Archives For Fred Luter

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We live by God’s surprises,” said Helmut Thielicke. The German pastor was speaking in times more trying than ours, but in the darkest days of WW2, he could see the hand of God at work—and was amazed by it.

Dare we say the same of the year just past?

We were surprised by events we witnessed. In their unfolding, we sought the reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Here are some noteworthy moments for Baptists in Illinois—some heavy, some light—and what they may say about the year before us.

– The Editors

SBC candidates: Unity matters

What the U.S. presidential election may have lacked in civility, the 2016 election for Southern Baptist Convention President more than made up for in grace. When a close vote forced a run-off between Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear, the election seemed poised to divide Baptists over matters of theology and generation.

Instead, the candidates talked the night before the third vote was to be taken, and one bowed out, urging his supporters to vote for his opponent.

“It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us,” North Carolina pastor Greear posted in support of Tennessee pastor Gaines. “It’s time to look at what unites us.”

On paper, this decade’s SBC presidents are a diverse bunch, not united by much in terms of their backgrounds and interests:

  • Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright (2010-2012), who recently spoke out in favor of ministering to refugees
  • Dynamic New Orleans preacher Fred Luter (2012-2014), elected as the SBC’s first ever African American president
  • Ronnie Floyd (2014-2016), pastor of a multi-site church in Arkansas and a prolific blogger who led the denomination toward a laser-like focus on prayer
  • And Gaines, elected in 2016, who has espoused traditional Baptist theology and his own intense focus on evangelism.

What does unite them is a logical progression in the things they have called Baptists toward: For Wright, it was a return to Great Commission principles. Luter’s presidency was marked by impassioned pleas for spiritual awakening and revival. And Floyd called Southern Baptists to their knees—for themselves, their churches, the denomination, the nation, and the world.

Gaines announced he will continue the emphasis on prayer at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. It may be a sign that the desire for unity, despite differences in age, theological perspective, and communication style, is actually, in Greear’s words, “what unites us.”

A new missions paradigm

After a season in which budget shortfalls and personnel cuts seemed to limit the future potential for Baptist missions engagement around the world, International Mission Board President David Platt continued to preach a message to the contrary.

“Limitless” is the word Platt has used to describe the mission force needed to take the gospel to places without it. To achieve that goal, he has said, the SBC has to think differently about missions and missionaries than we have in the past.

“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” Platt said during his report at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”

But the IMB’s emerging strategy is to put around those missionaries a “limitless” force of students, retirees, and professionals—people who, to borrow Platt’s words, are willing to leverage their jobs and lives so that more might hear and respond to the gospel.

The newly redesigned IMB website reflects the strategy, with buttons for people in a variety of categories to search for opportunities overseas. There are needs for business consultants, healthcare professionals, construction engineers, and more. The IMB also offers training resources for churches to equip and mobilize members for missions, both short-term and longer.

Global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” Platt said in St. Louis.

A year ago, when hundreds of IMB missionaries moved back home, the chances of getting the gospel to some of the world’s darkest places seemed dimmer. Now, with a strategy focused on everyday people like the ones who sparked a gospel fire in the New Testament, the opportunities seem endless. Or, limitless.

If I had a hammer

We’ll hear it a lot in the new year. On Halloween night in 1517, disgruntled priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 complaints on the church door in Wittenberg and started an ecclesial revolution. We’re likely to hear about it from all corners, including events at our seminaries, panels at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, and bus tours of Germany. And we may have a few serious discussions about the theological direction of the SBC. Look for Reformation@500 in the pages of the Illinois Baptist throughout 2017.

Read Cloudy with a chance of surprises, pt. 1

pastors_conference_2016As IBSA messengers, committee members, and officers ready for the IBSA Annual Meeting, preparation is busily underway for another meeting that takes place just prior to it. The IBSA Pastors’ Conference begins Tuesday, November 1, at 1 p.m. at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Broadview, the site of the Annual Meeting. It finishes Wednesday morning, November 2, before noon and the start of the Annual Meeting later that afternoon.

