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Tony Nolan is ‘Sandy Creek’ speaker

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In the spirit of the 1700s’ Sandy Creek Baptist Church preacher Shubal Stearns, modern-day evangelist Tony Nolan challenged the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary community to make the Gospel apparent in their lives.

Nolan, founder of TNT ministries and tour pastor for the contemporary music group Casting Crowns, spoke at Southeastern in conjunction with the seminary’s annual celebration of Sandy Creek Baptist Church. Known to be one of two highly influential churches in Southern Baptist life, it was founded in 1755 by Stearns and remains today as a testament to Baptist church planting as well as a symbol of the continuing need for dynamic preaching.

It was in this spirit that Nolan spoke at Southeastern Sept. 11 during chapel and that night at a community-wide revival meeting.

During his morning message from the Luke 10:25-37 passage about the Good Samaritan, Nolan challenged the seminarians to represent God well in a world that often knows Christians not as Good Samaritans, but often as the priests who walk by those who are hurting.

Nolan said there are three different types of people -– the hurting hearts, the hurtful heretics and the hurt healers. “On your way to exegete,” he said, “don’t pass by the needs to meet.”

The problem non-believers see with the Bible, he said, “is not the inerrancy factor. It’s the apparency factor. Is it apparent in our lives?

“When we misrepresent God, and we become practical, walking, talking heretics, it’s not funny,” Nolan said. “It can be fatal.”

The fatality of not knowing the true God was the topic of Nolan’s evening message, directed largely at youth who may have never heard the Gospel message before.

“The title of my message tonight is — ” Nolan began before a sharp intake of breath. “Did you catch that? Listen closely. It’s [gasp]! What does this have to do with someone’s life and eternity?”

Nolan referenced Matthew 7:21-23 in which Jesus warned against the danger of believing oneself to be in good standing with the Lord, to which He replies, “I never knew you.”

“[Gasp!] is a funny title for a sermon,” Nolan said. “It’s also the shocked destiny of a soul.”

Nolan noted, “It’s kind of in vogue to be spiritual today. Everyone has something to say about their spirituality.” He added that the people to whom Jesus was speaking in this passage also had an answer when asked about their spirituality. “These people had something to say. Then there was silence, and God had something to say. ‘I never knew you.'”

Nolan asked the audience: “Do you know absolutely for sure these verses aren’t about you? You can’t create your own god. You have to deal with the God who is.”

He described the passage as an “early edition,” in that Jesus’ words would come true in time for all people. Much like the television show “Early Edition,” he said people have insight into the future — in the Word of God.

“There are only two final destinies. Heaven and hell. Period. Word of God,” Nolan said, pointing to the Bible. “Wake yourselves up and line yourselves up with Him. He’s given you an early edition.”

Nolan concluded by saying, “It’s not a game…. People choose to crawl into hell” over Jesus’ dead and resurrected body. “Why get serious? Because it is,” he said.

After the message, 12 people accepted Christ for the first time and four recommitted their lives.
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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