Mike Hess, national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, opened the 2020 GARBC Conference by welcoming guests and reading Romans 8:31–39. He then recognized Pastor Steve DeWitt and the congregation of Bethel Church for “hosting” this virtual conference. DeWitt is the conference’s keynote speaker, and the general sessions are being broadcast from Bethel’s campus.
Mike also commended the GARBC’s Council of Eighteen conference committee, Conference Coordinator Andrea Gower, and the Regular Baptist Ministries staff for “their vigorous transitioning from an onsite to a virtual conference.” Before leading the virtual audience in prayer, Mike said he hopes the conference will play an important role in the Regular Baptist fellowship in “helping us make disciples through healthy local churches.” Viewers watched videos by Jim Tillotson, president of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, and Clare Jewell, national church planting coordinator for Regular Baptist Churches and director of Regular Baptist Builders Club.
The 2020 theme is “Perspective” taken from John 21:22, “Jesus said to [Peter] . . . ‘You follow Me!’” Mike Hess preached from John 21:15–23. As Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep, He has given each believer a stewardship. Mike shared three ways Jesus’ followers can remain focused on that stewardship—or how to “Stay in Your Own Lane”—by loving Jesus supremely (vv. 15–17), following Jesus relentlessly (vv. 18–19), and examining your motives (vv. 20–23).
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Mike says the point of John 21:15–17 is not the kind of love (philos or agape) disciples have for Jesus, but that they love the Lord more than they love anyone else’s opinion, affirmation, approval, or applause.
Jesus then told Peter that he would be martyred. But Peter was to follow Jesus even though he knew he would suffer for Him. Mike reminded viewers that Jesus is worthy of a disciple’s life and trust, and that nothing on earth satisfies as Jesus does.
When Peter naturally compared his predicament to John’s, Jesus replied that His sovereign plan for John’s life was none of Peter’s business and that Peter was to follow Him. Mike points out that each disciple has enough stewardship to keep him or her occupied in this life. There’s no reason to be concerned about what the sovereign God is doing in someone else’s life or ministry. A disciple’s most important task is to faithfully steward what God has given; it is to follow Jesus, Who has been gracious and generous to each one.
The perspective of following Christ and not worrying about what He is doing in others’ lives is so important to Mike that he has written an entire book on the subject, No Contest: Overcoming a Competitive Spirit.