SBC President Luter helps Birmingham churches put ‘existing unity on parade’comment (0)
October 4, 2012
By Jennifer Davis Rash
Fred Luter is no stranger to Alabama Baptists. He has been preaching in venues across the state since Hurricane Katrina sent him and his family to Birmingham for a few months in late 2005. Birmingham was an easy choice for the temporary relocation because Luter’s daughter, Kimberly, lives there.
So when Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, and recently elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), received an invitation to headline the Sept. 23 Impact Birmingham evangelism rally, the decision was once again “easy.”
“They know how to get me,” he said. “They know where my soft spot is.”
But this time Luter brings with him historical prominence and a schedule filled with national media requests, calls from high-profile people like President Obama and a visit with famed evangelist Billy Graham.
Being elected the first African-American SBC president made Luter the perfect choice for Impact Birmingham. The Sunday night evangelism rally — sponsored by Living Faith Baptist Cathedral, Birmingham, (where Johnny Williams is pastor) and Winewood Baptist Church, Birmingham, in partnership with Birmingham Baptist Association — was held at Huffman Baptist Church, Birmingham, where Ron Ethridge is pastor. About 800 people attended the event.
John Davis, Winewood Baptist’s pastor, said Impact Birmingham’s purpose was to “demonstrate the unity and mission of Baptist churches in Birmingham … to put our existing unity on parade.”
“Unity is at work. We are here. We are working on it. We are into it,” he said. “Enjoy it and let it grow in your heart and your spirit and let’s make the best of it. Christ is up to something very special … it’s more than black … it’s more than white. He’s after that one new man.”
Mike McLemore, executive director of Birmingham Association, underscored Davis’ description of the already existing unity among Birmingham Baptist churches. Thirty of the 135 churches in the association are predominantly black churches, he noted.
“Collectively we work together as an association to reach our city and our state for Jesus Christ,” McLemore said. “[Impact Birmingham was] a historic moment for the state, for the SBC. I truly believe it is the desire of every Christian who loves Jesus to love their neighbor as their self.
“From this gathering … you’ll tell the story that it was a great coming together of God’s people, seeking God’s will and to do God’s work from this place,” he said. “We achieved our goal — to glorify God.”
Preaching from Romans 1:16–17, Luter said, “Our nation is in trouble. Our states are in trouble. Our society is in trouble. If you want to see change, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ … the transforming power of the gospel.”
Current issues may seem perilous, Luter said as he named off concerns such as rampant crime, senseless murders, sexual abuse, an attack on marriage and family, drug abuse, racism, etc., but these are not new concerns.
“Paul knew about these times,” Luter said. “[Paul] said men shall be lovers of themselves, disobedient, unfaithful, unholy, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — what an accurate picture of today’s society!
“What’s it going to take to change America?” Luter asked. The same thing that changed every believer, he answered: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Somewhere along the line you heard the gospel, the good news of our Lord and Savior,” Luter said. “You heard, you believed and you trusted. … If the gospel transformed your life, I believe the gospel can change the lives of those in … places we are afraid to go.
“If God changed us, why can’t God change them?”
Luter outlined four ways the gospel’s power is transforming.
1. The gospel is personal.
“It can come on your pew ... and speak a … word that is meant just for you,” he said.
2. The gospel is powerful.
“It is the power of God unto salvation,” Luter explained. “The Word of God that can penetrate years of sin and save a lost soul.”
3. The gospel is practical.
“The gospel can be accepted by anyone,” he said. “You don’t have to fix it up, dress it up or sugarcoat it. Just preach the Word of God.
“Whosoever will let him come.”
4. The gospel is persistent.
“No matter where you’ve been or (what you’ve) gone through, you can always depend on the gospel,” Luter said. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God’s Word shall stand forever.
“Only the Word of God can change America. The only hope for our nation is the Word of God. … If you want to see change, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
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