We have to speak the truth if we are going to love our gay neighbors.”
Ashford on Political Identity
“Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not to any social, cultural or political trend, or leader or party or tribe,” said Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Ashford called on pastors and church leaders to embrace the opportunities to engage on a political level.
“The Lord put us in this particular nation, at this time, for a reason. He wants us to not resent the moment, not to be afraid, not slouch and withdrawal and whisper in our homes about the Lord," he said. "Instead to engage in the social, cultural and political realm where we can be as a witness to the Lord, in obedience to the Lord as a preview of His kingdom.”
Looking to the Old Testament example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, who didn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s demands to worship an idol, Ashford said was most likely crafted in his own image.
“They spoke firmly and with conviction. They weren’t outraged or screaming. Their eyeballs weren’t popping out. They weren’t mocking or insulting. What they did was they moved out of the spotlight and put God back in it.”
He talked about the balance between truth and grace. “Truth without grace makes us political bullies and jerks. Grace without truth makes us political wimps. But truth and grace together is the powerful combination that Christ exhibited.”
Ashford encouraged the crowd to look to the Word of God as their basis for find and practicing grace and truth as they engage political issues.
Woods on Racial Identity
Curtis Woods, KBC associate executive director of convention relations and communications, pointed to the reconciliation found in the work of Jesus Christ as the greatest reconciliation needed by all people. “When we talk about racial identity, we begin with Jesus. We do not begin with one another,” Woods said. “You must start vertically before you start horizontally. When you do that, you see the cross.
“Jesus hates sin and racism is sin. Jesus hates racism,” said Woods. “His people hate racism and oppose racism because the ‘lamb who was slain and is worthy’ is telling us to rise up and be his followers.”
Woods pointed to the new song being sung in Heaven, according to Revelation 5. He said Christians need to understand, “We are already reconciled. As we talk about reconciliation, you must understand that those in Christ start as being reconciled with Christ through the work of the lamb who was slain.”
He called hearers to pursue all other forms of reconciliation from their position of peace with God through Christ. “There is one new man in Christ because we have been reconciled by the blood of the slain lamb.”
Woods said this should be the basis for Christians to look on one another in joy rather than contempt.
He encouraged pastors to pursue friendship with people of all ethnicities in their church and in their community. “We recognize there are many shades that make up this beautiful mosaic.”
Greear on the Gospel Above All
The event concluded with Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear encouraging pastors to call their church members to give their all for Christ. “Whatever you do well, you should do it in a strategic manner for the mission of Christ.”
Greear, senior pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C., asked pastors to reconsider how they view the call to Christian ministry. “The question is not if you’re called – it is where and how,” he said. “The call to leverage your life for Jesus was included in the call of Jesus in the life of every follower of Jesus.”
His aim was to encourage pastors to call all church members to the work of spreading the gospel.
“Ordinary Christians have always been the tip of the spear.”
He offered several examples of how their church has been transformed by looking for ways to serve the underserved in their community. Greear says the acts of service opened doors for gospel conversations that had been closed.
He encouraged pastors to be willing to sacrifice their most qualified church members for the purpose of planting new churches and taking the gospel around the world. He admitted the challenge can be scary for church leaders, but shared how Summit Church has witnessed God’s blessings when they’ve been willing to step out in faith to send their best to the mission field.
The livestream of the pastors’ conference is available at kybaptist.org/pastorsconference.
Business at the conference included an offering of $1,331.75 collected for Mission Dignity, an initiative by Guidestone Financial Services to aid retired pastors and their spouses.
Leadership for the 2020 and 2021 Pastors’ Conferences were also elected. Dan Summerlin, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, will lead the 2020 conference. The spot was previously filled by Kenny Rager of Owensboro, but Rager had to step down as he is now on staff with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. John Lucas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pikeville, was selected to lead the 2021 meeting.
The 2020 Kentucky Baptist Pastors’ Conference is scheduled to be held at Bellevue Baptist Church in Owensboro on Nov. 9.
Robin Cornetet and Marina Shelton contributed to this report.