Mac Brunson wasted no time challenging pastors of small and bivocational-led churches.
“We don’t like to tell that to our congregation or to our people, but deep on the inside we feel incredibly inadequate to do what we’re doing,” Brunson, senior pastor of Valleydale Church in Birmingham, shared with participants of the No Restraints conference held at Valleydale in mid-August. “Every preacher struggles with this.”
Brunson was one of four speakers at the event sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Caskey Center for Church Excellence.
Teaching out of Joshua 1, he referred to the new Israelite leader’s fear.
“God didn’t call him to be adequate,” Brunson said. “He didn’t call you to be adequate. He called you to be obedient.”
Moses had led for so long, but now it was Joshua’s time, Brunson said. “If you will be obedient, God will take care of the adequacy.”
He encouraged the audience to build strong relationships with godly men. “You preachers need each other,” he said, also warning about isolating themselves.
Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College at New Orleans Seminary and bivocational pastor of Metairie Baptist Church in Louisiana, also was a main speaker for the conference.
Preaching out of Luke 18, Strong emphasized that “brokenness is actually a strength. You are a sinner.”
He urged the ministers to be like the tax collector instead of the Pharisee.
“As ministers we can become so academically familiar with God and the works of God, that we lose the awe and reverence of what God’s done in our lives and what God does through our lives to other people,” Strong asserted. “If you really want God to take notice, just notice God.”
Inspired and encouraged
For first-time attendees Mitch and Kelli McWilliams, the speakers inspired and encouraged them.
Mitch McWilliams serves as senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi.
They both enjoyed the breakout sessions, with Mitch attending Brunson’s “Dealing with Handling Criticism” and Kelli going to those geared to ministers’ wives, led by Brunson’s wife, Debbie.
“She was going down the Word being real, being personal,” Kelli said.
History of the center
The Caskey Center was founded in 2014, and hosted the first No Restraints event in 2015. It was held for five years on the seminary campus, and in April branched out to two locations in Montana — Billings and Missoula.
“Our intent is to make it more readily available,” said Mark Tolbert, director of the center and NOBTS professor of preaching and pastoral ministry.
The center provided funds to cover the cost, meals and lodging, as well as the cost of a class for students attending a special events course the first day of No Restraints.
Donny Yarbrough, pastor of First Baptist Church Glencoe, was awarded the Steve Caskey Pathfinder Award, given to bivocational or small church ministers who have found a way to reach people for Christ in their community.
Tolbert said Yarbrough credited the Monday morning prayer NOBTS encourages students to pray for a gospel conversation that week.
“He prays that every day,” Tolbert said. “It’s been life-changing for him. It’s increased his passion for evangelism.”
Yarbrough also was a Caskey Scholarship recipient from the time he began his degree in 2017 until he graduated with a master of divinity degree in May.
Full-tuition scholarships are available to bivocational and smaller membership church ministers for a certificate, undergraduate or master’s degree study through any NOBTS delivery system in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama (main campus, hybrid, extension, workshop, online).
The next No Restraints is planned for April 22–23 on the NOBTS campus in New Orleans. Speakers for that event will include Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and Jim Henry, longtime First Baptist Church, Orlando pastor and a former Southern Baptist Convention president.