The two-day event focused on the theme, Character Matters in Ministry: Beatitudes of a Pastor. Eight preachers delivered expository messages on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, and nine pastors and church leaders provided pastoral talks on the topic Character Matters in Ministry, focusing on a different aspect of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22.
Peace of God
Herb Reavis, who has served for 31 years as senior pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, led a pastoral talk on the peace of God as a fruit of the Spirit. Reavis first discussed the “essence” of peace as a “tranquility of mind based on a right relationship with God,” having nothing to do with circumstances.
He further described the “absence” of peace. Some people lack peace, he said, because they are not saved. Some Christians lack peace, he said, because they are “not surrendered,” focusing on Philippians 4:6-7. “A refusal to gratefully relinquish control of your life into the hands of the living Christ will cause even the saved who have peace with God to miss the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,” he said.
Reavis concluded his pastoral talk by discussing the “presence” of peace. “If you’re going to have peace with God in your life, you must first be filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said, “… and you’ve got to be focused on Christ to have peace.”
Goodness of God
Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz since 1989, urged pastors to reflect on the goodness of God from Galatians 5:22. In stating that the fruit of the Spirit is merely “nine flavors of one fruit,” Whitten shared three distinct characteristics of goodness from the passage.
Whitten shared that the world has a philosophy of goodness, God’s theology of goodness, and our own quandary of goodness. In an increasingly wavering culture where “people don’t know how to define the good life or how to find it,” he urged pastors to have confidence amid the world’s confusion.
“We don’t have to wonder or even guess what goodness is because it’s God who has a theology of goodness,” he said. “We are called to live correctly, love mercifully, and lead humbly before God.”
Whitten reminded pastors that, in and of themselves, they are “not worthy of being good.” Quoting the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, he warned pastors that when individuals take “God out of good, all that you have is a zero.”
“You may desire to be good (and) be determined to do good, but you can end in desperation because no one is good,” he said. “God’s goodness makes you good … Good only comes from being full of the Holy Spirit.”
H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, closed out the 2023 Pastors’ Conference by addressing the Beatitude of persecution from Matthew 5:10-12.
Charles admonished pastors that amid the various “dangers, toils, and snares of ministry”—to “hang on in there.” In reading through the passage, he pointed out three lessons from this final Beatitude that includes the definite reality of persecution, the godly reasons for persecution, and the proper response to persecution.
Charles stated that persecution is not a hypothetical scenario, but rather a definite reality. “If you are faithful to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, you will find yourself in the line of fire,” he said.
He also addressed the confusion between godly persecution and mere punishment. Quoting Matthew 5:10, Charles said there is one godly response to persecution—for “righteousness’ sake.”
“Pleasing God often involves displeasing men,” he said. “Righteousness is not about rules, rituals and regulations—it’s about being like Christ.”
Knowing that persecution will be a reality, Charles exhorted pastors not only to stand firm and elevate the name of Jesus when trouble comes after them, but also to rejoice.
“The proper response to persecution is to look up and rejoice and to look back and rejoice,” he said.
The Jacksonville pastor reflected on the faithfulness of God, urging pastors to have a “heavenly perspective” in persecution.
“Heaven is coming,” he said. “This is our hope.”
Wrapping up the two-day 2023 Pastors’ Conference, Charles encouraged pastors that, while they await their heavenly reward, to “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”
By Jessica Pigg and Margaret Colson, Florida Baptist Writers’ Network