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Scripture often ‘subordinated,’ Whitten says

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Southern Baptist pastors are in agreement about the inerrancy of Scripture but sometimes don’t model its sufficiency in their sermons, Florida pastor Ken Whitten believes.

The senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Whitten was one of eight men who spoke at a pair of “pastors’ symposiums” during the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 11. Four men spoke in each symposium, with each speaker addressing a different topic. Whitten’s topic was expository preaching.

“While we have solved the inerrancy issue, I believe the next hill for us is to settle the sufficiency of Scripture,” Whitten told the several hundred pastors at the session. “… Is the Word of God sufficient for our culture? Will it convict, will it convince, will it convert the people who are coming to our churches?

“Expository preaching is that which does that,” Whitten said.

An expository sermon, he said, is one that “gets its main points and its sub-points directly from the [biblical] text.”

“You and I live in a media-driven, narcissistic, self-existing culture,” Whitten said. “And preaching is really, many times, subordinated by relevance, by creativity and by innovation. And while we may say that preaching is the central element of a worship service, many times it’s dwarfed.”

Some pastors, Whitten said, deliver what he calls “missionary sermons” –- “They take a text, they depart and they go everywhere.”

By contrast, he said, expository preaching “will rid you of telling the speaker’s thoughts instead of the author’s thoughts.” With an expository sermon, Whitten said, “I am not trying to reveal a message that I have worked up. I am declaring a truth that has been revealed.”

An expository sermon, Whitten said, is more than simply “explaining the text.” Instead, he said, it is the explanation, argumentation, illustration, application and motivation of the text.

Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., spoke about the “alcohol question,” asserting there are many practical reasons to avoid alcohol completely. He quoted a string of statistics that prompted several pastors to request a copy of them.

“One in eight people who takes a drink becomes an alcoholic in our culture,” Sutton said. “Are you going to be the person who is the role model for that one who becomes an alcoholic? Each day 7,000 kids under 16 take their first drink. Of those who begin drinking at or before 14, half become alcoholics. There are over 18 million identified alcoholics in the U.S.A.

“Alcohol is the leading cause of death among young people in the United States. Alcohol causes over 100,000 deaths a year. That’s about 400 a week. … Alcoholic deaths outnumber drug-related deaths 4 to 1. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all domestic violence and sexual assaults. Half of the people who commit violent crimes are using alcohol. … Alcohol is responsible for half of all traffic fatalities. The alcohol industry spends a billion dollars a year telling you it’s just wonderful to drink. Seventy-six million Americans are affected by alcoholism in their families.”

Sutton said he’s “never seen somebody hold a drink in their hand and give an effective witness.”

Each man spoke for 10 minutes, and the audience had about 10-15 minutes for questions. Other speakers were Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., (who spoke on discipleship); David Landrith, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. (worship); Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. (affecting change); Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University in Orlando, Fla. (reaching the next generation); David Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, Texas (cross-cultural missions); and Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas (evangelism).

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  • Michael Foust