The Pastors’ Conference is a time for pastors to recharge by listening to inspiring preaching, to learn from their peers, and to renew old friendships as well as start new ones. The president of this year’s conference is David Sutton, pastor of Bread of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Other officers are Brian Smith, vice president, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Granite City, and Bob Stillwell, treasurer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Paxton.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “CROSSROADS: Our pathway to reconciliation,” taken from 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.

Conference speakers include H.B. Charles, Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Scott Nichols, pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, Ill.; and Jonathan Peters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbia, Ill.

Learn more about the Pastors’ Conference

Breakout sessions to cross cultures
Conference speakers will also lead eight breakout sessions, including:

IBSA staff members and former International Mission Board missionaries Dwayne Doyle and Mike Young will teach “On Mission in Another Culture,” offering basic principles to increase effectiveness while sharing Christ in another culture.

In his session, “Coming Together at the Crossroads,” Fred Luter will discuss the need for racial reconciliation and share practical ways pastors can lead their congregations toward biblical reconciliation.

“Crossing Cultures and Building Partnerships,” led by IBSA’s Dale Davenport, will help pastors learn how they can establish a partnership with an IBSA church in a different culture. Pastors can begin to form such partnerships at the conference.

IBSA’s Mark Emerson will lead “Develop Fresh Evangelism Strategy for Today’s Changing Culture.” Participants will learn how to develop an overall evangelism strategy for their churches using practical evangelism tools.

Vision tours of ministry opportunities
In addition to the breakout sessions, attenders can take a “Vision Tour” of ministry opportunities in Chicagoland on Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The tour includes dinner. Choose from Northside, Southside, Westside, or suburban routes.

A fifth tour on Thursday, starting at noon, will offer a “Chicago sampling.” Lunch is included.

Register for the tours online at IBSAannualmeeting.org. Look under the “Vision Tours” tab at the top of the homepage.

Food and fellowship
A meal will be served Tuesday evening, so attenders can stay on the Broadview campus and not lose their parking spaces. Chicago’s famous Giordano’s will cater deep-dish pizza for $10 per person. Seating is limited. Tickets may be purchased at IBSAannualmeeting.org. Look under the “Quick Links” tab for “meal tickets.”


Pastors’ Conference Speaker Bios

H.B. Charles, Jr. is the lead pastor and preacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida. He has served there since the fall of 2008 and is responsible for the areas of preaching-teaching, vision casting, and leadership development. Prior to his call to Shiloh Church, H.B. led Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles for almost 18 years, succeeding his late father. Pastor Charles regularly speaks at churches, conferences, and conventions around the country, and has authored or been a contributing author of several books.

Fred Luter has served as senior pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans since 1986. Luter received his Doctor of Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was elected the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African American President on June 19, 2012—holding the position for two years until June of 2014. In 2015, Dr. Luter was named national African American ambassador for the North American Mission Board. His role includes involving more African American churches in the SBC and in church planting.

Scott Nichols is senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, Illinois—a congregation he planted almost 15 years ago in October of 2001. Nichols holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Southwest Baptist University, a Master of Arts in ministry from Moody Bible Institute Graduate School, and is also currently working towards his Doctor of Ministry degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His loves in ministry include preaching, leadership development, and evangelism. Nichols says his joy will be to finish strong and honor God with all he is and does in life.

Jonathan Peters has served as the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Columbia, Illinois, since 1998. A native of Chicago, Jonathan came to Christ as a student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and then went on to graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas. Peters recently led his church in a multi-million dollar relocation project.

David Crosby

David Crosby

New Orleans pastor David Crosby is the third candidate to be named as a nominee for Southern Baptist Convention president. On March 24, former SBC President Fred Luter announced he will nominate Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, to the post during the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis.

“I have watched David the last 10 years here in New Orleans as he has taken the leadership of all the churches and pastors of our city in helping to rebuild New Orleans, which everybody knows was totally destroyed [in 2005] in Hurricane Katrina,” Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, told Baptist Press.

Crosby joins previously announced candidates — J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.

In contrast to Greear and Gaines, Crosby has lead his church to a higher percentage in Cooperative Program giving. According to Luter, during the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist, the congregation has given between 7-15% of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. Annual Church Profile reports show First Baptist’s total missions giving to be at least 22% of its undesignated receipts annually over the past five years.

