NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The nomination of Johnny M. Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., for president of the Southern Baptist Convention was announced May 6 by Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
Hunt is one of six candidates Southern Baptist messengers will consider. Baptist Press asked each candidate to participate in a survey of mostly standardized questions, but the questionnaire included at least one query individualized for each candidate.
Hunt’s answers to the questions posed by Baptist Press follow:
1) What has God done in your life and ministry to prepare you to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?
For the last four or five terms, I have had different men to ask me for the privilege to place my name in nomination. After praying through it, I never felt led. Oftentimes, it has been said that I had placed my name in nomination and removed it. That is not a true statement. My name has never been placed in nomination. With that being said, this year I was asked to pray fervently to see if the Lord would direct me in such a way. I have sensed that God has given me perfect peace, as well as leadership, to allow my name to be nominated. Let me be quick to say that there is no promise that I would win. I feel that the act of obedience in my life is simply to obey the Lord, follow His leading, and allow my name to be nominated; beyond that, it lies in the hands of His sovereign will.
2) If you are elected, what would be your priority message for Southern Baptists?
I believe that Southern Baptists need to turn the tide in the area of cooperation as it pertains to coming together with a central, positive “love loud” message of sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, which is the only hope of those outside of His saving grace. We need to get back to being the people of the Book as it pertains to church planting, global missions, sharing the Gospel with our neighbors and with the nations and learning to cooperate around the central vision of the Great Commission. I feel that the message of the Cooperative Program has spoken louder than the message of the Gospel. I believe that when we are faithful to the Gospel there will be faithful people supporting the Cooperative Program. Having said that, I believe with all of my heart that when our major focus becomes the message of Jesus, the Cooperative Program will increase in exponential proportion, and that is my hope and prayer.
3) What do you believe is needed to see churches more effectively bringing people to Christ and making disciples?
I believe that we are in dire need of a touch from heaven. Our denomination needs to admit that we have moved away from the priority of Jesus Christ and His mission to the church and for the world. We need to recommit ourselves to Jesus and embrace His Gospel and take it seriously in being intentionally evangelistic.
4) Decline/plateau in membership, baptisms: What do you think the future holds for the SBC?
I believe that we are on the verge of revival or ruin. That certainly is not an original statement with me, but we must make our minds up to come together for the common cause of the Great Commission. We must make much of Jesus and His Gospel.
5) Regenerate church membership: To what extent do you see regenerate church membership as a significant concern in the Southern Baptist Convention?
Regenerate church membership should always be a concern. It was a concern in the early 1900s with Southern Baptists and it should never be less than a major concern. We ought to be overwhelmingly concerned that we are making a clear presentation of the Gospel, making sure that the people that we present the Gospel to understand that the only way to Christ is through repentance and believing the Gospel.
6) Calvinism: Do you see any reason for non-Calvinist Southern Baptists to be concerned about a renewed emphasis on Calvinism in some Southern Baptist churches and seminaries?
I am not overwhelmingly concerned about Calvinism. I am concerned about hyper-Calvinism, simply being defined as those that take election to the point that they feel that the Gospel should not even be shared with the whole world. I, personally, believe that the Gospel is for “whosoever.” I trust that Calvinists, and those who love Jesus of other persuasions, would come together for the common cause of making Jesus Christ known to the nations. There is plenty of room for all of us in this Baptist family.
7) The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate?
I am not sure that I fully understand all that the IMB trustee guidelines have said, however, if a person has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and has been baptized by a minister who embraces the Gospel and the Scriptures as we do, their baptism should count in our churches. If James Dobson desired to become part of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I would not require him to be re-baptized.
Concerning the private prayer language: If, indeed, it is private, it seems as though we really don’t have an issue to deal with. When a person chooses to become more Pentecostal in their convictions and beliefs, our concern then becomes that of what they are relating to the people on the field. That should call for proper action.
8) The role of the Baptist Faith and Message: What do you see as the proper role of the Baptist Faith and Message when it comes to governing SBC entities and employees?
I believe that the Baptist Faith and Message is a wonderful Baptist confession. It has served us well for a very long time. There will probably be times where what we have to deal with, as a denomination, would be considered a gray area concern as it pertains to how the Baptist Faith and Message could speak to it. May this serve as a reminder that we should prayerfully consider, and have deep convictions, about those who serve in our entities so that we can trust them, as our brothers and sisters, to lead us aright, and that the trustees of these governing entities would be such men and women, elected by our Southern Baptist Convention, that we trust their hearts to do that which is right concerning the areas that possibly the Baptist Faith and Message will not speak to.
9) Your ministry is known for bringing large numbers of people to faith in Jesus Christ. What does your church do to deepen new believers in the faith and help them become fruitful Christians themselves? How would you bring this experience in your ministry to bear on an evangelism and discipleship strategy for the SBC?
We host a new members’ class and strongly encourage all new members and new believers to attend. We have found that the majority do attend. As it pertains to the SBC, I would certainly encourage the churches to involve their people in small groups, but I believe the ultimate response belongs with the local church. Also, I believe expositional preaching is the best method of preaching to disciple from the pulpit.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.