CC Deep South Pastors Conference

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Challenges Facing the Church

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Mary Lou Lawson

Calvary Chapel Deep South Pastors Conference

More than 300 pastors, ministry leaders, and their wives gathered in September at the Calvary Chapel Deep South Pastors Conference at Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain, GA, to worship, pray, and hear teachings on the theme: Combating Current Challenges for Church Leaders. Topics discussed ranged from dealing with controversy in humility and love, God’s unchanging Word amidst changing cultural values, keeping a holy standard, and walking with an eternal perspective.

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Pastor Joe Aldrete (center) of CC Foley, AL, jokes with fellow pastors between teaching sessions. More than 300 pastors gathered at the 2021 Deep South Pastors Conference held at Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain, GA.

Confront Controversy with Humility and Love

Pastor Jerry McAnulty of Calvary Chapel Long Hollow, TN, spoke on confronting controversy with humility. “Our sheep are hurting and anxious; they need to see God’s peace in us,” he said. “We need to approach opposition with meekness, to instruct with humility—meekness, gentleness, mildness—like Jesus did.” When Christ’s disciples were arguing about who was going to be the greatest of them in heaven, Jesus meekly knelt and washed their feet. “He didn’t do this to shame them, but in the hopes that they could learn humility despite their pride, and do the same for one another.”

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Pastor Sandy Adams (far right) of CC Stone Mountain welcomes new pastors to the ministry.

When dealing with controversy, he encouraged four things. First, to confront it with gentleness and not anger or harsh rebuke, as Paul pled with the Corinthians to stop being divided and contentious (1 Corinthians 1:10). Second, remember that humility keeps Christ the main focus. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Third, to remain dependent on God’s grace and strength when dealing with His sheep. Finally, to do all things in love, the more excellent way. “Give God’s love the preeminence in everything,” Jerry said, referencing 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. “Love the people. Love is patient, kind, not easily offended, not rude or selfish.”

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In a candid time for every pastor to stand and share, Pastor Ronny Breen of Horizon Christian Fellowship in Harrisonburg, VA, relates how his church fared during the pandemic. Several pastors reported growth as they had continued to minister to those in spiritual need while other churches closed.

Saving Souls, Not Culture

Pastor John Pillivant of Calvary Chapel Bartlett, TN, reminded attendees, “Expecting our unsaved culture to be godly is silly. It is against their sin nature to be holy. Jesus has not called us to make our culture more Christian-friendly but to preach the Gospel to the lost, to save souls, to teach the Word in love.” He cited Jesus’ words in John 18:36a: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight.”

Citing Jesus’s teaching, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13a), John urged believers not to lose their saltiness, the flavor of Christ: “Don’t be corrupted and polluted by the culture or lose your focus. This world is not our home.” He shared 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”

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Pastors, leaders, and their wives joined in praise from the CC Deep South region: Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North & South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Loving the Lost

Pastor Mark Kirk of Calvary Chapel Knoxville, TN, shared about God’s love, which drove the reluctant prophet Jonah to share a message of repentance with the people of Ninevah—a corrupt, wicked culture. “God’s definition of love is very different from the world’s [definition],” he said. “We need to define God’s love according to His Word—which … does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). We need to tell them the truth in love, not reinforce their false definition of love. We also need to make sure people know that we love them.”

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Attendees gather for sweet fellowship and watermelon after an evening session. Many look forward to the conference all year to catch up on ministry and encouragement.

When Jonah complained to the Lord about the pagans, the Lord responded: “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left …?” (Jonah 4:11a). Mark enouraged: Instead of choosing “soap box issues,” teach the Word in love, “or we have no hope for those who are trapped in sin.” The Church must “speak freely in love while we can—both sharing and showing God’s love” to the world. “Don’t be afraid to take the heat, because that’s what love does.” He concluded, “We can’t be silent, because we alone have the antidote for their poison: the blood of Jesus Christ.”

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Worship pastor Matt Houston and Alli Taylor lead the congregation in original worship songs, available for church use on

A Godly Heart: Four Pictures

Pastor Jerel Hagerman of Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, CA, spoke of four types of hearts described in Scripture. One is a father’s heart, a desire to encourage and equip the next generation to reach their world as Paul did with Timothy. Another is a soldier’s heart, which realizes, “We are in a spiritual war until Armageddon,” Jerel said. “We will go through hard things—attacks on our churches, our families.” He cited Nehemiah 4:14b, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren.”

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Senior pastors answer questions from the group during a panel discussion. Some current challenges addressed during the conference: reaching the LGBTQ community, keeping unity amidst divisions over politics and COVID mandates, and staying focused on the Word.

With the heart of an athlete running a race, he said, “Let’s finish our race with joy.” We must keep looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is our motivation, our goal, our hope, our focus.

Finally, as a hard-working farmer also partakes of the crop, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Jerel, who grew up on a farm, explained that harvest time required all-hands-on-deck: “Harvest is so important that you can’t stop. We have to run straight and keep our eyes on Jesus, to finish His work wherever God has called us.”

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The CC Stone Mountain worship team led the enthusiastic congregation.

Continue in the Word

Pastor Troy Warner of Calvary Chapel Lynchburg, VA, admonished, “God’s Word never changes. … I know exactly how God thinks about all things that are written in Scripture. It is inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and our final authority.” He warned against twisting the Word to fit cultural norms, personal preference, sentimentality, or changing attitudes. “This Word is the heart and mind of our Creator. If we say anything in the Word is not true for today, we have elevated ourselves above God Himself.”

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A full house of worshippers lift their voices in praise.

Pastor Sandy Adams of Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain concluded: “God’s calling deserves a long obedience in the same direction—whatever He has said. He will be faithful to fulfill His promises and bring His will to pass.” Times of refining will come, he added: “God is carving His grooves on me like a record, [so] that His song will come through.” He encouraged men to be faithful to God, His Word, their wives, and their churches. “Let Jesus be lifted up in my life; all the praises are for Him. I am on a journey to bring Him glory.”

Sandy cited the Lord’s message to the faithful church in Philadelphia: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. … Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world … Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:8, 10, 11)

Pastor Sandy added, "Dates for next year’s conference have already been set for September 5-7, 2022. We’re already looking forward to the Southern BBQ! Everyone is invited.”

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Believers seated nearby lay hands on a pastor who stood up to receive prayer during a corporate time of intercession. Prayers went up for illness, discouragement, family struggles, and other much-needed requests.


Click to watch all teachings from the 2021 Deep South Pastors Conference

Visit the websites of Calvary Chapel pastors featured in this article:
Jerry McAnulty, Calvary Chapel Long Hollow, TN:
John Pillivant, Calvary Chapel Bartlett, TN:
Mark Kirk, Calvary Chapel Knoxville, TN:
Jerel Hagerman, Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, CA:
Troy Warner, Calvary Chapel Lynchburg, VA:
Sandy Adams, Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain:

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Senior pastors discuss questions, including how to stay authentic with millennials. From left: Chad Myhre of CC Charlottesville, VA; Tyler Warner of CC Trussville, AL; Troy Warner of CC Lynchburg, VA; and Pastor Sandy.


All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.