ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–With the passion that typifies his preaching, SBC President Johnny Hunt used his presidential address to appeal to messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention to embrace the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock, used Joshua 14:6-14 and Numbers 13-14 as texts for his message, titled: “The Southern Baptist Convention at its Kadesh Barnea.”
The biblical passages recount the story of the 12 men appointed by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan and bring back a report to the people of Israel. Hunt explained, “In their reporting, 10 brought back a ‘bad report’ and two [Caleb and Joshua] brought back a ‘bold report.'”
Hunt recounted that messengers at last year’s convention in Louisville authorized him to appoint a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force charged with the responsibility of bringing a report and any recommendations to this year’s convention.
Hunt likened the task force report to the account given by the two spies who brought back the positive, faith-filled report. “The story of the 12 spies,” he said, “is one of contrast: 10 of the spies magnified the problems, spent lots of time reviewing the past and in the process missed God. Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, did not minimize the problems, were aware of the giants, the fortified cities, and the hill country, but they magnified the power of God, made so much of the promises of God, and desired to lead the people to a brighter future.”
After the death of Moses, 100-year-old Joshua became the leader God chose for the children of Israel. Hunt proclaimed, “[W]hen God told Joshua to take the land, it was not a suggestion, but a command. And when … the Lord Jesus Christ gave the church the [Great] Commission, it was not a suggestion, it was a command.”
Hunt noted: “[W]e’re not just here over these next couple of days to vote. We’re here to make decisions that will affect what type of convention we offer to the young ones that are coming behind us.”
He alluded to his bout with prostate cancer earlier this year and, for him and any others who weather such challenges, “… the question is: God, if I’m still alive, what is it that you want me to do?”
The future of the Southern Baptist Convention will not rest on a single vote, but Hunt noted that “a watching world and a rising generation watch to see if we’re serious about emboldened Great Commission faithfulness in the future.”
Hunt spoke of dreams that are never realized and the what-ifs of life and told of a staff member who stated, “I don’t want to die with God’s dream in my heart.”
Hunt said he salutes “the younger generation [for] a major, major challenge that you’ve placed in my heart,” reflected in the words of those who say, for example, “We are willing to sacrifice the American dream for the Great Commission.”
“I have a confession to make; I already know the American dream. I’ve got to be honest before God; God has been good to me,” Hunt said. “So what I’ve got to do is begin to say, ‘I’ve got so much, God what do You want me to get rid of that I can take and place back in the Kingdom?”
Referring to Numbers 14:1-4, Hunt stated that “a ‘bad report’ … normally leads us to talk about the good old days, [saying], ‘Let’s find the leader that will take us back to the good old days. Let’s return to what’s comfortable.’
Hunt recounted that when he went to First Baptist Woodstock in 1986, about 200-250 attended on Sunday mornings, but the church began to grow and in 1989 moved forward with an opportunity to purchase 19 acres of land to relocate — at a cost of $1 million. One man told Hunt, “I hear you got ’em out on a limb.” But, in seeking out a friend he described as “a man of faith,” Hunt received this counsel: “Next time they tell you you’ve got them out on a limb, remind them that’s where the fruit is.”
In concluding his challenge the 10,000-plus registered messengers and guests, Hunt read from a letter recently received from Billy Graham: “Pastor Johnny, God could raise someone else up. There a couple of other notable groups that God is really using. He may choose to use them, but Southern Baptists like no one else in the world they’re poised to make the difference.”
J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.