At the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference

Aside from being a model of self-sacrificial service to Christ and an example of faithful prayer, George Muller’s life also provides encouragement to expository preaching of God’s Word. Muller wrote:

Expounding the Scriptures is most beneficial… Expounding the Scriptures encourages the congregation to bring their Bibles to church, and everything that leads believers to value Scriptures is important. This method of preaching [expository preaching] is more beneficial to the hearers than if, on a single verse, some remarks are made so that the portion of Scripture is scarcely anything but a motto for the subject. [George Muller, The Autobiography of George Muller (New Kensington. PA: Whitaker House, 1984) 33.]

To my great disappointment, last year I noticed that the preaching of the Word at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting was such that speakers regularly took a single verse or a short passage of Scripture and then used this verse or passage as a motto for whatever subject they wished to speak on. This was especially discouraging because many of the same speakers who were most guilty of this style of preaching were also the most vocal in calling for Southern Baptists to preach expositionally. This gave the impression that expositional preaching means nothing more than quoting pieces from the same passage of Scripture throughout a sermon. It was my sincere hope and prayer that the preaching at this year’s Convention meeting would be different.

Tonight, when Dr. Johnny Hunt began to give the last sermon of the pre-Convention Southern Baptist pastors’ conference (the only pastors’ conference sermon I had the opportunity to hear), my hopefulness soared. Dr. Hunt read Acts 19:11-20 and said that he was going to speak on “Miracles, Exorcism, and Changed Lives.” The outline I wrote for the first half of his sermon was as follows:

I. Miracles

A. Sovereign: The Bible begins by magnifying the sovereign God (v. 11a)

B. Servant: God recognizes His servant, whom He used (v. 11b)

C. Sick: God acknowledges the sick, which were healed (v. 12a)

Insight: The miracles performed by the apostles were never given as an end of themselves, but to authenticate the apostles’ calling. [Noting the evil of Ephesus, Dr. Hunt declared that God loves to magnify His power in the midst of opposition.]

II. Exorcism

A. Exorcism accompanied the ministry of Paul (v. 12b)

B. It is clear from the passage that these exorcists have no personal relationship [sic] with Jesus (v. 13-14)

C. Not only can God see through our religious hypocrisy, but even our Enemy can see if we are fake (v. 15)

Insight: The Enemy takes note of God’s servants.

Through the points outlined above, I was truly praising God for the gracious, powerful words coming from Dr. Hunt’s mouth. Having established such a strong expository base for his sermon, I expected that I personally and the entire body present would be blessed with sound preaching until the sermon came to a close. Sadly, immediately following the half of the sermon outlined above, Dr. Hunt pretty much abandoned the text. Hunt began making tangential comments about declining baptisms in the SBC, asserting that many Baptist preachers, though saved, are preaching without the power of God and are thus practically like the sons of Sceva.

Dr. Hunt further asserted that many preachers are dead inside and need a special touch from God. Then, having gotten worked up, He began to mention all kinds of things, such as Dr. Jerry Falwell having said that the glory of God had departed the Indpendent Baptists and settled on the Southern Baptists and that we must not turn our backs on this glory. Occasionally, Dr. Hunt would give a brief nod to the text through an allusion, such as when he compared a commitment to tee-totaling to the Ephesians’ burning their magic books.

During all of this, Dr. Hunt called several times for preachers to faithfully preach God’s Word, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had almost entirely abandoned his own text. At the end of the sermon, Dr. Hunt gave an altar call for ministers to renew their commitment to Bible preaching and soul-winning. Dr. Hunt seems to have a genuine desire that we have a spirit of expectation and a desire to pursue holiness, so that we would cry out to God in prayer and see God’s work in saving souls. What Dr. Hunt fails to see is that we do not need manipulative altar calls or some mystical touch from God to achieve this end. Rather, we need the power that comes only by faithful exposition- an exposition that does not get hijacked by personal desires, no matter how noble these desires may be. Update: I forgot to mention that while Dr. Hunt decried declining baptisms in the SBC, he did take note of one group in which baptisms have increased. This past year, SBC churches baptized more children from ages 1 to 5 than ever before. Dr. Hunt took this as evidence that Southern Baptist preachers are only reaching young children and that we need to focus on other age groups as well. I would point out that if the SBC is making a regular practice of baptizing children this young, the Convention is, in effect, becoming paedobaptist.

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16 Comments on “At the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference”

  1. Barry Says:

    This is a candid and revealing post Andrew.

    Dr. Hunt’s quote from Jerry Falwell was dissapointing (for me) to read. I think it underscores just the type of mentality and leadership that, rather than bringing people together, has the effect of alienating fellow brethren.

    You would have thought that, by now, most religious leaders would have picked up on matters and language that not only doesn’t heal–it has just the opposite effect.

    Thx.

  2. Sam Hughey Says:

    I know this is going to seem overly critical and in spite of that not being my intention, I can’t ask the question without it appearing to be that way but does anyone know of a 1 year old who can make a willful and knowledgeable confession of and repentance from sin and a profession of faith for salvation?


