ORLANDO, Florida — Using fresh illustrations from a familiar 1 Samuel 17 story, Aaron R. Burke encouraged fellow Assemblies of God pastors to not allow Satan to defeat them in the main address at the Aug. 3 evening session of the Influence Conference at General Council 2021 in Orlando.
Burke recounted how the young David defeated the Philistine giant Goliath of Gath. Burke said various seemingly unbeatable giants — such as drug addiction, pornography dependence, depression, financial stress, bitterness, and even troubling church board relationships — can derail modern ministers.
“Being attacked is unavoidable, but being defeated is totally unacceptable,” said Burke, 37. “Christians live defeated either because of the lies they believe or the lifestyle they choose.”
Burke knows a thing or two about accepting difficult challenges. He and his wife, Katie, moved in faith to Tampa, Florida, in 2013 to launch a church — even though they knew no one in the city. Radiant Church started in a rough part of the city, one in which Burke had been warned that churches didn’t survive. It initially met in an old, decrepit, smelly building. Rats fell on congregants at one early service.
Yet Radiant Church has grown into a megachurch, with five locations. It has been recognized as one of the nation’s top five fastest-growing congregations in each of the past two years. The church has more than 3,900 weekly adherents.
Burke advised conference listeners that sometimes the best way to win the battle is not to engage in an unnecessary fight in the first place. He said some pastors are dabbling in behaviors or relationships that open them up to attack, ranging from watching immoral television programs to associating with friends who drag them down.
Satan’s primary strategy in removing pastors from their posts is to destroy their life by deceiving them about the consequences of their decisions, according to Burke. He recommended that pastors calculate the reward of winning against the regret of defeat.
“Abstain from all appearances of evil,” said Burke, referencing 1 Thessalonians 5:22. “Sin sacrifices long-term goals for short-term fulfillment. Stop living reckless, and start living holy.”
Healthy, victorious churches need healthy, victorious pastors, Burke said. Pastors who suffer a moral transgression find their influence wanes and their intimacy with God diminishes. He recommended ministers show more tenacity and perseverance — and be more interested in maintaining their integrity than Satan is in seeing that they lose it. Pastors need to keep asking for prayer, continue going to counseling, maintain an accountability partner, and establish appropriate personal boundaries.
“Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice,” Burke said. “You must stop letting your enemy do all the talking.”
While fear is the result of listening to Satan’s lies, faith comes by repeating the Word of God, Burke said, referencing Romans 10:17.
The young shepherd boy David had a different perspective than his fellow Israelites, who for weeks had quaked on the battle lines with fear at Goliath’s taunts.
“David had more confidence in the God that was within him, than the giant in front of him,” Burke said.
Burke concluded the service with an altar call in which hundreds of pastors streamed to the front for prayer regarding enemies in their lives.
In 2015, Burke had the honor of praying over then-Gov. Rick Scott’s inauguration ceremony. Radiant Church in part grew through innovative social media methods employed on Facebook and Twitter. Despite the Tampa area not being noted for attracting churchgoers, Radiant became one of the fastest-growing congregations in the country. More than 10,000 people have made salvation decisions for Christ at the church.
Burke graduated from Southeastern University in 2005, and went on to earn his master’s in business administration at the AG school in Lakeland, Florida, in 2010, as well as his doctorate in ministry in 2020. Burke is part of the Church Multiplication Network’s lead team.