Paul Chappell picked a theme for this “special twentieth anniversary conference” – “panta iskhuo en to endunamounti me Christo,” very fitting for a church family characterized by a position of using only the King James Version of the Bible, especially when the eclectic text (NU) replaces “Christ” with “Him” in Philippians 4:13.
I knew I was in trouble as I tried to make hotel reservations for my family a week and a half before the conference at Lancaster Baptist Church. Whole motels were booked up. My initial thoughts were to see if I could have permission to set up my family tent under some palm tree on the church campus grounds and to pull out the Therma-rests and sleeping bags. But we ended up in a sweet joint, the Days Inn, at nearby Palmdale. I suppose there is no cause to wear my Idaho upbringing on my sleeve, and it did seem like 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
Where do I begin? How do you summarize conference services and conference workshops divided into thirteen tracks, “offering more than one hundred ministry training workshops for every member of your ministry family”?
In this introductory article to the conference, I share with you (with no mean-spirited, critical “sniffing out for error”) a stream of Baptist fundamentalism on the move that seems to be the 21st century version, in some ways the same, in some ways different than the earlier, independent Baptist, KJV, soul-winning, fundamentalist movement of the 60’s and 70’s.
Sunday Evening, July 9–Preaching Through Christ
Sweltering in the high desert sun, we welcomed the cold rush of air as we entered the worship center, the largest of some, fifteen campus buildings, with over 30 more yet to be built in the master plan. My family ascended in the second of the last row in the balcony, plopping down in comfortable high-backed pews. The visual aesthetics were fantastic—a tasteful arrangement of color in the gleaming cross, glass, floors, floral, banners, and big screens. With groups of delegates representing 44 states and 26 countries gathered under one roof, the choir and orchestra led our hearts in unity to the heavenlies with the song “We Believe.”
For the next two and a half hours during this 20th anniversary service, we observed the love of pastor Paul Chappell  for his people and a people’s hesed for their pastor. Absolutely, God is at work in this place, blessing a people who are hard at work in their love for Him.
And then for an additional hour that evening, guest preacher Sam Davison , who grew up under “two-fisted, gun-barrel, confrontational” sermons, passionately defended the sacred method of preaching, using the three-pronged action of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:11 as the central heart of his message.
Monday, July 10–Soulwinning Through Christ
The Spiritual Leadership Conference officially opened at 7 p.m. A smiling usher handed me a glossy, hard-stock bulletin (containing Paul Chappell’s greeting, evening schedule, and advertisements of new products) and Paul’s mini-book, All Things Through Christ (Striving Together Publications, 2006). We managed to slip inside the main floor 20 minutes before the service started and ended up in the top row of the balcony. Navigating all those pews with reserved seats of church delegations in that vast auditorium is worst than steering through the freeways of L.A. But could I complain? We sat down by a lay servant and his wife who had been there for 45 minutes.
That night, narrator John Johnson (led to Christ by Paul, May 12, 1992) and the choir began by directing “our hearts to the very heartbeat of ministry in this place—the value of one soul.” We heard testimonies from couples saved during every year of Lancaster’s ministry. My wife and I had tears in our eyes. John questioned, “Soulwinning doesn’t work?!” and then answered, “America doesn’t need another ecumenical author or a pessimistic preacher but a fresh look at Calvary’s love.”
During the message, Paul Chappell took us to the conference theme text, Philippians 4:13, outlining to us the attitude of our faith (positive and powerful), the action of our faith (we can reach souls, plant churches, and strive together), and the access of our faith (through His blood I am redeemed, through His Word I am furnished, through His Church I am authorized, and through His Spirit I am empowered).
Sprinkling in anecdotes from Charles Spurgeon, Lee Roberson, Richard Clearwaters, and Os Guiness and reserving stinging rebukes for Dan Brown and George Barna, Paul inspired us this particular evening to look to the Lord’s enabling power.
