Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted its first annual Text-Driven Preaching Conference, March 6-8. Pastors, preachers, and students from across the country and even around the world were welcomed to the three-day conference, which featured eight plenary sessions, 18 breakout sessions, and a pre-conference workshop, all of which aimed to encourage attendees and bring a sense of renewed hope and refreshment for their respective ministries.

Each of the plenary sessions featured a seasoned preacher presenting a text-driven sermon, wherein the structure, substance and spirit of the text drove the structure, substance and spirit of the sermon. Plenary speakers included President of the Southern Baptist Convention Steve Gaines; Pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., H.B. Charles; and Southwestern’s own Paige Patterson and David Allen.

Gaines preached during two plenary sessions, the second doubling as Southwestern’s chapel service, March 7. There, he preached from Acts 4:23-37 and called attention to the passage’s emphasis on prayer. “How in the world did that early church go from Jerusalem to Rome in 30 years?” Gaines asked from the pulpit of MacGorman Chapel. “How did that happen? I believe one of the secrets is that they prayed.”

Gaines derived from the text 10 things that happen when God’s people pray: they overcome persecution, enjoy unity, depend on Scripture, exude confidence, offer strategic petitions, experience miracles, share the Gospel, enjoy bountiful grace, become exceptionally generous, and some become gifted leaders (in the case of Acts 4, Barnabas).

“Everything you need, God has,” Gaines said. “And everything God wants to do with you and through you, He will do as you pray. Prayer is not a little addendum; it is not something attached to your ministry—prayer is the very spout of your ministry; it is the very beginning of your ministry. And if you don’t pray, you will miss what God wants you to experience.”

H.B. Charles also preached twice, the second service doubling as both a plenary session and chapel service, March 8. His second sermon was from Proverbs 3:5-6 and titled “Trust God.”

“We walk by faith and not by sight,” Charles said. “Wouldn’t it be great if God gave us turn-by-turn GPS instructions for family, education and ministry? It would make life easier, but it would also handicap our faith. So God bids us to go forward without giving us all the details.

“The fear of the unknown makes us cling to clarity rather than go forward by faith. But I want to challenge you this morning to know that life at its best is only experienced when you learn to trust God beyond what you can understand. This is the consistent teaching of Scripture.”

Charles divided the two-verse passage into four sections, noting that the text challenges believers to trust God with everything, above everything, in everything, and through everything. Regarding the foremost point, he said, “We have trusted our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ, and our lives to His work, and yet we are prone to doubt Him with the little things that we don’t understand. We must trust God with everything.”

“The burden may be heavy, but trust God,” Charles said. “The path may be difficult, but trust God. The climb may be steep, but trust God. The night may be dark, but trust God. The storm may be raging, but trust God.”

During his time on the platform, Southwestern President Paige Patterson preached Hosea 1 and 3, highlighting the love and forgiveness displayed through the prophet’s life in his marriage to an adulterous woman. Patterson drew three conclusions from this text.

First, divorce is never right. “If you can forgive, you have mastered what Christianity is all about, because Christianity is first, foremost and always about Christ’s forgiveness of you,” he said. Forgiveness and reconciliation, then, should always be sought over divorce.

Second, in light of God’s commitment to restore Israel “in the last days” (3:5), Patterson concluded that God has not thrown away His ancient people, Israel, but will, in the last times, restore them to Himself. Finally, Patterson drew a connection between Hosea’s love and restoration of Gomer to Christ’s love and restoration of sinners.

Verbalizing the loving, restorative words of God for His people, Patterson said, “I am going to be to you what you have always envisioned. I am going to love you again. Lo-Ruhamah [not loved] is gone. Lo-Ammi [not my people] is no more. Now you are loved. Now you are the people of God.”

Dean of the School of Preaching David Allen used his session to preach from Hebrews 6 on the subject of hope. “Hope,” as it is used in Scripture, Allen said, means “a settled certainty and a confident expectation based upon the promises of God.”

“That’s the hope that those of us who are Christians have, and that’s the hope that the Bible talks about, and that’s the hope that the author of Hebrews is talking about here,” Allen said. “It’s not ‘hope so’ salvation; it’s not a ‘maybe I’ll get to heaven’—no, it’s a settled certainty and a confident expectation based upon the promises of God. This hope we have is an anchor of the soul.”

The other plenary speakers were Matt Carter, pastor of preaching and vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; and Steven Smith, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. Abraham Kuruvilla, research professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary, served as the pre-conference speaker.

In addition to the plenary sessions, conference participants could choose from a variety of breakout sessions each afternoon. A preaching track covered the art and craft of preaching, including the use of humor, illustrations, and persuasion; and a biblical track dealt with preaching through specific books of Bible such as Proverbs, Philemon and Haggai. The breakout speakers were Denny Autrey, Deron Biles, Jeff Campbell, Adam Dooley, Jimmy Draper, Mark Howell, Barry McCarty, Matthew McKellar, Calvin Pearson, Chris Osborne, Josh Smith, and Kyle Walker.

In addition, a special Korean-language track was offered for international students desiring instruction in their native language. These sessions were led by David Lim, assistant professor of homiletics at Korea Baptist Theological University/Seminary in Korea.

Between sessions, conference participants had the opportunity to browse through the exhibit hall in MacGorman Chapel, which featured such exhibitors as LifeWay Christian Resources, Logos Bible Software, Accordance Bible Software, B&H Academic Digital & WORDsearch Bible, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Seminary Hill Press. Also during the conference, Master of Divinity student Adam Mathew was presented with the 2017 LifeWay Pastoral Leadership Award.