Preaching demands convictional courage, speakers say at Southern Seminary’s Expositors Summit
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — Churches need expository preachers confident in God’s authority and power to confront complex cultural situations, said speakers during the Oct. 27-29 Expositors Summit at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The Holy One took our place, the Crucified One rose again, and the Risen One is seated at the right hand of the Father, and the Seated One is coming back again,” said H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. “As the culture around us grows more hostile to the truth and so many in the church compromise their convictions to keep up with the times, may God help us to have the courage of our convictions.”
Charles, who appeared at the annual preaching conference for a third consecutive year, examined God’s testimony about Jesus Christ in Acts 2:22-24. He urged attendees to embrace the example of Peter, saying “you will never preach to a crowd as hostile as the crowd Peter preached to on the Day of Pentecost.” Charles said Peter presented God as the chief witness to confirm Jesus’ identity as Christ and Lord.
Pastors must preach boldly because “there are no skeletons in God’s closet,” Charles said, emphasizing the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. Charles insisted pastors must preach the whole counsel of God, including the nature of Christ and the relationship of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. That’s because “the Bible is not a cafeteria where you can take what you want and leave the rest behind.”
“May God so work in us that we go back to our assigned places of ministry with a renewed confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture,” Charles said. “If we don’t turn to the Scriptures, people will not be changed even if someone rises from the dead. Be reminded of the sufficiency of God’s Word.”
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a pair of sermons from 1 Corinthians, said pastors now face an “infinite array of complex and awkward situations” because of the culture’s celebration of sin. Examining 1 Corinthians 10:1-22, Mohler said American Christians may find themselves “living off someone else’s idolatry.”
Mohler warned the Corinthian syncretism was a “subtle idolatry,” a casual disregard for the power and prevalence of idol worship in their culture. Just as the children of Israel in Exodus 32 sat down to eat and drink in the presence of the golden calf, Mohler said, so also were Corinthian Christians eating food sacrificed to idols and ignoring the conscience of others.
“We can’t join in the celebration of that which is sin,” Mohler said. “It’s not just about our conscience, but their conscience. We dare not do anything that would mislead their conscience.”
Although the issues may be complex and confusing to many Christians, Mohler said, they must not be ignored or dismissed.
“We’re all Corinthians now,” Mohler said. “The great concern of our hearts is that we not be idolaters now.”
Expository preaching not only confronts culture, but it provides comfort to suffering people. Derek W.H. Thomas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina, made his debut at the conference and delivered a series of sermons on suffering.
In the historic Oct. 4 flood in Columbia, 120 homes in Thomas’ congregation were destroyed. Shortly before many of his members found themselves homeless and in financial ruin, Thomas began preaching a 12-week series on the Book of Job at his church. Preaching from Job 42 at the Expositors Summit, Thomas said preaching today “lacks a sense of the majesty of God.”
“We must not shirk from preaching the whole counsel of God,” Thomas said. “God is sovereign. That’s what people need to hear during times of trial.”
Thomas encouraged pastors to point suffering people to the “sovereign God who holds the world in his hand” and said declaring the majesty of God is the “only type of preaching that can sustain broken hearts.”
"God is sovereign. There is no darkness in which you cannot feel the warmth of his embrace and the certainty of his overwhelming providence," Thomas said.
In a sermon concluding the three-day conference, Charles preached from Jude 24-25 on the perseverance of believers. Reflecting on 25 years of pastoral ministry, which he began at age 17 leading Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles, Charles called for Christians to “trust and praise” God for his keeping power.
“God is able to keep you when you cannot keep yourself,” Charles said.
Jude’s letter is a “call to arms to stand and fight for the faith,” Charles said, and it demonstrates how true believers persevere even amid false teaching. Christians are to strive for “consistent obedience” rather than “sinless perfection,” he explained, saying it is a “miracle” not only that believers are saved but that they remain saved.
“What God does for you is not about you. It is all about him,” Charles said. “To trust the God who is able to keep you is to praise the God who is able to keep you.”
The conference also featured a panel discussion on preaching and preparation, as well as seven seminars with pastors and scholars from across the country. In a preconference Oct 26, multiethnic church leaders addressed the issue of racial reconciliation. Audio and video of the Expositors Summit 2015 will soon be available online at sbts.edu/resources.