  3. Sam – Maybe it’s a logical follow-on to the dubious idea of “age of accountability.” Children are said to reach their age of accountability relatively young sometimes. After all, anybody with the slightest experience with young children knows that they are sinful little monsters. (Note that I love kids, but I have to admit that they are sinful virtually from the beginning. What is every kid’s first clearly said word? “NO!”) From there, I guess it’s a logical assumption that if you be held responsible for sin early on, then you can have faith early on as well. God wouldn’t make you responsible for your sin (I guess the thinking goes) without also allowing you to exercise your faith.

    Now, from a reformed point of view, I suppose you could make the argument – as I believe Lutherans do – that God gives the very young child the gift of faith early on, even though he doesn’t intellectually realize it. (I’d be glad to be corrected on this point as I know almost nothing about Lutheran theology.)

    But it seems to me that many of these Baptists are the very ones denying that faith is a gift of God. So, Sam, I completely agree. It doesn’t make a lot of sense given their paradigm. Nelson Price’s article Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron specifically (and illogically, though consistently) rails again infant baptism. Now they’re celebrating it?

  4. genembridges Says:

    Dr. Hunt took this as evidence that Southern Baptist preachers are only reaching young children and that we need to focus on other age groups as well. I would point out that if the SBC is making a regular practice of baptizing children this young, the Convention is, in effect, becoming paedobaptist.

    A. Ya think?

    B. And of these, how many will apostatize later in life? Given what we already know, it makes one wonder how some can believe in eternal security and deny the perseverance of the saints.

  5. Arthur Sido Says:

    Based on the logic of baptizing one year olds, we ought to just sneak up on people on the street, toss a bucket of water on them, count them in the rolls and hope they come to saving faith later. Oh what we do for the sake of putting up big numbers.

    I appreciate your comment on Dr. Hunt abandoning the text, I have heard far too many preachers who think expository preaching is reading a couple of obligatory passages of Scripture and then launching off on whatever tangent they feel the audience needs to hear.

  6. Les Puryear Says:

    Andrew,

    Once again I agree with your assessment of the less than expositional nature of the Pastor’s Conference sermons. Unfortunately, this seems to be the status quo in most SBC churches today.

    Les


  7. Johnny Hunt’s sermon is too typical of SBC preachers these days; this is what is passing as expositional preaching. Someone somewhere has redefined what expository preaching is. And furthermore, when SBC presidents continually call for an increase in baptisms they are missing the point of the gospel. Baptism is not our purpose, preaching Christ and Him crucified is (ICor.1:10-17; 2:1-5). With the wrong goal set by the SBC is it any wonder that infants are being baptized and millions of SBC members can’t be located?

  8. Sam Hughey Says:

    Gary,

    I’ve no doubt the so-called age of accountability notion is a strong factor with regards to getting a 1 year old to be saved. I think when the anti-Calvinist in the SBC can justify this but has a problem with Calvinism, much has been revealed concerning that person’s ability to correctly interpret Scripture, not to mention this strongly questions that person’s ability to disagree with Calvinism from a Biblical perspective. This helps to understand why Tom Ascol’s recommendation for integrity in church membership was refused by the SBC. Now, this is entirely my own personal perspective but when the SBC decided it does not need integrity in church membership while making countless false accusations against brothers and sisters in Christ concerning Calvinism, I find myself wondering why I should support or be a part of the SBC which does not support integrity.

  9. Philip Says:

    For too many years I have seen churches embrace the “easy-believism” of the so called “Emergent Church”. This is destroying our churches. There is no recognition of sin, no recognition of the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus, just a thought that if one turns his/her life over to God to deal with their problems then POW, they become a Christian. Churches use such a variety of translations that even the scripture read during a single sermon becomes an exercise in trying to discern what’s actually being taught. Has anyone read what Bill Hybles has recently said? His tactics in church growth are failures. He has admitted it. Publicly. For those pastors who follow closely the Willow Creek philosophy of church growth, I challenge you to now rethink the erroneous programs and theology you’ve shoved down your church members’ throats.

  10. Awake_In _woodstock Says:

    You fellows seem to be hyper-critical. So Johnny Hunt got a little fired up and pointed out some issues he feels are negative with other preachers and such. Isn’t that exactly what you are doing here.

  11. Andrew Says:

    Awake:

    My problem wasn’t that he got fired up or that he “pointed out some issues he feels are negative with other preachers and such,” but that he seemed to leave the text behind in doing so.

    -Andrew

  12. Sam Hughey Says:

    Awake_In _woodstock,

    Does being a little fired up and pointing out issues justify a wrong use of the Word of God? Can we take one sentence out of the Bible merely because it ‘appears’ to be on my side of whatever issue and then proceed to ride that text as though it is my divinely inspired ‘pony’ given solely to me to do whatever I want with it?

  13. SBC Says:

    I would rather have a pastor who allows the Spirit to speak through God’s Word, rather than someone who is so concerned with sticking with the text, he ignores what God might be trying to do “in that moment.” While I respect the conversations above, I honestly can say I have no greater joy than to hear this man speak the truth of the Word, in love. He loves, and lives Jesus Christ outloud, and this is evident to those who are blessed to hear him every Sunday morning. I highly encourage you all to listen online to his messages, at FBCW, they are uplifting, and encourageing. Today’s, June 15, was a great example of allowing the Spirit to move and lead his time at the pulpit. The Holy Spirit led over 30 people down front to give their lives to Christ. Praise God!

