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Clay Smith encourages Southern Baptist pastors to be faithful to their calling

Georgian tells Southern Baptist pastors: 'Tweetership is not leadership'

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Georgia’s Clay Smith told Southern Baptist pastors on Monday that, amid cultural shifts that have made their jobs tougher, it’s more crucial than ever to be faithful to their calling.

“As has often been said, we’re now the away team in our world,” said Smith, pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. “The fans aren’t wearing our jerseys. They’re not clapping for us. They’re not rooting for us.”

Smith preached Monday morning at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Anaheim, a precursor to the annual meeting that gets underway on Tuesday.  He challenged and encouraged pastors who may be considering giving up, pointing them to the Apostle Paul who found joy in ministry, even when it landed him in jail.

In a letter to Colossian believers, Paul said he rejoices in his suffering. “He’s not writing from a comfy couch at a coffee shop,” Smith said. “He’s writing from a jail cell. He’s rejoicing over and above his sufferings.”

Smith pointed out that Paul’s life got infinitely more difficult when he said “yes” to Jesus.

“In this joyless, cynical world in which we find ourselves, we need to joyful, because, can you believe that God picked you to do this?” he asked. “Can you believe we get to do this, to be involved in ministry, to be involved on the frontline with people’s lives, in the critical moments of their lives? God could have picked anybody, but He picked you. And if you’re hanging on by a thread today, thinking I’m just ready to bow out, I’m ready to throw in the white towel, I’m ready to quit, can I just remind you that God picked you. And no matter what you’re going through, you can rejoice, even in the midst of your suffering.”

Smith drew laughs when he challenged pastors who might insist they are joyful.

“I would say to you, maybe you should tell your face,” he quipped, “because pastors can sometimes be the most cynical, negative, pessimistic people.”

Citing a survey of children, Smith said more kids want to grow up to be YouTubers than astronauts.

“It wasn’t because of the money,” he said. “You know what it was for? The fame. I wonder how many pastors today are suffering from the same delusion, that somehow this is a pathway to success and to fame? If you picked pastoral ministry as a pathway to fame, you are a fool. We aren’t celebrities. We aren’t CEOs. No, we are shepherds, under-shepherds of the flock of God.”

Ministry, Smith said, can be especially tough when people are second-guessing your every decision.

“You know, leadership is easy when you’re not in charge,” he said. “Isn’t it amazing how people from the sidelines know exactly what to do in every single circumstances? And they love to tweet about it. Let me also remind of this: Tweetership is not leadership. Leadership is getting in the trenches. Leadership is doing the hard work. Leadership is serving the people of God.”

Smith urged pastors to have the right attitude, to understand the assignment, to keep their aim true, and to endure the agony, just as the Apostle Paul did.

“In Christ, you will make it,” he said. “If I were to ask you if you’re going to make it, the answer, left to your own devices, your own strength, is ‘no, I will not make it. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have the wisdom that I need of myself. I don’t have the energy or the power.’ You cannot do it in your own power. But you can do it in the power of Jesus.”

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