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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religion illustration. - Photo by Nikki Dawes

Pastor Jimmy Meek of Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado and Pastor Jamar Andrews of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro will join 10 other ministers Sunday and Monday as they preach their way through the Book of Philippians at the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastors' Conference in Phoenix.

Pastor Jamar Andrews of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro
Pastor Jimmy Meek of Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado

It marks the first time in several years that an Arkansas pastor has been chosen to speak at the conference. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church, which has five branches in Northwest Arkansas, was a featured pastor at the 2014 conference, the year before he served two consecutive one-year terms as president of the convention.

One of four epistles written by the apostle Paul to the church of Philippi during a period of imprisonment in Rome, the Book of Philippians is the New Testament's 11th book. Paul's writings in the book exalt Christ -- in keeping with the conference theme of "Above Every Name" -- and is widely known as a book of joy.

The Book of Philippians' four chapters will be divided and read in order by the 12 ministers, who will each give a sermon about the theme of their section.

Meek will read and preach about Philippians 2:1-4 -- verses he said that are centered on the theme of unity in the church and in the Gospel. He also interprets it as a call to ministers to encourage harmony within individual churches.

"The biggest thing will be encouraging the pastors that are there is to help their churches be unified," Meek said.

Meek has served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church for about a year and a half. He grew up in north Alabama and served two previous pastorships in the Jackson, Miss., area. Before entering into the ministry, Meek spent 12 years as a social studies teacher and high school football coach.

He and his wife, Beth, married at 40.

"That was late, but I was lost for quite a number of years," Meek said, adding that he stays pretty busy between taking care of the couple's two dogs "who think they are children" and the church congregation.

Being chosen to speak at the conference was incredible, Meek said. It's a sentiment shared by his congregation.

"I came out [of church] the other day and [the parishioners] had posters at the church entrance, posters downloaded from the Pastors' Conference website, reminding their people when I would be speaking," he said. "I'm appreciative, and I know I'll have hundreds of people praying for me."

Before becoming pastor at Immanuel, Meek was a staff member at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. That is the same church pastored by Steve Gaines, president of this year's Southern Baptist Convention.

Andrews still remembers standing in a Wings to Go restaurant in Jonesboro when he received the news in January that he was going to be among the ministers to speak at the annual conference.

"There was excitement for sure, and there was also a realization of just the weight of things," Andrews said. "Any time you share God's word, it's a serious thing."

A Jonesboro native, Andrews attended Arkansas State University and, with the exception of the three years he lived in Texas while in seminary school, has spent his life in Jonesboro. Word Baptist Church, where Andrews is the lead pastor, is about four blocks from the hospital where he was born and 2 miles from where he and his wife, Stephanie, live with their two children.

Andrews joined the staff of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, of which Word Baptist became a campus, in 2012. Although Word Baptist was not made an official church until Jan. 1 this year, Andrews has served as a pastor to the Word branch since its inception in January 2013.

Andrews is in charge of addressing Philippians 2:19-24 in his conference sermon -- verses in which Paul writes of the example that Timothy and Epaphroditus provide as model servants of Christ.

The passage makes an important distinction, Andrews said.

"Sometimes if a person says, 'Be like Jesus,' you might think that's impossible," he said. "But when a person says to have the mind of Christ, [Timothy and Epaphroditus] are two examples that [it's possible].

"It's a beautiful passage that deals with the example we should be giving, that we should be using our lives to serve the Lord."

Meek said the format of this year's conference deviates from the norm. Usually a theme is chosen and pastors preach with a particular take on that theme.

Pastors' Conference President Dave Miller chose the new format, and chose to focus on a particular niche of ministers -- those with congregations of 500 or fewer. According to Meek, his congregation numbers from 350-400 on a Sunday; Andrews said his Sunday congregation averages 230 to 250.

Meek and Andrews will each take about two minutes to read the assigned sections from Philippians, and then have 30-35 minutes to speak about their particular passage.

"It is an honor and privilege to be able to speak to several thousand pastors and lay preachers," Meek said. "I've [preached] before, but this is a different ballgame."

Meek and Andrews spoke about the experience of listening to someone preach -- an opportunity neither has had very often -- as being nourished.

"I'm looking forward to being able to ... not only be feeding but to also be fed," Andrews said. "I'm excited that [the other ministers] will be speaking and about being able to look forward to being fed spiritually and encouraged."

Meek said the experience of being preached to will be refreshing.

"As a pastor we try to feed the congregation God's word," he said. "So those couple of days we'll get to sit there and be fed, and that's just a nice, relaxing feeling."

Religion on 06/10/2017

Print Headline: Preaching from the book of joy

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