KANSAS CITY – President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Fred Luter closed out the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting with a bang Oct. 30 when he challenged Missouri churches to get back to the personal, powerful, practical, persistent gospel.
Luter, who serves as pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, made history in 2012 when messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting elected him the first black president of the denomination. His fiery message at the MBC Annual Meeting was just one of 12 similar preaching engagements at state meetings he’s attended over the past 16 months.
“I talked to six former SBC presidents and asked how many of this type of meeting I’d be speaking at. They all said not too many. Every last one of them lied to me,” he joked.
“We’re living in some evil days,” he said, returning to the serious. “Our nation, states, cities and communities are in trouble. In a lot of cases, our churches are in trouble. What is it going to take to change things in Missouri or Louisiana, to change the downward spiral taking place all across America?
“The Word of God is personal, powerful, practical and persistent,” Luter said. “Brothers and sisters, what our society needs, what our culture needs, what America needs, what Louisiana needs, what Missouri needs is the transforming power of the Word of God.”
That answer and his sermon text came from Rom. 1:16 and 17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
He said he knew the gospel is enough to change and heal the broken world, because it was enough to change and heal each believer present in the room. Luter roused the crowd and drew choruses of amens with extended examples illustrating his point:
“What did it take to change you?” he asked. “Before we talk about society, before we talk about the community, before we talk about those knuckleheads out there, what did it take to change you? You haven’t always been saved. You haven’t always been a Christian. You haven’t always been born again. Think back before you were who you are today. Before you were preaching, before you were singing gospel music, before you were teaching Sunday School, before you were an evangelist, before you knew about the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, your state convention or your local association. What did it take to change you? That’s the question of the hour, Missouri Baptists, and I think the answer is that somewhere along the line you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The Bible tells us that Jesus is same yesterday, today and forever,” he continued. “If the gospel transformed your life, I believe that same gospel can transform our nation. That’s the point Paul makes in Romans 1. I believe the gospel can cause lost folks running around the streets can put down the AK-47 and pick up Acts 1:8. I believe lost folks can put down their weapons and pick up the Word of God. I believe lost folks can put down hate and pick up the Holy Spirit. I believe lost folks can put down booze and pick up the Body of Christ. I believe lost folks can put down gangs and pick up the grace of God. Instead of being fooled by the devil, they can be filled by the divine. In other words, if God can change you, why can’t God change them?”
To see Luter’s complete message, go to mobaptist.org/annualmeeting/videos/.
Koonce earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2005.