BRANSON, Mo. (BP)–Johnny Hunt said he experienced a spiritual, emotional and physical “dryness through duty” a couple of months ago after completing an intense two years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, took time here during his Timothy + Barnabas Pastors’ Conference Nov. 2-4 in Branson, Mo., to relay several transparent statements about his recent bout with emptiness. After advancing an epic set of reforms on the denominational level known as the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR), Hunt found himself experiencing a “meltdown of biblical proportions” like the Old Testament prophet Elijah did in 1 Kings 19. He shared heart-felt truths with the conferees in various sessions so that they would go home better equipped to handle similar situations.
Hunt talked about the process of how he gradually found himself being separated from his wife of 37 years, Janet, due to all of the busyness that came his way. The concept of Sabbath rest had become a stranger to him.
“I would start my day at 4:30 or 5 o’clock on Sunday and finish at 10 o’clock that night, go get in bed, and be up early the next morning and head for the airport to get to something with GCR or speaking engagements,” Hunt said. “Janet said, ‘You’ve got to be tired,’ and I’d say, ‘I sleep pretty good on a plane — I’ll get a nap on the way there.’ Janet would drive me and I’d sleep on the way to the airport, try to slip it in. I was violating time and it bruised me. It bruised me.”
In January he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous prostate. It may have been the Lord trying to get his attention, Hunt said. But there were many more important meetings and activities and strategy sessions to attend, so he went on with his busy routine.
On Sept. 19 at First Baptist Woodstock, Hunt preached a sermon on his experience. The notes for the sermon, which he titled “Dryness Through Duty,” can be accessed through the church’s website. Since then, he said he has been experiencing the grace, love and healing of God as his priorities have been realigned.
His testimony in that message was that he was “leading on empty.” Unable to bounce back, Hunt felt spiritually, emotionally and mentally empty. All of that gripped him physically, leaving him drained. He warned the pastors in Branson that something similar could happen to them.
Hunt, who has been teaching men in conferences for 19 years, has been thinking about his legacy. He is 58, and statistics he has seen indicate that men, on the average, will die at 74.
In the recent case of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground, Hunt said they asked for Gospel preaching to be piped in and received the words in Spanish of Adrian Rogers, who has been dead since 2005. That told Hunt that Rogers is like Abel (Hebrews 11:4) who by faith still speaks, even though he is dead.
“I want to keep giving the devil hell after I’m in heaven,” Hunt said.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of congregations in the Missouri Baptist Convention.