Visions from the Vincents

November 17, 2008

American Idol comes to Florida Baptist Convention 2008


Monday morning Brian and I gassed up the Nissan and traveled up to the 2008 Florida Baptist Convention held in Lakeland, FL at FBC at the Mall—this church literally purchased a Mall for their church building.  Apparently, attendance among women and teenagers has increased dramatically since they moved into the mall, while the number of men suffering from extreme anxiety upon reaching the parking lot has simultaneously increased.  Just kidding!  We were happy to attend this convention, and appreciate our church affording us the opportunity to do so.  I wanted to give you some reasons we were encouraged by the convention and one area I think improvement is needed.

Encouragements
1.    I have to get one highlight out of the way upfront.  Chris Sligh, a contestant from season 6 of American Idol, sang at this year’s convention—and, no, he wasn’t singing Bobby Brown.  He actually turned down the opportunity to sing secular music professionally to sing and write Christian music.  He sang a couple of songs from his newly released CD, Running Back to You.
2.    I was extremely encouraged to see the convention’s zeal for evangelism and missions.  Every pastor that preached sought to challenge and inspire pastors to witness.  I am so grateful to be a part of a denomination in a state that hungers to see more people saved.
3.    I was further moved by the obvious emphasis many of the pastors put on their need to seek God’s help in prayer.  Many of them recounted significant moments of prayer their staffs had had together regularly.  I praise God that we have pastors throughout the state petitioning God to cause revival to break out in their cities, state, country, and even world.

4.    Johnny Hunt delivered an excellent expositional message as the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I was moved by his passionate heart for the gospel, for seeing people saved, for seeing orphans adopted, and for seeing the poor provided for.  This really is pure and undefiled religion.

5.    Florida Baptists also made the need for adoption in our state clear.  The image of 3 football stadiums full of children without mommies and daddies weighs on the heart.  How can the church ignore this?

6.    Finally, I learned much from the gifted communicators at this convention.  Many of the preachers were engaging, entertaining, and moving.  They were also articulate in explaining many of the successes they had in ministry as an encouragement to go and do likewise.  I learned a lot from these seasoned pastors.

Always looking to improve
1.    Now for my list of one improvement.  While there is much to be encouraged by, the convention also reminded me of a trend in Southern Baptist life.  Preaching today tends to stray from the actual meaning of the text.  A number of preachers failed to make the point of the Scripture they preached from the point of their message, and in some cases, they taught something that was clearly wrong to encourage something that was entirely right.  For instance, one pastor taught that the “hidden treasure” in Matthew 13:44’s parable represents all of the people in the world, including lost people, and that God treasures them.  He used that to inspire others to evangelize.  While it is true that God treasures all people because they were created in the image of God, it is not the point of this text.  In fact, the treasure of this text is clearly the message of the kingdom.  If you are not willing to sell out your life to follow this message, then you are not worthy of it.  I agree with this pastor that evangelism is critical—plenty of Scriptures affirm this—but his interpretation of this text is wrong.  The real treasure of this text is not the people, but the message of kingdom that is available to all people.

Conclusion

Brian and I labor to preach what the Bible clearly says.  In fact, we meet weekly to review our messages and to make sure we are making the point of the Scripture we preach from the point of our message.  Why?  Because we believe in equipping our people with an understanding of God that goes beyond just telling them what to do.  We believe Chrisians have been created in the image of God and that they have been given his Spirit.  We also understand that this world is tough.  Stuff doesn’t work like the commercials say.  We can’t tell our people the right answer to every dilemma, because the world is so full of them.  But, if you understand what the Word of God actually says, we believe that, with the aide of the Spirit, they will be equipped to make wise decisions.  In other words, right action follows right understanding when led by the Spirit.

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