By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
RANDALLSTOWN, Md.—Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Church of Woodstock, Ga., flew into Baltimore last month to see and hear first hand about the excitement and growth God is bringing to Baltimore through Embrace Baltimore, a Strategic Focus City Effort of the North American Mission Board. He invited other pastors and missions leaders from churches in the Bible belt area to join him and to consider partnering with new church plants. Hunt also, as SBC president and as a fellow pastor seeking to reap and sow, spent much of his time challenging and encouraging pastors and leaders.
Hunt had a whirlwind of a schedule. In two days he was escorted by Embrace Baltimore staff on a tour of the city and surrounding areas, met with church planters and directors of missions, had dinner with Embrace Baltimore and BCM/D staff and Baltimore pastors and their wives, preached a “one night revival” service at Colonial Church and met with the African American Advisory council.
At the Mar. 31 banquet hosted and catered by Colonial Church, Hunt was relaxed and friendly. He joked about coming north to hear southern gospel and to be offered “chitlins.”
A worship service following the banquet was a climax to Hunt’s visit. During the service the church’s choir, a special by Jacqueline Anderson and Alease Ferguson and special music guests LU Praise, from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va., had plenty of worshipers on their feet swaying and clapping.
In a time of special greetings before Hunt spoke, David Lee, BCM/D executive director, said to the SBC president, “We are praying for the moment revival breaks out and it’s okay if it begins with what you have to say to us tonight.”
BCM/D President Byron Day said Hunt’s visit was like a general encouraging the troops.
Bob Mackey, Embrace Baltimore executive director, recognized planters, pastors and their wives and said without them the SBC and all of its agencies would not exist.
Mackey echoed Lee’s sentiment, desiring revival. “I don’t care where it breaks out. If it breaks out here, we want to be part of it, if it breaks out somewhere else, we want it to come here, too.”
African American Fellowship president, Bernard Fuller, said to Hunt, “We are excited because we know you’re an Acts 1:8 pastor. We are excited to be in this position for such a time as this. We’re excited for what God is doing for Embrace Baltimore.”
Troy Bush, Embrace Baltimore’s director of church starting, introduced the SBC president. “One of things we’re delighted to introduce you for Dr. Hunt, is not just that evangelism is a topic you like to preach on it’s what you live,” Bush said.
Hunt preached on I Kings 17, about God sending Elijah to the brook of Cherith and then to the widow of Zarephath. He told listeners the place Christians must be is in God’s “there,” where God tells you to be.
Hunt said he’s heard young seminary students say things like: “I tell you one thing I’m not going to an established Baptist church and fight through all that tradition. I’m going to start a church.”
“That’s not your call!” Hunt said. “You don’t make the decision as to where you are going. And if you do God help you when you need a raven. We’re reporting to duty. Last time I checked He’s Lord. I surrender. He gives the orders and I need to serve exactly where He sends me.”
“There” is a place of God’s purpose and a place of God’s power and the place of power is a place of dependence. At the brook, the ravens brought Elijah bread and meat in the morning and evening and he drank from the brook.
“I am of a personal conviction that the miracle of the ravens would not have occurred anywhere but there. To enjoy God’s provision a prophet must be in a place of assignment. It’s not left to Elijah to choose his hiding place; He must submit to God’s choice.
“Men wonder why they never feel God’s power or see any evidence of His working and it’s because they’re out of His purpose not in His will. We say what power Elijah had but he had no power in himself. He was simply there in the place of power.”
Sometimes the place of power and dependency is a place of dryness, Hunt continued. “Some who went through difficult times were right smack dab in the will of God.”
Elijah’s brook dried up even though he was in place of God’s power. God takes most of us through a dry brook. Dryness can be a place of solitude and growth. Hunt said when he experiences that “dryness” he gets up earlier and spends more time reading scripture and praying and digging deeper.
God’s “there” is place of God’s provision. Where God guides, God provides.
Hunt said the Bible makes it clear that when God calls you somewhere he goes ahead and makes all the arrangements.
“God commanded the widow to be at her place to feed Elijah before he went,” Hunt said. We don’t need to work things out before we go, he said. We just have to be “there.”
Hunt said when we get to heaven some people may ask, “God, why didn’t you come through for me?” Hunt said God might respond, “I did. I sent it right where you were supposed to be. It showed up and you weren’t there.”
“Are you there?” Hunt asked. “Isn’t it amazing that God can use a brook, birds and a poor widow to sustain an obedient preacher? When Elijah got to Serapath, they were picking up sticks when he left they were raising the dead.
“I don’t know about you but I don’t want to spend my life picking up sticks.”
Hunt closed in prayer, “Thank you in Jesus’ name for the way you show yourself strong, not just to the Elijahs of yesteryear but to the Elijahs today. The question is often asked, ‘Where are the Elijahs today?’ and Lord Jesus, we believe there’s a good number of them in this room…help them to realize nothing is more important than being ‘there’…”