Over 30 pastors, wives, and staff gathered at First Baptist Church Naples on Thursday, March 7th for the Southwest Regional Sharper Ministry Conference. The smell of coffee and sounds of laughter filled the room as Pastor Hayes Wicker, Senior Pastor of FBC Naples and Wayne Briant, the Southwest Regional Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, welcomed the conference attendees by sharing great news about Cooperate Program giving.
“I am happy to report to you today, that Florida Baptists’ giving is half a million dollars over budget for the year,” Briant said. “The Florida Baptist Convention is grateful for each and every one of you. We are thankful to gather today and sharpen our sword. Our hope is that we leave here today better equipped to reach Florida.”
After introducing his staff and sharing the breakout session topics, Pastor Wicker said “our folks are specialists in their field of ministry.” Wicker invited attendees to plug into a number of session topics including Missions, Worship Music, Pastoral Care, Safety/Security, Leadership, and more.
Kevin Taylor, pastor of Evangelism and Missions at FBC Naples, challenged attendees in his breakout session to “live missionally” and to not make evangelism and missions “just a cool afterthought, but to really make it who they are as a church.” He exemplified this perfectly when, as he was teaching, his alarm sounded at 10:02, reminding him to pray earnestly for laborers to be sent out into the harvest (Luke 10:2).
On the topic of leadership, Pastor Wicker called every pastor in the room to lead how Jesus would lead and to do even the smallest task in order to display “servant leadership” and “diligence” as they seek to lead their people.
During a time of Q&A with Pastor Wicker and Wayne Briant, the new SBC ’Who’s Your One?’ emphasis was a hot topic. “One thing that I have learned in my 44 years of soul-winning is that if I am willing, God will give me the opportunity. You can win more people to Jesus, you just have to make up your mind to do it,” Briant said. He went on to challenge and encourage attendees that “evangelism is not a church growth strategy, it’s obedience…this is something that every church can do.” Pastor Wicker shared that the new ‘Who’s Your One?’ emphasis “can change Southern Baptists, it needs to become a lifestyle not a program.”
There is no doubt that every Sharper attendee left with sharpened ministry skills, answers to their questions, and were encouraged to keep running the race set before them. “We would love to have over 300 people here for Sharper. But even if we have just 20 or 30, it is worth it. Our goal is to bless and equip,” Wicker said.