The Greatest Man I Never Knew

I met Elizabeth Bennett in 1976 at Samford University. We were married December 18 of the same year. One person was sadly missing that day. Liz’s father, Dr. Claude Bennett, died of a brain tumor in 1971. He is the man I never met who has blessed me and touches my life today.

1. He is the father of my wife, grandfather to my children (my son is named after him), and great-grandfather to Kathryn and Elizabeth. Life is in the blood and he has passed life to my clan.

2. Many tell me Liz is like her dad. He was smart. Being a pediatrician demands that. He was also a Bible teacher and Liz excels there. He no doubt planted seeds of Christianity in my wife. The churches I have pastored have known the touch of Dr. Bennett through his daughter.

3. When Guntersville, Alabama needed a church plant, he stepped out and led the way. In Clanton, Alabama he cared for children of poor black families when others would not. Liz’s dad was a courageous visionary.

4. No matter where I preach across North Alabama, people ask me if I knew Dr. Bennett. Glowing reports always follow. That is evidence of a faithful life and legacy.

A father-in-law can be a powerful force in a family. I missed some of that. However, Dr. Bennett has influenced me. I have some of his books in my library. He wrote teaching notes on prescription pads and used them as bookmarks. Verbal history helps me know he was a strong man of faith.

Hebrews 11:4 says even though he, that is able, is dead he still speaks. Dr. Bennett is in heaven, but his words and works still resonate. I look forward to meeting him face to face.

 

So Why Am I Staying in the Southern Baptist Convention?

This summer I have read a few articles from people on why they are leaving or staying in the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of this has come as a response to one article from an African American professor/pastor’s decision. The writings in response have come from primarily from minority leaders.

So I thought I would announce I am staying in the SBC and share a few reasons why this white guy is remaining.

At ten years old, I was saved and baptized in an SBC church. I was called to preach at 17 in that same church. My ordination came from that same church. I am now 63 and have pastored four SBC churches in my days of ministry. In October I will complete 27 years at Olive in Pensacola.

So why am I going to stay?

  • The Gospel-The SBC exists for the global propagation of the Gospel. I am a Gospel preacher so I fit here.
  • Theological Education-The SBC believes the Bible and is committed to training the next generation.
  • Diversity-The SBC is the most diverse denomination in America. Our non-white church plants are growing in number and the traditional churches are changing in their makeup.
  • Independence-Every SBC church is fiercely independent. We do not work for Nashville (Executive Committee headquarters), but rather Nashville works for us.
  • Cooperation-SBC churches choose to work together. We can do more together than we can separately.
  • Change-The SBC has shown she is willing to repent and change past behavior.
  • Cooperative Program-The giving system of the SBC for missions is not perfect but it is genius and works.

It breaks my heart that some African American men do not feel at home in the SBC and are talking of hunting the exit. However, I am thrilled at what I see in my own church in racial reconciliation. I am excited at the leadership of my friends like Fred Luter, Jerome Jones, Shaun Pillay, HB Charles and K. Marshall Williams. We will never have perfect unity until the Great Unifier returns for His bride. But until than I am going to work for world evangelization and church reconciliation.

As a small boy at Pisgah Baptist Church in Northeast Alabama, I was taught God loves us all. Southern Baptists taught me that. I think I will stay!

 

 

 

 

 

The One Thing Southern Baptists Must Do Better

As I left the annual meeting/family reunion of Southern Baptists, I have one message resonating that was prevailing in the convention.

We have more churches than ever before, but we are trending downward in baptisms.

There were many positive reports and actions in our meeting. We made thoughtful statements on various topics. Yet, we are reaching fewer people still. The population in America continues to rise, but the number of baptisms is declining.

I left Phoenix with good feelings on several fronts. The commissioning of new foreign missionaries was stirring. Getting the resolution done on the alt right racial sin was good. I am encouraged about the Cooperative Program giving. But to know we have more money, more churches and more of a population to reach while we baptize less should disturb us all.

Jesus gave us a great commission that must begin in our hometowns (Pensacola for me). May the Lord cause our hearts to burn with the Gospel!