Two Effective Preachers Lead Ministers ConferenceApril 17, 1997
WACO, Texas -- A ministers conference should effectively minister to ministers.
Hopefully, the recently held Baylor University Ministers Conference was effective, since it featured two men named among the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.
Dr. Fred Craddock, the Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament, Emeritus, in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and Dr. Gardner Taylor, senior pastor emeritus at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York, led the annual conference which collaborated with the presentation of Baylor's Effective Preachers program. These outstanding ministers discussed the preachers role as a person, as a pastor and as a preacher during the two-day conference held in Waco.
Taylor inspired the ministers from throughout Texas and several states from his 42 years of experience pastoring the Concord church. He shared a humorous and humbling experience about his daughter when he declined to spend some time playing a game with her after church. He said he justified himself by reminding his daughter of his fatigue after a long day of preaching. She replied by reminding him of her fatigue sitting through his sermon.
"There is no substitution for accountability and for giving yourself to your work," Taylor said. Craddock, a former pastor, also echoed the importance of diligent preparation and personal devotion.
"Only those that are prepared can be appropriate in times of crisis. Give attention to the reservoir and not just to the faucet." Craddock said personal devotion will keep preachers consistent with their message.
"Sometimes God works beyond the confines of the character and the faith of ones involved," he said. "But on the other hand, I am a member of the church and I know what the church expects of ministers and how painfully it is disappointed when there is no connection between what is said and what is lived." Craddock gave the following list of effective tools for ministers:
Ministers should not use the pulpit to get at somebody that hurt them; doing undesirable tasks is the test of ordination; do not be cruel no matter how cruelly treated; pay careful attention to one's own sin; arrogance is against the law of ministry; do not take credit for effectiveness; do not over emphasize feelings; do not feel obligated to be at every church meeting; have a word for people not in crisis; major work not only consumes, but generates energy; seriousness of purpose does not require heaviness of manner; personal faults should not silence the preacher, but change the tune in which the person speaks; whoever does not study has broken the first and greatest commandment that you should love the lord your God with all your mind; prayer and preaching are twins; and speaking with God gives one authority to speak about God. Taylor gave counsel on how the preacher should relate to the congregation.
"You have some people who are members and some people who are members and friends," he said. "One of our responsibilities as pastor is to enlarge that group of members and friends."
We sometimes stand apart from people, but the only wisdom that I can find in why we are pastors is because we are human," he said. "They are passing through things just as we are passing through things. We pass through things in order that we might understand what they are going through."
Taylor said difficult church members often are reaching out for love and acceptance in an unusual way. A native of Louisiana, Taylor described church people like many of the homes in the New Orleans French Quarter. Many look ragged and in need of paint on the outside, but the insides boast great beauty.
"I have never met a dull person," Taylor said. "If you can get behind the facade, you will see something exciting and grand."
Taylor also mentioned that churches do not elect pastors to a congregation. He said a church may elect a minister, but that minister earns the title of pastor, which means the people have turned themselves over like sheep to a shepherd.
"You are a stranger to them. They are a stranger to you," he said. "They are not going to turn their lives over to you no more than you would turn your life over to a person you just met on the street. Pastoring comes out of trust and it takes time. People have to come to understand who you are and what you stand for and your love for them."
In today's volatile church environment, Craddock said those that pastor successfully deserve commendation.
"It is amazing to me that a relationship between pastor and a congregation exists," he said. If a pastor is able to meet needs and live with people for years with mutual edification and satisfaction, that is extraordinary." Often asked his opinion about who are the best preachers, Craddock answered;
"I think the best preachers, week in and week out, are those who pastor churches. Not the visiting fireman who comes in and says some things and leaves."