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Declare truth in pulpits, SBC 1st VP says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Evangelist Ron Herrod, who is serving this year as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling pastors to a consistent proclamation of the truth even when that truth makes people uncomfortable.

“We seem to be afraid today to tell the truth about doctrine, about moral issues, about spiritual warfare,” Herrod told Baptist Press. “We hear a lot of people saying that we’re in danger today of the government censoring the voice of the pulpit, but that hasn’t happened and I hope that it doesn’t, of course. But we seem to be censoring ourselves.

“Our people in our churches need to know some of the old truths such as the fear of God, which we don’t hear much about these days, holiness, repentance, and I think we’re going to have to confront unbelievers in our culture with a strong truth about sin and the atonement, about repentance,” he said.

Herrod founded the Ron Herrod Evangelism Ministries Association (RHEMA) in 1995 after more than three decades as a pastor. He is a cancer survivor and has served in various leadership roles throughout the SBC and in the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelicals.

A graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Herrod has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Ark., and Central Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He has led mission trips to more than 30 countries, has an international tape ministry and has written several books.

“I feel strongly that there’s really only one will of God for the church and that is to bring in the harvest,” Herrod said. “If we cease to be strongly evangelistic in all that we do, then we cease to be a New Testament church. That’s all about winning the lost to Christ and then discipling them with the truth and bringing them through baptism into a fellowship of believers that’s built on truth.

“We’re concerned about a lack of funds to be able to send out enough missionaries, and of course there’s no purpose in sending out missionaries to any part of the world if they’re not presenting truth, just as there’s not any need to build more churches in the U.S. or plant more churches if we’re not confronting the culture with something unique and different from what they are,” Herrod said. “I feel very strongly that we need to call our preachers to renewed urgency in preaching truth.”

As churches seek a harvest of souls, Herrod said he believes in enlisting vocational evangelists.

“If we’re going to fulfill the one will of God for the church, then we’re going to have to use all the spiritual gifts in the church and we’re going to have to use all of the gifted ones that Ephesians 4:11 talks about, and one of those is the evangelist,” he said.

“I was a pastor for 36 years before going into this ministry, and I don’t think there was ever a year that I didn’t use a vocational evangelist, and some years more than one,” Herrod said. “Our churches were almost always either the leading church or in the top two or three in our state in baptisms. I think it was because we had these harvesters coming that were able to draw the net and bring people to the Lord.”

In addition to evangelism in the United States, one of Herrod’s key passions has become the training of national pastors to plant churches where there are no churches in other countries. The RHEMA Institute is a strategy he has developed to lead such men through a two-year study course in a period of 10 weeks.

“They go to class 40 or 50 hours a week for 10 weeks. These are guys that have nothing but a salvation experience and a call of God to preach and to plant churches,” Herrod said. “We send the best teachers that we can find and afford to send.

“For our students, we pay all their transportation, their lodging, their food, their curriculum books and their Bibles for the 10-week institute. And then, in most cases we support them for a year as they plant a church where there are no churches.”

Herrod fully supports the sending of missionaries to other countries, but in addition to that method, he works to train ministers of the Gospel who already call the mission field home.

“For about $5,000 we can train and plant a national, indigenous pastor in a place where there have been no churches previously and he’s the right color, the right culture, he speaks the right language, he never comes home on furlough because he is home,” he said.

RHEMA has trained more than 1,700 pastors in five countries, mostly in India, and about 80 percent of those pastors have planted churches, Herrod said.

In keeping with his interest in the nations, Herrod will make his 21st trip to Israel this fall.

“I went first when I was a very young pastor and I came away with two resolves. One is to go as often as I could go, and secondly is to take as many people as I can take because of the tremendous impact it seems to have on their lives,” Herrod said.

“But also I just love being there. I feel at home when I’m in Israel, I think for several reasons. One is we have so many of the same biblical roots with Jewish people. You can’t even turn around without learning something biblical. It’s everywhere.”

Another reason he is drawn to Israel is the prophecy implications, said Herrod, who conducts prophecy conferences each year.

“You can’t do anything in Israel without being aware of the urgency of the hour and the nearness of our Lord’s return,” he said. “So I love it for all of those reasons, and I love to take as many people as are able to go.”

As he looks toward completing a year of service as the SBC’s first vice president, Herrod said he firmly supports president Bryant Wright’s call for every church to send as many volunteers as possible on an international mission trip.

“Make sure they’re not just vacations but real mission projects,” he said. “We’re getting ready to take about 20 people to Argentina. We just took about 15 to El Salvador and will take about 10 to India in late September and about 30 to Nicaragua in November.

“The easiest person to get to go on a volunteer mission trip is one that’s been before,” Herrod said. “Once they go, they’re never the same. It makes a difference in their life and their church and whatever else they do from then on. So I encourage churches to send their people as volunteers.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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