LITTLE ROCK — Four speakers inspired and challenged messengers and guests at the 166th annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Oct. 22-23 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Little Rock. Below is a summary of the messages.
Greg Sykes, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Russellville, and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), gave the president’s message during the morning session Oct. 22.
Sykes preached from Luke 15, about the end of the parable of the prodigal son. Sykes’ message focused on the “forgotten older brother” in the parable.
“Most of us have been a prodigal in the past,” said Sykes. “I believe we need to hear a different message this morning.”
In Luke 15:25-28, the forgotten man, the older brother in the parable, was out of touch. The man’s questions reveal a judgmental attitude and legalism that many believers struggle with, said Sykes.
Legalists sometimes get caught up in an effort to prove or earn their righteousness, often without realizing it, said Sykes.
“The older sons of the world, the legalists, frankly, are unpleasant people,” he said. “The older son didn’t know about the feast because everybody was afraid to tell him because they knew how he would react.
“I would argue that this older brother was as far from the father in heart as the younger brother was when he ran away in debauchery,” said Sykes.
“We need to remember this. If we are out of fellowship with our brothers and sisters, we cannot be in fellowship with our Father,” said Sykes. “He who loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20).”
Like the father in the parable, God extends forgiveness to all of us, said Sykes.
Sykes listed seven sins, in the parable that we can use to recognize legalism in our hearts: 1) Prideful, 2) Self-righteous, 3) Ungrateful, 4) Selfish, 5) Unloving, 6) Unforgiving and 7) Disrespectful.
“It’s remarkable that He uses any of us. … But the good news is that He has,” said Sykes, ending his message by quoting Psalm 51.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and former senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, shared a message during the afternoon session Oct. 22.
Floyd preached from Colossians 4 and said that a “spirit of willingness should always captivate and dominate the heart of the Christ-follower.”
“To the oldest of you in this room, you still need to say to God, ‘Here am I, send me.’ To the most discouraged of you in this room, you still need to say to God, ‘Here am I, send me,’” said Floyd. “What I am saying to you today is this, ‘Always be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to go any place that God wants you to go to. Always be willing.’”
“Willing to stay may be more difficult than being willing to go. But you should also always be willing to go,” said Floyd.
Floyd told messengers to never forget that the greatest need that we have is for God to bring about the “next great spiritual awakening.”
Floyd said that it is important that we: 1) Seek the Lord; 2) Reach the lost, and 3) Impact the future.
Floyd also encouraged pastors to devote an entire Sunday morning service(s) to prayer.
“There is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that is not first proceeded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people,” said Floyd.
J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, ABSC executive director, preached Tuesday evening, Oct. 22, from 1 Corinthians 3 on the topic of encouraging church members to engage in evangelism and to “think like a missionary.”
“I think we’ve got to look at evangelism as a process not an event,” said Tucker. “You try to get a nugget grasp of what it looks like and how you can get some of your regular church folks involved in some part of this process.”
Tucker highlighted scales of measurement used by missionaries – the Engel scale and resistance/receptivity scale – that he said can be good tools for Arkansas Baptists to better understand how to walk unbelievers from a place of not being receptive to the gospel to the point of salvation.
Speaking on the numerical markers of the resistance/receptivity scale that denote the level of a lost individual’s openness to the gospel, Tucker said, “Wouldn’t it be great to get some of your family and relatives and friends just to where they didn’t care, they weren’t anti- and negative?”
“Let me ask you a question, this is very difficult: ‘Where are more people saved – over here, plus five (highly receptive on the scale) or over here, minus five (highly resistant on the scale)?’” said Tucker. “Again, God can move folks from minus five to plus five very fast as I have seen that happen in one visit.”
“Who’s your one? Who you going to pray for? Who you going to invite? Who you going to take fishing? … Who you going to play golf with? You can find a way; the Holy Spirit is working in your heart right now,” said Tucker. “And you will be rewarded for that task.”
Jamar Andrews, lead pastor of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro, delivered the convention sermon Wednesday morning, Oct. 23, preaching from 2 Kings 2.
“I want to look at some key things in this denomination, in our world and time, that we need to be agreeing on that will bring us together as multi-generational and to see the kingdom advance,” said Andrews. “How do we see the smooth transition or transference of leadership? I believe that from the lives of Elijah and Elisha, they present to us what it should look like.”
Andrews focused on the importance of older generations coming alongside younger generations like Elijah came alongside Elisha.
Andrews said there are three main things to focus on: 1) We need to leverage today; 2) We need to remember yesterday, and 3) We need to prepare for tomorrow.
Andrews pointed out that Elijah, the older, “leveraged today” by going to Elisha and trained him to take over once Elijah was gone.
“This message that we carry – that you have taught us, that you have shown us – it changes lives,” said Andrews. “The greatest gift you can leave behind is a prepared servant.”
Andrews walked through the chapter and pointed out that Elijah took Elisha to Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan River to remember what God had done for the Israelites at those specific places.
At the last place, Elijah told Elisha to ask for anything, and he would give it to him. Elisha requested a double portion of the spirit within Elijah.
“Elisha had his priorities straight. He didn’t say he wanted his name in lights or to be famous,” said Andrews. “Many times in ministry, us young brothers can have our vision off, and we can be looking in the wrong place. We can think that ministry is about the ABC’s: attendance, building and cash. We think that means something for our spiritual prowess.”
Andrews then pointed out that the last miracle Elijah performed was the first miracle Elisha performed. Andrews then looked forward to the Garden of Gethsemane to remember that the last miracle Jesus did before He was taken away from the disciples was healing a soldier’s ear.
“We need to devote our lives to the very last thing that our Lord did before He was taken from His disciples to be crucified: to see the servants of our enemy healed,” said Andrews.