Tuesday, July 11–Revival Through Christ
First thing in the morning on the community campus, I picked up the daily newspaper, The Baptist Voice. And then Dan Reed , Shelton Smith , and sessions in the pastors’ track filled my morning  and afternoon. I shook Dan’s hand for being God’s messenger of 2 Peter 3:17-18 and 2 Timothy 2:1 to my heart. It was one of the greatest messages of the conference (perfectly positioned at the beginning of the conference by Chappell ). Dan is dead right. “All church ministry is an outgrowth of knowing God.”
In the evening, as R. B. Ouellete  used the “old Bible commenting method” on the matter of building broken cisterns from Jeremiah, he echoed my inward sentiments about Reed’s morning message. “Knowing God? Being humble? A lot of us just sat there because we don’t know what he is talking about.” Of course, everyone laughed when Ouellete shared something like, “I felt like a camp meeting preacher at a Presbyterian convention.” (There weren’t many preachers bellowing “amens” and hollering, “That’s good, preacher!” It was all relatively quiet.)
Aside from a few personal digs of the day on college accreditation and Bible translations , I was greatly challenged in the area of personal revival—knowing God.
Wednesday, July 12–Reaching America Through Christ
Jack Trieber’s  message in Ezekiel 33 and 22:30 kicked off Wednesday’s preaching and teaching sessions, followed by Don Sisk’s  Kentuckian, homespun-style message from Revelation. Among the daily addresses from elected officials like yesterday’s warm greeting from Christian Lancaster mayor, Henry Hearns , I listened intently to the LA County Supervisor, Michael Antonovich.
After lunch, Kurt Skelly  gave a timely workshop titled “The Priority of Expository Preaching.” Sadly, he didn’t learn this during his early days of Bible college, listening to rousing sermons on spaghetti sauce.
Awards were given to honorees throughout the week, and in the evening service, we stood and applauded David Gibbs III, after watching a moving video on his heroic stand for the life of Terri Schiavo. David Gibbs, Jr.  closed the stirring patriotic program of beautiful music, color, and American flags with the message, “I Need a Miracle” from 2 Kings 5.
Thursday, July 13–Reaching the World Through Christ
Every organized conference culminates. But before we reached the evening climax after 18 months of prayer, planning, and preparation by the members of Lancaster Baptist Church, Doug Fisher  touched on the seedy underbelly experienced in ministry, the Shebas and Shimeis. And in a nutshell, Fisher declared that in the trauma of hurtful communication and schism, “Sometimes we must deal with it, but most times, eat it.” Just eat it (the hurt done to you).
Introducing the next morning speaker, Paul spoke of Rick Martin’s  ministry in the Philippines as “the greatest missionary work in the world … stepping on the campus of Iloilo Baptist Church was one of the greatest privileges of my life.”
Just released from the hospital and very frail, Rick flew to California for this one day. He preached on the rewards of grace through the life of Abraham, who got a better name, more fruit, but most of all—God Himself (Genesis 15).
Greg Baker  in John 10:16 and John Goetsch  in Romans 10 finished the conference with messages on multi-cultural, world-wide missions to the Lord’s glory. Greg mentioned that God is not a single country or a culture in His purpose, plan, and provision. And John exhorted us in the end with his typical alliterated points as well: “Conversion requires a call. That call is based on content; but that content must be communicated. And that communication needs a conduit, and the conduit must be commissioned.” What are you doing “to put into” world missions?
1. Under Pastor Chappell’s twenty years of leadership, Lancaster Baptist Church has grown and now supports over 150 missionaries worldwide. He established Lancaster Baptist School and West Coast Baptist College. His preaching is heard each day on the Daily in the Word radio program and he has authored numerous books.
2. Dr. Sam Davison has preached revival meetings, mission conferences, youth camps, and conferences worldwide since 1976. He is the pastor of Southwest Baptist Church and under his leadership, the dynamic church has grown, and gives over one million dollars to missions annually. Dr. Davison is president of Heartland Baptist Bible College. (I am a current subscriber to the Global Baptist Times, a publication of the GIBF.)
