Spontaneous prayer broke out at the weekly pastors’ meeting three days later, said Shelly Chandler, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bonifay, which served as the host church for the March 27-28 conference.
“The Lord grabbed a hold of it,” said Chandler, explaining the extensive prayer time that brought flowing tears from the pastors.
The conference’s prayer emphasis resonated with Kent Lampp, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Graceville. “We have backed away from ardent prayer,” he said, calling it a message that needs to be taken to each church in the association.
But he stressed to his own congregation “we need to get back to the real thing. I confessed myself to them, ‘we are the best trained non-witness there is.’”
He made a recommitment to his congregation to focus more on personal witnessing without caring if it is “too bold or too blunt” by asking those he meets “a very personal question about your spiritual life.” He explained further, “you may not be an evangelist but you can tell your own story.”
“You have to be reminded and pushed into evangelism,” said Chandler. “This conference did that. It gave ideas on what to do. Everyone knows to do the Great Commission and what we are supposed to do. Then the Holy Spirit gets hold and you realize have fallen short.”
The meeting in Bonifay was the second of two regionals conferences. Earlier that week, March 24-25, First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach hosted a similar program. The week-long emphasis drew a combined 345 registered attendees.
However, nearly 400 persons from nearby churches attended the evening worship sessions in Daytona Beach and 300-plus came to the Panhandle services. Also throughout the week, events were held to target specific groups, including a luncheon in Daytona Beach attended by 100 senior adults; and a youth rally in Bonifay with 200-plus students resulting in 12 professions of faith.
David Burton said the two locations made the conferences more accessible to pastors.
“We attempted to reach more pastors and we did,” he explained. “The day of the one big conference is beyond us. Florida is just too large. Due to economy and days a pastor can be away from his church, he has to ‘pick and choose’ more than ever. Competition with more different conferences and meetings gathering in Florida has grown.”
Because “budgets are very tight,” Burton said, “participants could stay at home and drive each day to the meeting, needing no hotel accommodations for the most part.”
Keynote speakers for the Daytona Beach meeting were Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tim Maynard, pastor of Jacksonville’s Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville; Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.; and Bobby Welch, associate executive director, Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Speakers in Bonifay were John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention; Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church; and Craig Conner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Panama City, along with Maynard and Garland.
Maynard, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, preached from Matthew 16:13 in Daytona Beach and decried that “We have stopped preaching Jesus and are preaching felt needs. Let us talk about the author and finisher. Let us stop pretending that the lost are going to flood our churches to hear us speak.”
He said while Jesus was on earth, there was growing confusion about who He was. Some said he was John the Baptist, while others said he was an illegitimate child and others who believed he was disrupting the religious establishment.
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