NEW ORLEANS (BP) — “What kind of shadow do you cast?” Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright asked in his chapel message at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Wright is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., which hosts the seminary’s largest extension center — the North Georgia Hub.
In the early church, Wright told the chapel audience, the Apostle Peter was a person of great influence. As recounted in Acts 5:14-15: “Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers — crowds of both men and women. As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them.”
“Peter was perhaps the most well-known and most influential citizen in and around Jerusalem in those days after Pentecost,” Wright said.
After Peter preached at Pentecost, some 3,000 people believed. Later, he healed a lame man in Jesus’ name at the temple gate. In chapter 3, Peter and John spoke boldly to the crowd gathered in Solomon’s Colonnade and again in chapter 4 before the religious leaders. Chapter 5 begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira dying suddenly after selling a piece of property and withholding a portion of the proceeds from the church.
“There began to be an aura around this man, this man of God,” Wright said. “Wherever the Apostle Peter went, they began to sense the hand of God on this man.”
Wright then asked the chapel audience what kind of influence they have on others.
“What kind of shadow do you cast? Is it for good or for evil? Does it tear down or does it build up? Is it for Christ or is it for something else? What kind of shadow do you cast?”
Not all influence is the same, Wright said, citing two examples of great influencers — one for good and one for evil. Both were Germans.
“Martin Luther’s shadow fell over all of Germany and Europe and the church and the world,” Wright said.
With Luther’s reforms, the Protestant Reformation took off and greater religious freedom spread across Europe and America, Wright said.
Not so with the second German cited by Wright: Adolf Hitler.
“Two Germans, very different results. One man was good; one man was evil. One man was devoted to Christ; one man was filled with the devil. But both of them cast a long shadow over the world in which we live,” Wright said.
Wright also challenged the chapel audience in his Jan. 24 message to look beyond their influence on the people around them, but to also consider the shadow they will cast over the generations who follow. Wright then spoke of both his grandfather and father.
Wright’s grandfather had been successful in business and served as mayor of his town. At age 39, he responded to a call to preach. His grandfather passed his vibrant faith on to Wright’s father. In turn, when Wright went into the ministry, his dad gave him a notebook that contained many of his grandfather’s sermons.
About 20 years ago, the church where his grandfather surrendered to the ministry contacted Wright and asked him to preach at their homecoming. Wright said he immediately went to his grandfather’s notebook for inspiration.
“I came to a sermon where the text was Acts 5:14-15 and the title was ‘The Shadow You Cast,'” Wright said. “I knew I had my sermon.”
Wright later had the opportunity to preach at a church where his grandfather had pastored and where he was buried. He again turned to Acts 5:14-15, “telling them how God had led in my life through my grandfather and my father,” Wright recounted.
After the service, a deacon led Wright to the cemetery to his grandfather’s grave. The inscription read “A Faithful Minister of the Gospel.”
“I thought to myself as I teared up, once again my grandfather’s shadow has fallen over me. For certain, I want to be a faithful minister of the Gospel of Christ to the very end of my days,” Wright said, later adding, “Now my shadow falls over my sons’ lives and over those entrusted to my care as the shepherd of the flock at Johnson Ferry and over other lives that God allows me to influence.
“It is my hope the shadow that falls is always pointing people to Jesus, always pointing people to the Gospel of Christ,” Wright said. “What kind of shadow do you cast? For good or for evil? For Jesus or someone else?”
Frank Michael McCormack is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information about New Orleans Baptist Seminary’s North Georgia Hub, visit www.nobts.edu/extensions.