Al Jackson says the names you find at the end of Colossians 4 “are not familiar to us.”
“We name our sons Paul or Peter or John,” he said. “We don’t name our sons Tychicus or Aristarchus.”
But even though few might know their names, there are “no insignificant saints, no insignificant churches, no insignificant pastors,” said Jackson, pastor emeritus of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, as he preached during the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference June 13 in Anaheim, California.
‘Your work is infinitely and eternally significant’
“My dear pastor, fellow pastor, you do not have an insignificant ministry. You may be in a very isolated place. You may preach to only a handful of people. But whether you preach to five or 5,000, your work is infinitely and eternally significant,” he said.
Jackson’s closing exhortation fit the theme of the conference, “We Proclaim Him.” His message closed out the Book of Colossians, which Pastors Conference speakers had preached through during the gathering.
Matt Henslee, Pastors Conference president, associational mission strategist for Collin Baptist Association in Texas and assistant preaching pastor at First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, said his hope for the conference was that it would “help us to embrace endurance in the trenches of gospel ministry through engaging worship that will encourage unity — and my brothers and sisters in Christ, we need unity.”
Also during the event, pastors elected Daniel Dickard, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the new Pastors Conference president. Dickard won the election over Voddie Baucham, dean of theology for African Christian University, by a vote of 690 (50.85%) to 608 (44.8%) with 59 ballots (4.35%) disallowed.
To start the conference June 12, pastors gathered for a prayer event with Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, then Mark Clifton kicked off the preaching with Colossians 1:1–8.
“Where the gospel is, it is alive,” said Clifton, senior director of replanting at the North American Mission Board, who has served for more than 40 years as a pastor, church planter, strategist and mentor for church leaders. “And where it is alive, it spreads. And where the gospel is, there is fruit. And the fruit is love and compassion.”
He noted the adversary tries to take advantage of the insecurities pastors often feel.
The power of the risen, supreme Christ
“If he can make us feel isolated and alone and cut off and unimportant and small, he can keep us where he wants us,” Clifton said. “Let me tell you, you are not isolated, you are not alone and you are not small. You have all the power of the risen Christ with you.”
Omar Johnson, pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church near Washington, D.C., preached on Colossians 1:9-14.
He urged pastors to resist the temptation to add something to the message of Jesus to make it more palatable for more people. In Colossians, the church was encountering false teaching that turned the focus from Christ and toward sources promising more robust knowledge of God.
“That’s still a threat pressing in our churches today, isn’t it? We need Jesus plus something. We need the Scriptures plus something.”
But Christ is supreme and all we need, said Hanley Liu, pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church Walnut, California. Preaching from Colossians 1:15–20, he said every verse “proclaims the absolute supremacy of Christ.”
“What’s encouraging for us, pastors and leaders of the Church, is that when this text teaches us that Jesus is supreme, sovereign over all things, all things in heaven and all things on earth, this includes every single thing that has discouraged or divided the Church. Everything that has caused you … pastors, sleepless nights and stress … falls under the sovereignty and supremacy of Christ,” he said.
Matthew Mueller, pastor at Valley Life Church North Peoria in Peoria, Arizona, said pastors need to show a hurting world they have a foundation like that to stand on.
“The world desperately needs truth,” he declared as he preached from Colossians 1:21–23. He noted the importance of pastors remaining grounded and steadfast in the gospel.
“We all want our people, churches to not shift from the hope of the gospel,” he said. It’s only in the truth and a firm foundation in the gospel, he assessed, that people can place their hope.
Love crucial despite difficulty
Clay Smith, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, said the past couple of years have made it extra hard for pastors to stand firm. He said there were “plenty of days when I wondered, ‘Am I going to make it?’ Have you been there?”
Preaching from Colossians 1:24–29, Smith encouraged pastors to look to Paul for an example of being joyful in their ministry assignments, even if they’re difficult.
“We are shepherds, undershepherds of the flock of God,” he said. “This is our assignment from God, to be this servant He’s called us to be, and let’s be honest — ministry is tough. It’s hard.”
One aspect that can make it hard is the conflict pastors sometimes face with others, said Marcus Hayes, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in The Woodlands, Texas.
Hayes said Paul encouraged the believers in Colossians 2:1–7 to “be knit together in love,” as different ideologies, philosophies and religious practices were threatening the truth that Jesus is enough.
Christians are called to “keep Jesus close. Don’t allow culture to cause you to fumble,” Hayes said.
Pastor P.J. Tibayan, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Bellflower, California, said, “There are all kinds of bad ideas out there. Most of those ideas are not attractive to us as pastors and to our members.
“But … some of them are captivating,” he noted. “These are the ones that threaten our souls, our ministries, our churches and our witness.”
He noted the purpose of Colossians 2:8–23 is “to equip us and strengthen us to continue in Christ and avoid being captivated by attractive bad ideas, dangerous ideas.”
To avoid being derailed in your faith, Tibayan said, “God is calling you to discern and deny non-Christian judgments so that you continue living your fullness in Christ Jesus.”
Preaching from Colossians 3:1–11, Daryl Jones challenged pastors to seek Christlikeness while constantly rejecting the old ways of the world.
“I am speaking to you, pastor. We think we’ve graduated beyond these 11 verses, but we need to take inventory,” said Jones, pastor of the Rock Fellowship Church in Miami Lakes, Florida.
Christlike mindset changes everything
Christians should be “motivated by Christ alone. … I am no earthly good if I’m not heavenly minded,” Jones said, adding, “The only thing that matters is that which belongs to Christ, and that is where our mindset should constantly be.”
Matt Carter, pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, Texas, said maintaining a Christ-focused mindset is critical.
“Make no mistake, there are times when lines need to be drawn in the sand,” said Carter, preaching from Colossians 3:12–14. “But the Scripture makes itself crystal clear that no matter what we face as a convention, that we are always to engage each other in a Christ-like kind of way.
“We’re not doing that, and I’m not sure the Lord is pleased,” he said.
Carter called Baptists to be a people known for biblical faithfulness and tenderheartedness, for love of missions and love for one another.
From there, Israel Villalobos, Spanish service pastor for Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, picked up with Colossians 3:18–4:1.
He noted some people “cringe” with the verses that address wives submitting to their husbands. He noted some may view these verses as “chauvinistic” with Paul saying men are superior to women.
“But, if you fully comprehend the culture when women were objects to be used and enjoyed simply for bearing children and for the man to have an heir, then you can see how Paul was presenting a view of marriage that actually elevated women to a level of equality and value they did not experience during that time — and perhaps had not even considered.”
But even today, he said, husbands struggle to love their wives.
“Sadly even today that instruction is still even mind blowing,” he said. “How often do husbands in marital counseling need to be reminded to love their wife?”
He noted, “Remember, wifely submission and husbandly sacrificial love are God’s established rules. We must do these things so God the Father is glorified.”
Julio Arriola said Colossians 4:2–6 serves to remind Christians of who they are.
‘We are servants’
“In other words, dear Southern Baptists, we are servants,” said Arriola, director of Send Network SBTC, a church planting partnership between NAMB and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “[God] is the one that deserves all the glory, and we are his servants, servants of Christ, rescued from the pits of hell, reconciled with God by the blood of Jesus, to live lives that would [glorify] the Father.”
Though God is sovereign and supreme, Arriola said, He has decided to move and to act upon His servants’ prayers. And when God’s people pray, he said, prayer changes everything.
“Dear pastor, you may be facing the toughest seasons in ministry right now,” he said. “But I challenge you to pray with gratitude to God. You will have peace, and it will give you also hope for tomorrow.”