3. During the conference, I received two other minibooks, Done by Cary Schmidt and Basics of Biblical Parenting by Chappell. In my pastor’s registration packet, I was given a beautiful, 20th year celebration, hard-cover book entitled, Marvelous in our Eyes, complete with special DVD.
4. Dr. Dan Reed has been pastor of the Harvest Baptist Church in Acworth, Georgia for the past eleven years. The Harvest Baptist Church has recently relocated onto twenty-one acres on the fast growing side of North Atlanta and is growing weekly.
5. Dr. Shelton Smith is the editor of The Sword of the Lord newspaper.
6. In one of the morning pastor’s sessions, “Assessing the Ministry of a Christian Servant,” Chappell tersely remarked, “I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for pastors who go to internet chat rooms!”
7. The very next day in the pastor’s session, “Reaching Our Potential as Independent Baptists,” Chappell rebuked the priorities of IB types when “we try to develop Christian character and conduct without developing God-centeredness.”
8. Dr. R. B. Ouellette has been the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Michigan, for thirty-two years. Since becoming the pastor, the church has grown to be the largest independent Baptist church in Michigan. Dr. Ouellette has led his church through major building programs and the purchase of over fifty acres of land. Dr. Ouellette is the editor of the Preacher’s Page newsletter.
9. In the preceding night’s message, Paul Chappell mentioned a list of Baptist ministry nuances that should not disavow our striving together or grabbing a hold of the rope in unity for world evangelization. I would place in the realm of Romans 14 convictions, issues of Bible college accreditation and literal English translations also alongside issues of mission boards, singing songs written after 1936, etc.
10. Dr. Jack Trieber is the pastor of North Valley Baptist Church in San Jose, California. During the thirty years that he has been at North Valley, thousands have been saved and baptized. Golden State Baptist College is a ministry of the church, which opened in September of 1996. Dr. and Mrs. Trieber have three children.
11. Dr. Don Sisk, the long-time president and director of BIMI, joined our staff as the Chairman of the Missions Department of WCBC in 2003. He brings to the college a wealth of knowledge and experience from the mission field. Dr. Sisk and his wife travel to churches around the world, encouraging and training missionaries.
12. I pray for this man. According to The Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, July 18, Lancaster is the fastest-growing city in Los Angeles County with a property values increase last year of 29%. “The Southern California Assn. of Governments projects that the Antelope Valley’s population will rise from about 290,000 to nearly 500,000 in the next 15 to 20 years.”
13. Kurt Skelly is the senior pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.
14. In the lobby, I purchased his book, Fighting for Dear Life (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2006).
15. Dr. David Gibbs, Jr. founded the Christian Law Association, a nationwide legal ministry defending Christian liberty. For over 20 years, CLA has represented 10,000 churches in all fifty states. By the way, there is a modern day debate over the wisdom of mingling patriotism with worship in American churches. Consult Gerald Sittser’s book review article, “Faithful citizens” in Christian Century (July 11,2006) over three recent books: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David Holmes (Oxford University Press), The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church by Gregory Boyd (Zondervan), and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (Random House).
16. Doug Fisher is the pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in San Diego, California.
17. Dr. Rick Martin has been on the mission field for over twenty years. He is the founder and pastor of Iloilo Baptist Church, Ilo City, Philippines. He is also the founder of Ilo City Baptist College, which has over 500 students, and hundreds of graduates who are now in full-time Christian work. He has started over 400 independent Baptist churches throughout the Philippines.
18. Dr. Greg Baker is the pastor of FaithWay Baptist Church and the president of Faithway Baptist College of Canada, located in Ajax, Ontario, Canada, which is a suburb of Toronto. The church has experienced consistent numerical and spiritual growth under his ministry, and is the largest Baptist church in Canada.
19. Dr. John Goetsch has been the executive vice-president of West Coast Baptist College for ten years.
Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10).