LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The best way to reach the family for Christ is to first reach the man of the household for Christ, New Orleans pastor Fred Luter said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary April 17.
Luter, preaching from Mark 2:1-5, told students at the Louisville, Ky., campus how his church, Franklin Avenue Baptist, was a mission church with only 65 members when he became pastor there in 1986. Today it is a healthy autonomous church with more than 6,000 members, and Luter credits much of its growth to a deliberate effort to reach out to the men of the community.
“I wanted to reach men for Jesus Christ, because I’m convinced that if you save the man, the man will save his family,” said Luter, who will be the first African American to deliver the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention this June in New Orleans.
When he became Franklin Avenue’s pastor, the majority of the church members were women, Luter recounted.
“We had 65 members,” he said. “Out of those 65 members you could count the men on one hand. I wanted to reach men. I said, ‘Ladies, I promise that if you will allow me to have a passion and a ministry for reaching men, you will benefit. The family will benefit. The church will benefit.’
“So we tried everything we could do. [But] we couldn’t reach any men. We knocked on doors. We passed out flyers.”
Nothing worked. Finally, Luter decided that the men of the community “might not like to come to church, but [they] like sporting events.” Luter spread the word that he would be hosting a men’s social at his house one weekend to watch a pay-per-view boxing match.
Forty-five men showed up for the social. After the fight, Luter stood up, introduced himself as the new pastor and invited the men to church. The following Sunday five of the men came to church, leading Luter to publicly recognize them for attending.
“The ladies stood up and gave them a hand-clap,” he said. “They were so excited to see men in the church. … Those guys started inviting other men. Before you knew it, we had our first male chorus.
“I tell pastors all the time, ‘Reaching men is a win-win situation, because men draw other men, but not only that, men draw [the] women.'”
Luter’s effort to reach the men of the community is what he called “being creative” in reaching the lost. Luter said a biblical example of this can be found in Mark 2:1-5, where four men attempt to bring a paralytic to Jesus. Facing a crowd of people, the four men climb on top of a house, open the roof and lower the paralytic to Jesus.
“These four men were trying to get their friend to Jesus Christ by any means necessary,” Luter said. “They go to the front door but they can’t get in. They go to the back door but they can’t get in. … They said, ‘We’ve got to get this man to Christ,’ so they got creative.”
Luter said Christians today should follow the example of the four men.
“The [gospel] message never changes,” he said. “It’s always the same yesterday, today and forevermore. But if we are going to reach this generation … we’ve got to change our methods. We must be creative in reaching the lost.”
Not only were the four men in the biblical account creative, but they were also caring, cooperative and committed, Luter said, noting that they cared for the paralytic despite the possibility that they had other things to do.
“Do we care for the people in our community?” Luter asked. “Do we care for the people in our neighborhoods? Do we care for those in our cities?
“Lost people will not come if we invite them to church, but they’ll come if we bring them to church. We’ve got to show them that we care. They need to know that we care about their hurts [and that] we care about their struggles.”
The four men also cooperated with one another, Luter said.
“These four men worked together to bring this one man to Jesus Christ,” he said. “They were partners with one another. They were together on a mission.”
Present-day Christians, Luter said, should also cooperate if they are to reach the lost.
“We need every church to cooperate — whether you baptize over 500 or you baptize under 50,” he said. “No matter if you’re in the suburbs or in the city. We’ve got to realize that we’re not in competition with each other, but we’re all on the same team.”
Finally, Luter said, the four men were committed to bringing their friend to Christ.
“They could have made all kinds of excuses. They could have said, ‘Let him get there the best way he can. Let’s come back next week.’
“Because of their commitment, this man was made whole. It’s all because some concerned brothers and sisters in the body of Christ took time out to bring this one man to Jesus Christ.”
Chapel messages can be heard on the seminary’s website at http://www.sbts.edu/news/audio/speakers_chapel.html.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FRED LUTER.