|by Winston Skinner (The Times-Herald)||Return to Articles|
Henry T. Blackaby, who wrote the book on empowering Christians and churches to be what they should be, offered Coweta pastors some straight talk.
Blackaby, 73, is known to Christians around the world because of his book, “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” The book was published 18 years ago, has sold millions of copies and spawned several similar volumes.
On Sept. 8, Blackaby came to Newnan to speak to pastors of churches in Western Baptist Association. Western Association is a coalition of about 50 churches in Coweta and surrounding counties. Blackaby stood in the pulpit of the old sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Newnan to share his thoughts on ministry.
He talked about how pastors build on the work of other pastors who preceded them. “My life is picking up a legacy that others have left before me,” he said. He said that Christians of today bring meaning and completion to work that began long ago.
“You and I — in the strict economy of God — have something to do with those who came before,” he said.
Blackaby also talked about the command of Jesus to go into the world making disciples. “The Great Commission is still in force,” he said.
Pastors must remember to keep focused on what really matters. “Many pastors have become administrators of religious activity,” he said. “You need to have the heart of God firmly fixed in your heart.”
Blackaby also talked about the broader dimensions of the Christian faith. He recalled learning about the situation in Darfur — where 225,00 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.
“Did you see it merely as a news item, or did you ask God to lay his heart on your heart? Nearly all of them went out of this world without God and without hope,” Blackaby said.
The author and pastor said preachers also need to understand the right definition of prayer. “Prayer really is hearing from God, not God hearing from us,” he observed. “We can become so busy with so many things we can’t even hear the voice of God.”
He reminded ministers in the group of about 100 of their calling to serve God and lead God’s people. “God chose you and called you so you would know what’s in His heart. What’s God about to do in this part of Georgia and in the community where God has called you? You ought to know,” he said.
He said pastors need to see the people around them, rather than the church activities in which those people are involved. “You are dealing with people for whom Christ has died and in whose life the Lord is working,” he said.
Blackaby said too many pastors have tried to replicate growth strategies from business or secular organizations in their churches. Those strategies generally focus on money and attendance numbers. He called that trend “one of the great tragedies.”
He pointed to the biblical image of the pastor as a shepherd. “The shepherd looks for transformation in the life of the people,” he said. He said pastors should have a deep desire to know the people they are shepherding.
“You know what a shepherd does? He goes before his sheep, and they hear his voice and recognize him,” Blackaby said.
He said pastors also need discernment and courage to deal with the problem of “wolves dressed up like sheep.” He told the group that his prayer was that each of the ministers present would be known as “the good shepherd who gives His life for his sheep.”
Blackaby reflected on the size and resources of the Southern Baptist Convention — and the lack of impact its churches are making. “We’re making almost no impact on our society, and we’re not asking why,” he said.
“God is bringing tremendous conviction to His people,” Blackaby said. Pastors who love God and their people are needed. Pastors need to bring messages grounded in the Bible and not rely on “pop psychology so the people feel good when they leave,” he said.
Intensive Bible instruction is also needed to help people grow spiritually. “This is probably the most biblically illiterate generation I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Pastors need to spend prayerful time studying the Bible daily. “What you believe will determine what you do next. What you do next will reveal what you believe — regardless of what you keep saying,” he stated.
Now is a time for pastors and other Christians to make a difference in society. “You and I are the salt. You and I are the light,” he said.
“This is a crucial time for those who are the called for God — for those who have been called to spend time with God,” Blackaby said.
Blackaby said God makes his servants interdependent, not independent. “I think the greatest thing that God has granted to me is the interdependence,” he said, talking about the joy of coming to know those whom God “is bringing alongside me.”
He urged pastors to remember to be spiritual leaders in their own families — sharing an experience in which he and his wife helped a grandchild who was gathering funds for a mission trip. “No teenager can ever go on a mission trip and stay the same,” Blackaby said.
Blackaby reflected on his life and the opportunities presented to him. He was recently surprised to be asked to speak to a group of international diplomats at the United Nations. He accepted the invitation and afterward met a diplomat from Darfur.
“I found he was a committed believer,” Blackaby said. He was able to encourage that man — someone he would never have met otherwise and who needed the spiritual support of a fellow Christian.
“I can hardly wait to see what’s going to happen next,” Blackaby said.