Conference strengthens pastors, wives who feel more like Andrew than Peter
May 5th, 2017 / By: Keith Collier | Managing Editor / comments
COLLEGE STATION—Acknowledging the elephant in the room, speakers at the Encourager Conference agreed that seasons of discouragement in the pastorate are not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Even so, pastors and their wives can weather storms of doubt, conflict, criticism, and loneliness and experience fruitful ministry that brings glory to God.
“Last year, five pastor couples of the same heart felt like the Lord called us to provide an opportunity for pastors and wives to come and receive deep spiritual encouragement and equipping,” Northeast Houston Baptist Church pastor and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention president Nathan Lino told a crowd of pastors and wives.
The five couples included Lino and his wife, Nicole; Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, and his wife, Peggy; Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, and his wife, Jennifer; Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Georgetown, and his wife, Lynlee; and Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church in Irving, and his wife, Andrea. The conference was hosted by Central Baptist in College Station with support from SBTC.
Ueckert opened the conference with a message from Mark 3:13-19, when Jesus called 12 men to follow him and preach the gospel. Ueckert wondered aloud about the ministry trajectory of the Apostle Andrew, who was one of the first to follow Jesus and introduced his brother Peter to Jesus but always seemed to be “on the outside looking in.”
Jesus gave Peter a new name, but not Andrew. Peter and the other pair of brothers, James & John, were part of Jesus’ inner circle, but not Andrew. Peter, James and John went up with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, but not Andrew; he and the other disciples were left in the valley, where they failed to cast out a demon.
If any of the disciples had reason to be resentful or discouraged, it would have been Andrew, Ueckert said.
“I don’t know what Andrew felt like, but I can imagine what I would feel like,” Ueckert admitted. “I can imagine what I have felt like when someone else got the position that I wanted and thought I was supposed to get, when somebody else’s situation sounded far better than my own, … (times when) I felt like I was in the valley while they were on the Mount of Transfiguration.”
Experiences like this can cause a pastor and his wife to feel “less than ordinary,” Ueckert said, but he explained that the Bible never reveals how Andrew felt about his position among the 12. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, Ueckert said, because Andrew had that same invitation and commission as his brother Peter and the rest of the disciples.
“Andrew received the same invitation and the same commission, but Andrew’s experience was unique to him because Jesus wanted him to be with him and to preach about Jesus. There was nobody in all the world that could do what Andrew could do by being with Jesus and preaching the gospel for Jesus.
“The encouragement we need this weekend is found in Christ. We need to realign our hearts with the reality that God has called us to be with him, and by being with him, we then preach the gospel. That’s what matters; that’s what makes life worth living; that’s what gives us the ability to walk through every moment of discouragement. Jesus wants you to be with him and to preach the good news to the piece of the world in which he’s placed you.”
The two-day conference, April 21-22, featured times of worship and teaching from God’s Word as well as breakout sessions to address specific topics. Friday evening breakouts were led by the five couples and addressed common struggles such as jealousy, resentment, loneliness, extraordinary personal trials, and maximizing the final years of ministry. Saturday morning offered a pastor wives session with national speaker and writer Susie Hawkins, while specific pastor breakout sessions gave best practices on preaching, handling criticism and conflicts, managing workflow, casting vision, and leaving well.
Osborne concluded the conference with a charge from Jeremiah 15:15-21, which he said helped him through one of his most difficult seasons of ministry. God’s Word and his ministry call can sustain pastors even in the darkest times, he said.
“You have to come to a place where the only thing that matters is discipleship, not church growth,” Osborne said. “You can disciple anywhere you are; it doesn’t matter what your church size is.”
Osborne warned against living in fear of criticism as well as living to hear praise. He challenged pastors to simply walk with the Lord in humility and fulfill their ministry.
“Ministry is hard, but Jesus is not,” Osborne said. “You stay with him, you win. You step away from him, you lose.”