By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.––Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr. spent the day challenging and encouraging Maryland/Delaware church leaders on May 13 at Colonial Baptist Church, Randallstown.
Luter said God called him to the position of SBC president “for such a time as this,” to knock down the walls of racism.
“There’s not much we can do about the past,” he said, “but the future can be changed if we stand on the Word of God.”
He shared his personal testimony. Following a “horrific” motorcycle accident, in which he almost died, a church deacon visited Luter and told him obedience is better than sacrifice – obeying his mom, obeying God and not sacrificing himself.
“I began reading my Bible and I called out to God and said, ‘If you’ll save me I’ll serve you all the days of my life.’”
He went forward in church, with tears in his eyes and told the church he had been living a lie, playing church but that he was surrendering his life to the Lord. God called Luter to street ministry. Elizabeth, who became Luter’s wife, was saved the same year and ministered with him.
In 1986 he began pastoring Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. Luter said at that time he was not ordained, or seminary trained. When he became SBC president, the media continually asked him why a black man wanted to be president of a convention started as a result of slavery.
“I didn’t know the history of the Baptist Convention when I was asked to pastor Franklin Avenue,” he confessed. He just knew it was a church that was calling him to be their pastor and that’s where God wanted him.
He related his experience of becoming the first African American SBC president, of receiving a phone call from President Barack Obama and visiting with Billy Graham. Regarding Graham, Luter laughed and said it was like experiencing a meeting with Moses. Graham prayed for Fred and Elizabeth.
Luter asked Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) leaders for prayers. “I want to represent the convention well, most of all I want to represent God. The Scrutiny is on. Microphones are everywhere I go. I don’t want to mess it up. i want to make sure I honor God in all I say and do.”
He spoke about diversity, saying it’s a tragedy to have a convention this large with little diversity. He encouraged pastors from various ethnic groups to “show up” at association, state and national meetings. If they don’t know you and never see you, then when it comes time to fill a slot they won’t think of you. Be actively involved as much as you can,” Luter said
“If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen by the ‘theology of your presence,’” Luter said.
Luter addressed the issue of Calvinism, which he called “the most contentious issue” of his first term.
“This has the potential of literally splitting this convention. We have guys strong on both sides. We will never be able to change their minds. It’s not going to happen. It would have happened by now. If we can get folks to come together and agree that missions and discipleship is the thing we need to concentrate on, if we really get behind that, I think we could see revival…”
That’s why I chose the theme “Revive Us that We May Be One,” he said, referring to the theme for the SBC convention in June.
“I believe that the enemy knows the potential of the Southern Baptist Convention. He knows how we, as a convention, have the potential to literally change the spiritual climate not only in Maryland and Louisiana, but I believe in America.”
In a round table type discussion, Luter chatted with pastors and leaders about reaching youth, ministering to men, discipling leaders, discipline and accountability in the church.
Regarding same-sex marriage, Luter said, “God already defined marriage between a man and a woman. Nothing can be politically right if it’s biblically wrong. If same sex marriage was the standard, none of us would be here.”
Pastors, planters and leaders gathered around Luter to lay hands and pray for him at the end of the session.
Colonial Baptist Church hosted a dinner for Luter and the leaders in the evening and provided home cooked food and gumbo, direct from Louisiana.
Luter preached at Colonial Baptist Church, and then met with African American leaders following the worship service.
View photos of this event here.