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Johnny Hunt encourages pastors to be biblical shepherds
September 27, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Johnny Hunt (above) speaks during "The Shepherd and His Sheep" Conference Sept. 13 at Southern Seminary. Hunt discussed a number of issues involving pastoral leadership. Photo by David Merrifield
What should a pastor do when his congregation refuses to embrace a more biblical way of doing things simply because "we've never done it that way before"?
Or how must he handle the situation when two factions in his church prepare for war over the style of music to be used in corporate worship?
Johnny Hunt, who has served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., since 1986, addressed a myriad of issues such as these during a one-day conference, entitled "The Shepherd and His Sheep," Sept. 13 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"We've been looking forward to this for a long time," seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. said.
"I have heard a massive outpouring of appreciation for [the conference]. It was great to see so many [students and pastors] taking seriously the opportunity to consider, in a focused way, the calling of the pastor and the great call of ministry and how that is actually worked out in the task of the minister of the Gospel. There is none better at that than Dr. Johnny Hunt."
Hunt, who has served in the pastorate for 31 years, lectured on both the spiritual life of a pastor and his interaction with and care for the congregation. Hunt warned the audience, which included more than 350 local pastors and seminary students, against developing a "CEO mentality." Instead, he urged pastors to love their parishioners and to protect them by unflinchingly proclaiming the truth of God's Word.
"Many of today's pastors try to imitate the corporate CEO instead of the biblical model of the shepherd," Hunt said. "They carry out tasks instead of seeing their work as a mission. They are more interested in carrying forward a program than loving people. That's not the biblical model of a loving shepherd."
Pastors must model godliness for their congregations through servant leadership, he said.
"Your people will begin to place importance on the things you place as important," Hunt said. "When they see you serve them, they will want to serve others in the manner of Christ. After all, Christ came not be served, but to serve."
While Hunt has presented his conference, entitled "The Shepherd and His Sheep," across the country mostly to pastors, he believes seminary students also receive encouragement as well as practical instruction from the conference. A number of Southern Seminary professors offered credit to students attending the event.
"Most of these [students] are going to end up in vocational service somewhere, and I hope that I can be a source of encouragement to them or that I can become a resource person to them in the future by hopefully demonstrating that I genuinely care for them," Hunt said.
"Most of them will be doing something of the flavor of what I am doing, whether it be in education, or missions or music, but they will be serving on staff. I think they need encouragement and I believe they need some basic instructions on some things that you may not learn in the classroom — unless the professor has been a pastor — that can speak to some of the basic needs we are trying to address."
Throughout the day, Hunt used as illustrations scores of challenges and delicate situations that have confronted him during his three decades of ministry. Leading a church and carrying out a biblical ministry will bring difficulties, he said, but pastors must remain faithful to their churches, realizing "that people desire true shepherds whose hearts overflow with love for the sheep."
One of the most important keys to a pastor's usefulness is his own purity, Hunt said. A pastor must guard himself morally and avoid bringing shame upon himself, the church and the Kingdom of God, he said.
"One of the key words is 'purity,'" Hunt said. "These guys have got to stay pure — don't beat themselves and don't cause themselves to be put on a shelf.
"I would tell them to be passionate, to not lose their zeal for what they are doing. It is easy to start well and even to be in it for a while and see it as exciting, but I pray that they will finish with the same type of fervency and zeal, which is a very biblical principle — being compassionate toward people and very passionate toward the Lord in their ministries."