Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church, North Little Rock, speaks on “The Pastor’s First Love" during the morning session of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Pastors’ Conference at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough
Richardson: ‘The Pastor’s First Love.’
JONESBORO – Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church, North Little Rock, shared the final message of the morning session of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Pastors’ Conference. The message was titled “The Pastor’s First Love.”
Richardson began his sermon with a thesis statement for the message: “When pastors turn away from Jesus as their first love, they inevitably grant the worship due him to whatever fills the space that He once inhabited and whatever fills that space, even if done in His name, will ultimately be anti-Christ to that ministers’ soul.”
He gave four ways that pastors can know that they have lost their “first love” – their call to ministry: 1) Their sense of self becomes inordinately defined by the church that they pastor; 2) Their sense of self has become all-consuming; 3) The accouterments of vocation begin to eclipse the nature of their calling, and 4) they nearly, but not completely, blunt the sharp edges of prophetic proclamation to appease their listeners.
“You are not called to keep the machine running. You are called to be a herald of the King,” said Richardson. “Do not go into ministry without a calling. Ministry is a wonderful calling, but it is a terrible job.”
The only two options for a pastor who has lost his first love is to either return to their first love, or leave the ministry, said Richardson.
“The worst thing in the world is the dude who says he is where he is supposed to be but everyone else knows he’s not. And he’s in it for the retirement,” he said.
Richardson offered two ways that pastors can return to their first love: 1) “Let the terror of your calling drive you trembling into the arms of the Jesus at whose feet you once sat,” and 2) “Taste again the sweetness of communion with Christ through consistent and selfless devotion and communion with Him.”
In conclusion, Richardson shared the story of the stone carving of Alexamenos, a Christian who likely lived during the third century A.D. The carving, known as the Alexamenos Graffito, depicts Alexamenos worshipping Christ, who is depicted as being crucified on the cross with the head of an ass (donkey).
Richardson highlighted that Alexamenos was mocked because he faced towards Christ and lamented that many Christians today are mocked because Christians are facing away from Christ.
Alexamenos was mocked for following Christ and many contemporary Christians are mocked because of their hypocrisy or lack of faithfulness to the God they claim to follow and serve, he said.
“Let us be mocked for our faithfulness, for our first love,” said Richardson. “Fidelus, brothers. Let us not leave our first love.”