News Articles

‘Cry out to Jesus,’ Hunt tells leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recounted a recent visit he had with Billy Graham in which the aging evangelist expressed his thoughts on the Great Commission Resurgence.

“He said, ‘Johnny, there are some other smaller groups in America that could make a difference, but I’m of the deep conviction that if America is to hear the Gospel, Southern Baptists will have to be the delivery system,'” Hunt told Executive Committee members Sept. 21 in Nashville, Tenn.

“He said, ‘I don’t think anyone else is on the horizon. No one has ever loved the Gospel or made more about the Gospel. Please, continue to challenge us to be faithful in preaching God’s Word through this Great Commission Resurgence.'”

As Southern Baptists undertake the massive task, they have nothing else to do but cry out to Jesus, Hunt said, pointing to Psalm 119:145-152.

“The psalmist prayed throughout the entire psalm, but in these verses he took it to a new level. He concentrated on prayer, and he cried out to God night and day,” Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, said. “From his personal experience, he gives us some practical instructions about successful prayer.”

Hunt quoted the late expository preacher Stephen Olford, who personally instructed him more than 30 years ago. “He said, ‘Pray when you feel like it, and when you don’t feel like it, pray until you do.'”

In the passage, Hunt noted that the psalmist displays a heart of dedication, crying out in passion with his whole heart.

“It speaks of a great intensity from the depth of his diaphragm. With a loud voice he cried out to God. He was eager and desperate for God to help him,” Hunt said.

“I’m so grateful for all that God has done through the years through Southern Baptists, but I believe we’re at a crossroad. I believe we’re at a place where we’re in desperate need of prayer, a desperate need of asking God to touch us again, that we may not only go to the nations but we would be far more effective than we’ve been in the last 50 years in the nation that hosts over 43,000 of our churches and our missions.”

The passion of the psalmist’s prayer speaks to the emotions, Hunt said, and the promise he included — to keep God’s statutes — speaks of determination.

“In one moment the psalmist desires for God to rescue him but also to rule him,” Hunt said.

The psalmist anticipated the dawning of a new day and then meditated on God’s Word in the evening. The passage, Hunt said, challenges him to evaluate his personal life apart from his pleadings of others from the platform at his church and as SBC president.

“How about what am I giving to missions? Do I give sacrificially? Am I committed as a Great Commission Christian? Does my checkbook show that? Is there anything in my budget that demands more of the money my church pays me than the Great Commission?” Hunt said.

“… There’s a great host of us that have platforms to speak from, but I’ve found that I’m no better on that platform in all honesty before God than what I am in those early morning hours and those evenings of reflection and meditation,” he said.

In addition to a heart of dedication and a heart of determination, the psalmist expresses a heart for intervention. He realized his plea was heard only on the basis of God’s mercy and His intervention would come only by grace.

“In our denomination, ‘God, revive us again.’ We’re grateful to God for all we’re doing compared to other denominations, but Lord, in light of what we could and I believe should be doing as a denomination, God, revive us,” Hunt said.

He noted that about 3,000 volunteers participated in Crossover, the evangelistic emphasis preceding the SBC annual meeting, in Louisville, Ky., this year. And he set forth a challenge for that number to increase to 10,000 for next year’s Crossover in Orlando, Fla.

“Remember back in the days of Las Vegas, the word so permeated the city that Southern Baptists were coming that they began to advertise on television we were coming. I remember knocking on doors and they’d say, ‘Who is it?’ and we’d say, ‘Well, we’re from a local church here and we’re visiting with people in the city.’ Many of the people would respond and say, ‘I wondered if you all would come.’

“They were anticipating us coming,” Hunt said. “We told them we were coming. And we went into the city and preached the Gospel out on the streets in Vegas.”

He also said the majority of the nearly 9,000 messengers to the convention in Louisville were pastors, staff members and denominational workers. For Orlando, Hunt hopes churches will make it a priority to urge laypeople to serve as messengers.

Hunt said in Orlando Wednesday night, the concluding night of the annual meeting, will serve as an evangelistic evening when people encountered during Crossover can be invited to hear the Christian music group Casting Crowns and evangelist Tony Nolan.

“We’ll be giving a Gospel invitation, and wouldn’t it be glorious to be able to report that people were saved at a Southern Baptist Convention?” Hunt said.

As a grandfather, Hunt hears stories about show and tell at school.

“It’s not tell and show. It’s show and tell. We display something and then we tell about it. We are great at telling, slow at showing. God, help us to reverse it.

“What a witness it would be if we pastors, we leaders, we denominational servants made a commitment that that would be a priority on our schedule to be in the streets joining those local churches to make a difference, to lead out not by the platform which we stand behind as to what needs to happen in our denomination but what we display in our life to our people,” Hunt said.

The churches of the Southern Baptist Convention claim 16 million members, and Hunt said it only stands to reason that with such an army of believers the task of seeing others come to faith in Christ could be possible.

“I’m grateful to God for what He has done, but if I didn’t believe the best was yet to be, I would be discouraged in my heart,” Hunt said. “But I’m encouraged and believe with all of my heart the best is yet to be.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach