NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Fred Luter Jr. pledged to work with all Southern Baptist Convention entities to accomplish their Kingdom goals in his first presidential address to the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 17 in Nashville, Tenn.
Speaking with a fervor akin to his popular rhythmic sermons, Luter called his service as president a “sacred oath” and described himself as a team player.
“I love the saying that says, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work,'” Luter said. “Teamwork, brothers and sisters, makes the dream work.”
He addressed various SBC entity leaders by name, drawing from relationships built during his 25 years of service and leadership as pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
[QUOTE@left@180=“The problem in America is saints are not being salt and light.”
— SBC president Fred Luter]”Therefore I want to work with the existing groups of the Southern Baptist Convention, and my question to each of them would be … ‘How can I help you as entity heads, as seminary presidents, as brothers and sisters in this convention, as pastors, as executive directors?'” he said. “How can I help you to carry out your vision that you hope to do in this convention?
“Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, instead of implementing something that will take a long time to implement and complete, my prayer and my vision is to go to these brothers and sisters across our convention, and say in the short window that I have, ‘What can I do as SBC president to help you to carry out your vision and your goal that God has assigned for you to do?'”
Luter spoke, for example, of Richard Land, who has announced his October 2013 retirement as president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“How can we partner together to help you to carry out your vision for America to challenge believers to be salt and light in our society?” he asked of Land. “The problem in America is saints are not being salt and light.”
But Luter urged SBC leaders and scholars to resolve the Calvinism debate, which he said has the potential to foster divisiveness within the SBC when the priority should be winning the lost.
“This debate we’re having across the convention about Calvinism needs to be resolved among us ASAP,” Luter said. “Brothers and sisters, the dream of turning this convention’s heart to missions and evangelism, missions and discipleship can easily turn into a nightmare if we do not resolve this Calvinism issue in a Christ-like manner. However, if it’s going to be resolved, it must start with many of us right here in this room.”
Luter said the convention should focus its energies on Kingdom building and the vitality of SBC entities.
“The question should be, ‘What can we do in our churches about the declining numbers in baptisms?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining numbers in church attendance across America?'” Luter said. “The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining numbers of young people in our churches across America?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining messengers at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do more to plant churches, to win the lost and send missionaries across the world?'”
Luter said pastors and associational leaders he has encountered in meetings since his June election have expressed concerns about the Calvinism debate that has heightened in the SBC in recent months.
“Without fail, every time I’m asked questions, without fail, the question about Calvinism always comes up. The question that I’m asked … is, ‘Brother Luter, why can’t you all preachers get along?'” Luter said. “Why can’t the leaders of this convention get along? Because what happens in the pulpit is what happens in the pews. Why can’t preachers get along?
“I am convinced that the enemy will do all that he can to stop this wonderful, dynamic convention from doing all that we can do to win the lost, to plant churches and [send] missionaries,” Luter said. “And I believe that [the enemy] has chosen this time, this debate about Calvinism to slow us up and stop us from doing what God has called us to do.”
At other points in his address, Luter encouraged SBC churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point of their budgets, which could generate millions in additional Kingdom funding Southern Baptist missions and ministry at home and abroad. Luter pledged to begin with his own congregation in meeting the 1 percent challenge.
“Accept the challenge from our CEO Dr. Frank Page [EC president], the 1 percent challenge. If all of our pastors and all of our churches would give an additional 1 percent to our Cooperative Program, over $100 million that would generate,” Luter said. “So we can send, Dr. [Tom] Elliff [IMB president], more missionaries. So we can train … more students [in the SBC’s seminaries]. … So we can carry out the Great Commission. So we can win the lost. So we can plant churches.
“So we can do all that God has called us to do,” Luter said.
He implored leaders of all ethnicities to become full participants in the SBC and to practice the “theology of presence. You have to be there. You must show up.”
Participation and giving are prerequisites for leadership posts, Luter said.
He recited John 13:34-35 and 2 Chronicles 7:14, exhorting believers to love one another and pray that God will send revival to the SBC and the world.
“America needs to be healed. Our states need to be, our cities, our world needs to be healed. If it’s going to start in the Southern Baptist Convention, it’s going to start with us right here in this room.
“Brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen as I go to my seat, my prayer as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that God would send a revival throughout this convention,” Luter said. “However, it starts with prayer. It starts with us loving one another. It starts with us humbling ourselves. And realize it’s not about us. It’s not about our agenda. It’s about winning the lost. It’s not about the pastor. It’s about the Master.”
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).