By Joni B. Hannigan
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Preachers today are like Richard the Lionheart, who in 1191 could not win a victory of his own, but instead compromised with his enemy, according to Florida pastor Mac Brunson in his convention sermon June 16 to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Brunson, pastor of First Church in Jacksonville, recounted that Richard the Lionheart, king of England, could not re-take Jerusalem from his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, during the Third Crusade after he angered all his allies over differences in how to display his flag. Left to fight alone, Richard eventually negotiated with the enemy to open the city for every faith, disguised himself and fled to Austria.
“I’m afraid that in our convention and across the ministry today we are far better preachers at battling one another than at battling our enemy,” Brunson said.
Describing a biblical confrontation in John 3 when two disciples were baptizing in the Jordan River and a “debate” arose, Brunson noted that even the disciples had competition and dissension.
Brunson cited a study by Kenneth Chafin, a late seminary professor and pastor, who said he discovered pastors “tend toward the negative, they are highly competitive, and they don’t like preachers.”
Meeting with a leading evangelist recently, Brunson said he was told some pastors would rather hear that a fellow pastor had been involved in adultery and fallen from ministry than about individuals putting their trust in God.
“There is something happening among pastors today that absolutely has the watching world astounded, the devil laughing and our almighty God grieving,” Brunson said. And in the same way, he said, the disciples “were jealous, they were annoyed, they were upset, and it was all because they had begun to focus on themselves instead of the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ.”
It’s interesting, Brunson said, how John the Baptist refocused their priorities.
After John had already pointed the disciples to Christ, Brunson said they returned to him and said, “Our crowns aren’t here, we are not mentioned in Baptist Press as much as we used to, we don’t get as many hits as we used to, nobody’s coming to us, and they’re getting more attention in that ministry over there.”
At that point John says, “There must be a focus on the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ,” Brunson said.
Looking at 1 Corinthians 3, Brunson said there must be a focus on the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ likewise in each person’s life.
Understanding that salvation is based solely on God’s grace, Brunson said all of what he has in ministry has been given to him by God as well, including his congregation at First Baptist in Jacksonville.
“I am in the ministry today I have received a call from Jesus Christ…. It’s a sovereign act from a sovereign God,” Brunson said. Of his church members he said, “I love these people; I receive them as a gift from God…. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t deserve it. That’s God’s gift.”
Sharing a word picture from John 3:29 of a best man putting a bride’s hand into her groom’s hand in a marriage ceremony, Brunson said he knows he is not the bridegroom but just the best man.
Problems begin when believers take their eyes off of Jesus, Brunson said.
“We have been so split and so divided in so many different ways over the last little bit,” Brunson said. “You’ve got those that are this many points and those that are no points, and you’ve got young and you’ve got old, and you got big and you got small, and you got this in favor of that, this not in favor of that. I want you to listen to something: It’s about Jesus Christ.”
Pointing to a need for mentoring in the church, Brunson said, “We older men need to walk with these young men,” while the young men should treat the older men as fathers.
In focusing on the “pre-eminence of revelation,” Brunson said there is a need for repentance, starting with preaching that “puts the cross in it” — preaching that includes the second coming, the blood and Jesus.
Looking at a “pre-eminence of His resources,” Brunson said Jesus has given everything needed for salvation; otherwise, there is an “actual hell that people are going to,” despite what some might say.
“Do we ever hear the cry? Do we ever stop and think, and men and women and boys and girls are on a fast train to an eternal hell?” Brunson asked.
Stranded in Paris recently, Brunson said he and his wife were finally able to climb aboard a sleeper car to Germany. Once on the cramped train, where six beds were stacked three high on each side of the car, he wondered if he might be on the same railroad track where the trains took Jews to Dachau during the Holocaust.
Brunson said he had asked a pastor who lived in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust what happened to the church in those days. The pastor told him the people in the church would sing loudly to drown out the screams of the people they heard going past. The louder the screams got, the louder they would sing.
“I’m afraid in our convention meetings, that when we begin to hear the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit, or we begin to hear the heckles and the cries of men and women and boys and girls on a fast train to an eternal hell get louder, we sing louder, we debate longer, trying to shut out those voices,” Brunson said.
“We don’t need just a resurgence folks,” he said. “We don’t need just a revival, we have got to get back and refocus on the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.