Greear’s church gives 2.4% of undesignated receipts to CP, while Gaines’ gives approximately 4.6% of undesignated receipts to CP.

First Baptist has averaged 658 people in Sunday morning worship services and 24 baptisms between 2011 and 2015. The Summit’s baptisms increased from 19 in 2002, when Greear arrived, to 928 in 2014. Bellevue has averaged 481 baptisms annually during Gaines’ tenure.

Crosby is married and has three children and eight grandchildren. He earned a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy from Baylor University.

March 2 Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., announced he will nominate Greear, and March 9 Johnny Hunt, former SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., said he will nominate Gaines.

The 2016 Southern Baptist Convention will take place June 14-15 in St. Louis, MO. Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd is finishing his second term in the post. Floyd is pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas.

Fred_Luter_revivalCOMMENTARY | Eric Reed

I’ve never been prouder – of Fred Luter or of the Southern Baptist Convention – than when, on the second day of the annual meeting in Baltimore, they suspended the agenda and spent most of an hour in prayer.

Will this be Bro. Fred’s lasting contribution to the SBC, I thought to myself, that he was willing to lay aside the fixed orders of business, to call us all to our knees, and to take our deep needs to the Lord?

Two years earlier, I sat on a bench in the cavernous lobby of the New Orleans Convention Center talking with a pastor-friend of mine. He’s African American. I seemed more excited by Luter’s election that day than he did. I posed a question about the new president’s lasting impact.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” was his response. “Will this be a one-time thing, or has the Convention really changed? Is there room for me in leadership?”

That has been the response of several people I’ve asked since then, even Luter himself. Many people, especially African American pastors, said they wanted to see what happened after Luter’s term. Would he really be able to increase the ethnic diversity on SBC boards and in leadership? Would there be a lasting place at the table for black, Hispanic, and Asian leaders?

Under Luter’s direction, the committees responsible for manning those boards have attempted to broaden representation. In fact, messengers at the Phoenix convention in 2011 had ordered the start of such a concentrated effort even before Luter’s election as the SBC’s first African American president.

It was good to see several African American pastors on the platform in 2014: Southern Seminary Professor Kevin Smith spoke for the Resolutions Committee. Chicago’s very own Marvin Parker of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church served with the Committee on Order of Business and Michael Allen of Uptown Baptist Church was elected “back-up preacher” for the 2015 annual meeting.

But it took a messenger from the floor to confirm what those watching the live video stream had noticed. There was not a lot cultural diversity on the worship platform. The messenger moved that the music teams next year be more diverse, because, he noted, while the choirs and bands were almost all white, the Convention isn’t anymore – and heaven won’t be either.

I saw a similar message in the official photograph of the incoming SBC officers: five middle-aged white guys in dark suits. Except for one goatee, that photograph could have been snapped in 1974.

Or 1954.

We missed an opportunity to extend Bro. Fred’s impact. Korean-American pastor Daniel Kim ran for president, and his showing as a late-entry against winner Ronnie Floyd was respectable. But both first and second vice-presidents ran unopposed. Why? Because no one else stepped up.

Fred Luter’s lasting impact may not be that he radically altered the composition of committees or platform personnel. Instead, he demonstrated the door is open and there’s room at the table. And he was willing to take the risk.

As a pastor in New Orleans, Luter suffered jeers for his embrace of the historically white denomination. And before he agreed to run for SBC president in 2012, one advisor warned, “Look at the racial make-up of the Convention, Fred. You might lose.”

But he won. In a big way. Unopposed. Twice. To cheers and tears and shouts of joy from a whole lot of people glad that a new day had arrived for Southern Baptists.

Successor Floyd called him “the most beloved president” in recent SBC history. Luter traveled widely and preached in churches of all sizes and ethnicities. He embodied the new spirit of the SBC, and he did it with characteristic joy and grace. For all that, he is deservedly and deeply appreciated.