  14. Arthur Sido Says:

    SBC, I wonder how many of those people will be in a church a year from now? I wonder how many baptized “members” show up on the rolls of FBCW versus those that faithfully attend. Getting “decisions” is easy, making disciples is a work for the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the word.

    Paul commanded Timothy: “Preach the Word”, not “Say whatever is on your heart”. When men stray from the text into their own opinions, they do injustice to the Gospel. I find the Word of God: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
    (2 Timothy 3:16)” That doesn’t mean that one reads a verse of scripture and then launches off onto a diatribe about whatever he feels like talking about that day.

  15. Sam Hughey Says:

    SBC,

    I hope I am understanding you correctly and you are not implying that preaching from something ‘other than’ the text of Scripture, which is the Divinely Inspired and Authoritative Word of God, is ok. I would not even begin to imagine all the devices one can use to distort, pervert and/or misuse Scripture by the single act of NOT sticking with the text, and I’m sure you can understand and agree with that (and I’m not implying he was doing this).

    I think it is imperative that all Christians, especially those who are ordained to preach our Lord’s Holy Word to a congregation of Christians and unbelievers, never opt for something ‘other than’ the text of Holy Scripture. In order for one to have a correct interpretation of Holy Scripture, leaving the text which is being interpreted, expounded and exhorted opens the door for all sorts of false teaching, even if/when it ‘sounds’ like it’s Biblical merely because a sprinkling of Biblical words/phrases are used when one leaves the text of God’s Word. Allowing the Spirit to speak through God’s Word does not include leaving that Word through which He is speaking. This is precisely what the Pharisees did. Perhaps if you would present an example of preaching God’s Word by leaving the text of God’s Word or what the Holy Spirit ‘might’ be trying to do apart from God’s Holy Word I could understand your view better.

    When new believers are added to the church, it is truly a cause for great joy. I am not at all implying that those 30 people were not saved but the fact of walking an aisle and ‘supposedly’ making a decision does not prove one is saved. I did that twice before I was truly saved and the Southern Baptist Convention is filled with unregenerate church members who also walked an aisle and ‘supposedly’ made a decision, more than once.

  16. SBC Says:

    First let me start out with I am not Southern Baptist….I’m a Christian, I find it funny when people ask others what religion they are they say their denomination. So yes there are a lot of people within all denominations that have “gone forward” and yet are not truly repentant/ saved….and to clear it up I meant “outline” not text. I love 2Tim 3:16 in that ALL Scripture is God Breathed and useful for correction and teaching and training in righteousness, thank God that in the day and age of no absolutes, we can cling to the truth of the Word of God and believe it is Truth! I was just merely saying that I think sometimes pastors can get caught up in following an outline and sticking with a time constraint rather than allowing the Spirit to lead and guide them through the Word. So to clear up that …we are on the same page. Let me just state that I am not a member at the church, I actually attend another church that was planted from their church and is ( non denominational) ….But I would like to note, I don’t believe you all can comment, and say what you are saying about the church/pastor unless you have been or attend regularly. My parents go there ( and the people/leaders have helped change their lives..Praise God)…and I’m fortunate enough to attend consistantly with them. True that “going down front” doesn’t save a person, no one but the Lord truly knows if one is truly saved, but I believe it is a reflection on a church and the movement of the Holy Spirit when lives are being transformed and renewed. It is a sign of a church alive. I grew up in a church where we didn’t see a lot of that, and seeing people dedicate their lives to the Lord is so encouraging for other believers.

    One of the most awesome things that I respect about FBCW is their ministry to hurting pastors, taking “beat down” leaders and pastors and encourageing them and restoring them in the Word. They engourage the believer which is so necessary to have healthy believers who can be a light to a dying and dark community, and along with encourageing the believer , they encourage for anyone to come , just as you are. Praise God for that ! (Side note)

    Arthur Sido I hear what your saying about those people being there a year from now…that is always a concern…. and I don’t mean members like I think you do. Yes they are memeber, and yes you are probably right about them attending vs regular attenders . I would also like to point out that if you went to this church you would realize it is not a “decisions” church. They don’t pat themselves on the back over decisions, they disciple, and to be honest I think they do a better job at that than my own church. But anyhow…..This points me to another concern, is it a reflection of the church if those people are not attending? I think we blame too much on everyone else, the church, the pastor, the president..and it goes on. The church is people, not walls, when Jesus looks down he doesn’t see walls, or denominations he sees people, desciples, followers. It is important to have things (resources) like Sunday school, journey groups, accountability, and so on…This helps make disciples, but it is others within the church investing in the lives of the new believers which helps make for strong leaders and disciples as well. Notice before when I said the people/ leaders have helped change my parents. It is in their investment that my parents have become alive and joyous in Christ, they have become alive and sensitive to the Holy Spirirt and for that I will always be eternally grateful for the work of the people/leaders at FBCW. I appreciate all your responses. Thanks for the dialouge.


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