By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
DOVER, Del.—Special guests Frank Page, senior pastor of First Church in Taylors, S.C., and Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research; as well as Maryland pastors, Rick Hancock of Dunkirk Church, and Fred Dyer of White Marsh Church, spoke during this year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in Dover, Del., on Nov. 10-11.
This year’s theme was, “Tell the Story of Hope” based on Romans 5.
Page, who served the past two years as Southern Baptist Convention president, urged his listeners to not despair. Calling himself a “Baptist Forrest Gump,” Page shared that though he grew up in extreme poverty, he has found himself in the White House and other “odd” places.
“Do not think that God cannot use you in a major way,” he said, claiming that if God can use a “nobody” like him, then there was great hope for others, too.
In his message, Page said he believed God will hold Christians accountable for not revealing the hope found in Jesus.
“Spiritually, to our nation we have said, ‘find your own way,’” Page decried, noting that many Christians have communicated that “we’re too busy doing our church work and fighting amongst ourselves as Baptists” instead of revealing the hope that is found in Christ.
Christians are compelled to look at themselves, but because it hurts, many run from it. Page said, instead, they rely on “substitute righteousness” or compare themselves to a “cultural Christianity.” In other words, they evade the Holy Spirit and compare where they are with someone else without being willing to do the hard work of measuring up to Christ.
Conversely, the Samaritan woman in John 4 was overwhelmed with Christ’s ability to see within her heart; and sensing His compassion, realized that this man had a right to come into her heart.
“She received hope, and she revealed hope,” Page shared, explaining how the woman who had been the “talk of the town now talked to the town about Jesus. The call of God for all of us is to find Jesus Christ, then to share Jesus Christ.”
Stetzer pointed to Phil. 3:20, which explains the source, location and application of a Christian’s hope.
“If you put your hope on anything other than God’s agenda, then your hope will fail you,” he said, acknowledging that because a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven, he can be positive and confident in today’s world.
He shared research that gave evidence that the growth of the church is counter-cyclical to the growth of the economy.
“If you prayed for revival, you might have prayed our economy into recession,” he said, explaining that more people flocked to God during times of economic distress. “Are you willing to experience a depression if it brings others to Jesus?”
He added, “If recession comes, Christians are not exempt. The difference is that our loyalty [and our longing] is placed in a different place.”
He expressed concern that many Christians have not been taught how to live in what he calls the “missing middle,” the time between when they are saved and when they die.
“For some Christians, the only hope is death,” he said. “My hope is that I may represent Jesus well while I eagerly wait.”
In his address, Hancock, BCM/D president, said, “There is nothing more awesome than to look at the face of one who has discovered hope for the first time,”
Preaching from Acts 11, Hancock urged his listeners to “know the Word of God.” To the many ministers, he said, “Do not just look at the scriptures for sermon text and Sunday school lessons. Read the Bible and let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you. Find intimate times alone with God; study the Word of God.”
Secondly, Hancock said to “live the Word of God.” In the passage, the Apostle Paul and Barnabas had lived a year with the disciples to teach them how to live the Word “out loud.” They lived out James’ exhorttion in James 1:22 to be “doers of the Word,” Hancock said.
Finally, “share the Word of God,” Hancock said, reminding that “our living hope is not a hope reserved for us when we die; it’s a hope for us now. People who share the story of hope see the results from God.”
Continuing the annual meeting’s theme, Fred Dyer suggested in his sermon that hope was “built.” Noting that everybody is in a building process, he explained that Christians build God’s way when:
– Jesus is our foundation and not just a façade.
“How many people do we know are just putting up a front to look good?” Dyer asked. “Are they really resting on—are they rooted in—the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ?”
Dyer recalled the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 3, which urges that only Jesus Christ is the proper foundation.
“If you are going to have a life of hope, if you are going to rejoice in it, remember it and reveal it, you must have a firm, solid foundation in Jesus Christ,” Dyer exhorted, explaining that believers build a solid foundation when they hear God’s Word and put it into practice.
– Jesus is followed and not forgotten.
To truly follow Christ, Christians must take the position of self denial, servanthood and suffering, Dyer said, adding that there is a danger in forgetting what Jesus had done for us.
– Jesus is our friend and not our foe.
“Jesus calls us friend if we obey His commands,” Dyer noted, acknowledging Matt. 12:30, which says that he who is not with Jesus is against Him.
“No fence-sitting there, right? You are either with Him or you’re not,” he said.