But, for me, Fred Luter’s lasting impact is that he was willing to step up.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Baltimore | The Southern Baptist Convention’s 2014 annual meeting ended this afternoon as Fred Luter handed off the gavel to new President Ronnie Floyd. The pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said, “Boom!” as the gavel met the podium to officially close the meeting. And Luter threw his arms in the air with a big grin.

Check back later for more images from the Convention and Pastors’ Conference, and our list of takeaways from this week in Baltimore. Thank you always for following the news with us!

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Fred_Luter_preach_2Baltimore | Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter brought messengers to their feet preaching Tuesday night from Psalm 80:18-19, calling on Southern Baptists to repent and call on God for revival.

“It’s a challenging time in the life of America, because just like Israel in Psalm 80, America has sinned against God,” shared Luter. “America is rapidly turning into a pagan nation. We’ve lowered our morals. We’ve lowered our standards.”

Luter said evidence of America’s depravity is seen in how the nation regards openly homosexual athletes as heroes rather than celebrating truly heroic people — like soldiers, EMTs, policemen and IMB missionaries. He boldly declared the celebration of homosexuality is just one of many manifestations of sin in America.

“I’m convinced if things are going to change in our nation there must be a spiritual revival in our nation there must be a spiritual awakening in America … There must be a spiritual revival that starts in the church. It must start with the people of God, it must start with prayer,” he said.

There is still hope. “We have a great and glorious opportunity to turn around America if we accept the challenge of the Great Commission,” he declared.

For God to send renewal and revival to our churches in America we must do three things, said Luter:

1. There must be repentance. We must ask God’s forgiveness for not making evangelism a priority.

“We have the answer,” Luter said. “We must share the Gospel of our savior Jesus Christ. Only the Gospel can transform lives…We’ve forgotten how much power there is in the Gospel to transform lives.”

“You and I were changed when we heard the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ…That same Gospel can change the lives of the men, women, boys, and girls in our cities.”

He urged Southern Baptists to “stand flat-footed and preach the Word of God…Not any gimmicks, not any games…just give them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

2. There must be remorse. We must tell everyone, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they look like, Luter said.

“If they are not coming to us we must go to them,” he challenged. “That’s what Jesus meant when He gave us the Great Commission…If you are born again. If you are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, then you are qualified.”

His voice growing louder he cried, “Please forgive us for not sharing the Great Commission…O God we repent! O God we are remorseful!”

3. There will be revival. “If we repent, if we show remorse, there will be revival,” Luter said, just as God promised in Psalm 80.

“Brother and sisters of the SBC, we can longer ignore these reports [of declining baptisms]… Brothers and sisters, we are losing a generation. We can no longer be at ease while people around us are dying and going to hell!”

Luter shared his “heart’s desire these last two years [as SBC President] has been that God will bring revival and renew us.”

Messengers stood on their feet and shouted choruses of “Amen” as Luter proclaimed, “I’m going to tell it all around Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“In the name of Jesus we have the victory. In the name of Jesus — Satan you have to flee! Southern Baptists who can stand before us when we call on that great Name? That Name is Jesus!”

He asked messengers to cry out, “Lord send the revival! Lord send the revival! Lord send the revival!”

Then, he told them, “Now, point to yourself and say, ‘Let it begin with me! Let it begin with me! Let it begin with me!’”

The messengers responded standing and shouting, “Let it begin with me,” as Luter finished his last message as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By Lisa Sergent, director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association

Luter_gavelPresident Fred Luter gaveled into session the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this morning.

As of 8:05 a.m., there are 4,310 registered messengers at the meeting. Attendance is typically sparse in the first session, but four Illinois Baptists are seated in the first three rows: Cliff and Lisa Woodman from Emmanuel Baptist in Carlinville, and Jack and Wilma Booth from Calvary Baptist in Elgin.

Luter’s successor will be elected this morning from a field of three candidates: Ronnie Floyd, Cross Church in northwest Arkansas; Dennis Kim, Global Mission Church of Greater Washington; and Jared Moore, New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky.

As for the current president, Luter opened the session with his trademark humor: “Even though I have enjoyed the crab cakes here, I’d rather the beignets and coffee in N’Awlins.”

Check back here and at Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist and Twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist for updates throughout the day.