SBC Life Articles

Kingdom Voices

Charles Colson, Franklin Graham, John MacArthur, and other Christian leaders exhorted Southern Baptists to continue in sound doctrine and evangelism during a series of videotaped "Kingdom Voices" messages at the SBC's June 17-18 annual meeting in Phoenix.

SBC President Jack Graham told 7,000-plus messengers the "voices" were meant to encourage Southern Baptists in their 2003 "Kingdom First" convention theme.

Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and former Nixon administration "hatchet man," sent greetings to his fellow Southern Baptists, recalling that his first public testimony after his prison release was at the 1975 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

In his video message, Colson said this is an "extraordinary time for the church" and that the "utopian pretensions" of secularism are in trouble after 9/11 because of sharp distinctions between good and evil.

"It's a frightening time to be alive and it's a wonderful time to be alive because as Christians we never despair," Colson, a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., said. "We never are discouraged by the circumstances around us, because despair, we know, is a sin because it denies the sovereignty of God."

Colson said society sees secularism's futility and yearns for something more.

"The question is whether we as the church will be faithful to put the Kingdom first and present that message to people at a time when they are hungry for truth," Colson said, noting, "We are the custodians of the truth."

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, challenged Southern Baptists to meet an emerging mission field among the world's 42 million people with HIV/AIDS.

"I see this as maybe the next mission field for the church in the coming years," Graham predicted. "And it's a field that's growing … [and] needs our attention. This field is in every community, it's in every country. And of course, in Africa, and places like the Caribbean and India, it's just devastating communities and countries and it's really a desperate, desperate situation.

"We need to hold up the light of the gospel," Graham said, "and I would encourage all of you to pray how we might raise up an army of young men and women to be missionaries in this field," Graham said.

MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., exhorted messengers to "reaffirm and confirm the great realities of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the integrity of the Word of God for which the SBC has always stood.

"I love the fact you have contended for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. And through the years you've come out triumphant because of that commitment to the authoritative Word of God," MacArthur said.

"May God give us great boldness in these days when [proclaiming the gospel] is not necessarily the popular thing to do, but it's the right thing to do," he said.

Other Kingdom Voices were:

• Jim Cymbala, Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor and a frequent Baptist pulpit guest. The gospel will go forth if believers depend on the Holy Spirit and that "same first message the apostles carried throughout the Roman Empire," Cymbala said. He quoted Acts 1 and Jesus' command for the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit.

"I want to remind you what I try to remind myself every day — that I need the power of the Holy Spirit to fill me, to guide me, to control my mind, along with the bold declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ — not your opinion, not my opinion, not what the church growth magazines tell us to say, but the good news of Jesus Christ."

• Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and host of the syndicated Bible Answer Man radio show. He said he is asked often to recommend healthy churches with the genuine Christian fellowship cited by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12.

"And that is why I am so grateful for the Southern Baptist Convention, particularly its present leadership — men and women committed to standing for truth no matter what the cost," he said.

Hanegraaff lamented that some professed evangelicals have embraced such things as open theism — "the idea that God does not know the future with perfection" — and mystic pursuits such as Bible codes.

"To put on Christ is to put on truth, and we are to be the bearers of truth. Christianity is not true because it works. It is ultimately truth because it's rooted and grounded in the nature of God Himself."

• Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Stowell said he is blessed by his friendships with Southern Baptists and the Baptist students who enroll at Moody.

"I have to tell you, I think when the books are opened in heaven, the massive impact that your movement has had not only in America but around the world is going to be significant."

Stowell said because of a prevailing decadent culture, "we no longer have the luxury of just 'hanging out' in our own corners of the Kingdom.

"I celebrate the passion that your leadership has for embracing the body of Christ and envisioning ways we can serve Him together for greater good and for even greater results in the years to come" because many believe "time is short," he said.

• Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., thanked the SBC for its "consistency and your faithfulness to the Word of God and your love for evangelism — and you have not swerved away from that over the years.

"As I have said before, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is proclaiming this gospel to a lost and dying world. Don't lose sight of that," Laurie exhorted. "Keep teaching and preaching the Word of God in your congregations. That's what the people need. And then proclaim the gospel to this lost world."

• Stephen Olford of the Center for Biblical Preaching in Memphis, Tenn., said his heart's cry for Southern Baptists is that they put the Kingdom first.

"I'm excited about the theme you have for your convention and the days that follow should the Lord tarry …," Olford said. "If it's Kingdom first, then the rulership of God must be enthroned in your heart and life.

"Let us not be like those to whom Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, if you do not repent, you shall all likewise perish.' But that text also reminds us that Kingdom first is the resourcefulness of God enjoining in your life and ministry. Our heavenly Father knows our needs. He cares. He loves. He supplies," Olford said.

    About the Author

  • Jerry Pierce