HOUSTON (BP) -– Fred Luter answered questions on topics ranging from disaster relief to his prayer life in a news conference after being elected by acclamation to a second one-year term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, June 11 in Houston.
The devastation of tornados that ripped through Oklahoma the latter two weeks of May reminded Luter of Hurricane Katrina.
“It looked like the same faces but just with different names,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “One day you can have everything in the world and the next day you’re homeless.
“My heart just went out to the people there in Oklahoma because I had memory of what happened to me and so many others in New Orleans,” Luter said.
“I’m proud of many things in this convention, but one of the things I am really proud of is our efforts in disaster relief,” Luter said. “I believe we are second to none.”
Being president of the SBC “has increased my prayer life,” he said, “because I realize I am representing this entire convention. I don’t want to mess it up. … Even right now I’m praying.”
Luter said he also prays for wisdom and discernment because “in my opinion, I have not been satisfied with every interview I have done.”
Praying for revival in the SBC occupies some of his time, Luter said, “because we need it. Our numbers are down all across the convention. Our baptism numbers are down. Our attendance numbers are down. Our membership numbers are down. Someway somehow, we need to turn this tide around and start focusing on the main thing. And the main thing is that we would see God’s face.”
The most difficult aspect of being SBC president, Luter said, is dealing with the media. “Please don’t take offense to this,” he said, “but I’m not used to that.
“I’m a pastor. Man, I can deal with devilish deacons and tricky trustees and cranky choir members, messy members and ugly acting ushers. I can handle that.”
But the difficulty in dealing with the secular media, and sometimes the religious media, Luter said, is that he never knows what angle they have or what motivates their questions.
The busy schedule is Luter’s “greatest surprise” in his presidency. “This position is busier than I ever thought it would be. I’m on the road somewhere every week.”
Luter said he queried six former SBC presidents, all of whom he considers “dear friends,” and asked them what to expect.
“I want to say publicly, and y’all can print this: All of them lied to me,” Luter said with a smile. “They told me what I wanted to hear.”
His greatest joy so far as SBC president “is going to different places I’ve never been before,” Luter said, noting that in many places he has visited, he is the first SBC president that many people have ever seen in person.
Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).