I’ve been a Baptist my whole life. I’ve also been a Southern Baptist—meaning that the churches that I’ve been a member of (3) and pastored have all been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Each year at the annual SBC meeting, the pastors’ conference is held in conjunction with the business meeting. Through the years as I’ve attended the conference, I’ve had moments of great encouragement and I’ve likewise experienced moments of great frustration. Why? As a pastor, I see the value of modeling a proper way of biblical preaching in conference settings—and that has not always happened at the annual meeting.
This year was different. The conference president and his team decided to invite lesser known pastors of smaller churches who would all work together over the two day meeting to preach through the book of Philippians. While their decision was met with great doubt, the meeting was profitable on many levels—and at the top was the desire to model expository preaching.
The Word—Not the Man
Outside of a couple of speakers at the conference, I had no previous knowledge of the men and their ministries. At times, we are made to believe that unless a celebrity is speaking (especially in a conference setting), the takeaway will not be as good. That is not true. The point of the conference should be to take-in the Word of God rather than the personality of the speaker. Too often we attend conferences for the personality of the speaker rather than the Word of God. We need the Word far more than the personality, the celebrity, and all that comes with the more well known speaker.
Expository Preaching Modeled
Years ago, the SBC leaders and churches found themselves in a massive battle over the Bible. The main issue was biblical inerrancy. What emerged from that particular era was a profound commitment to the Word of God. Expository preaching became the focus of professors at the seminary level and this model has greatly helped the Baptist churches and seminaries of the SBC. In his excellent book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever explains:
Expositional preaching is not simply producing a verbal commentary on some passage of Scripture. Rather, expositional preaching is that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture. That’s it. The preacher opens the Word and unfolds it for the people of God. 
Mark Dever is a Southern Baptist pastor. He and others continue to point out the importance of biblical preaching, but year-after-year the pastors’ conference continues to model something other than biblical preaching. In order to be good stewards of a conference ministry, it’s essential to model biblical preaching to those who will be in attendance. Rather than church growth seminar talks and a variety of topical sermons—a conference aimed at glorifying God through expository preaching is refreshing. When you have seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention who major on expository preaching in their preaching classes and you have an annual meeting that majors on topical preaching—somewhere there’s a disconnect.
I attended the conference in person this year in Phoenix. I learned. I am grateful for the efforts of the conference organizers and we should strive to make the Word of God and proper preaching the main point of such events. My parents once taught me a valuable lesson about diet by saying, “Garbage in—garbage out.” If we model poor sermons at the annual pastors’ conference of the SBC, we can expect pulpits across the nation to reflect that same approach to the pulpit.
- Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 26.