Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why we need more leaders like Johnny Hunt

In 1980, during my second year at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, Paige Patterson was kind enough to give me a few hours of his time in his study at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I was on staff at a Dallas church and had spent the previous year trying to sort out the whole inerrancy debate that had erupted the year before at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston.

That conversation with Dr. Patterson, coupled with several documents that he gave me helped me conclude that there was indeed a serious theological problem seeping into the convention. Of all the things that he said to me on that occasion one comment caught me completely off guard and particularly stayed with me through the years. With pain in his voice Dr. Patterson said that once he got into the fight that the one thing that he never expected to learn was that so many Baptist pastors are "cowards." The refrain that he repeatedly heard from pastor after pastor in those early years of the Conservative Resurgence went something like this, "Brother, I am with you on this...but because of my situation, I just can't afford to take a public stand at this time. I hope you understand."

The Conservative Resurgence was in its infancy and had every pastor taken that posture, it would have undoubtedly faded into a footnote of current SBC history books. Thank God there were some men--many men--who did not give in to man-fearing and willingly laid their denominational lives on the line for a cause in which they believed. They lost friends, suffered ridicule, lived with being misunderstood, had their motives questioned and were subjected to all kinds of personal attacks. I witnessed some of this in public settings, classrooms and private meetings. But they stood firm and because they did (notwithstanding some missteps and culpable mistakes along the way) today's SBC is unashamedly and publicly committed to the full authority of God's Word written.

Which brings me to Johnny Hunt and these early days of the Great Commission Resurgence. As men like Drs. Hunt, Danny Akin and Thom Rainer have called for Southern Baptists to come together around the gospel in order to spread that good news to the nations, naysayers have arisen from different quarters. Some of them have sounded warnings that this movement is tantamount to giving up our Baptist identity while others have concocted all kinds of conspiracy theories in order to discredit it.

What concerns many of the critics is that the GCR has been a rallying point for both Calvinist and non-Calvinist Southern Baptists. Narrow spirits in both camps are gravely concerned about such unity. Charges of compromise, "going soft" and playing into the hands of "theological enemies" have been leveled. And more than a few personal communications to help outspoken uniters get their mind right have been attempted. That kind of pressure is too much for some would-be leaders in the convention. Though they privately appreciate the new direction and spirit of unity that is growing in the convention, because they fear what some of their colleagues might think, they remain silently on the sidelines.

Johnny Hunt is not among their number. He has humbly and boldly help lead the way forward to a new, healthier day in the SBC. For the GCR to be more than a passing fad, a new kind of radical, gospel-central leadership must arise within the convention. Such leadership must care more about what honors God than what pleases men. Johnny Hunt is that kind of leader. He has been a bridge-builder by extending friendship and fellowship to fellow Southern Baptists with whom he does not always agree theologically. I have experienced it firsthand and count it a privilege to call him my friend.

The video below reveals a little of the heart and humility of Johnny Hunt. May God raise up army of pastors who exude the same spirit and passion for our Lord.


Brad Williams said...

What a great video. I really appreciate you posting this, pastor. I served at FBC Woodstock as an intern many years ago, and I was greatly influenced by Pastor Johnny. I was hurt, quietly, by the "dart throwing".

I, for one, am overjoyed at what I just heard Pastor Johnny say. Despite being a target for criticism, I have always believed that Pastor Johnny loves Jesus completely, that he is a partner in the gospel, and that he truly wants the glory of Christ proclaimed in every nation.

I want to quickly add that he never attacked me personally in the sense that I was called out, I was but an intern! I was part of "by-stander" fire because I held the same convictions as those receiving the more frontal assault.

Mark | hereiblog said...

Thanks, Tom!

ericredmond said...

Thank you, Tom! Your grace is encouraging.

Steve Loeffler said...

Brother Tom,

Though I appreciate what Brother Hunt said, I do not know what he means in some regards about differing cultures and how we are to adapt to various cultures.

Dr. Hunt just told us about the teenage culture and how we are to appreciate their culture and adapt our ministries to reaching their culture.

Well, what does he mean? I find that our culture like most cultures of the world is worldly, following the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. Bringing the gospel to our culture as well as to other cultures is to see those cultures transformed not to be 'American' but Christian. So, if the culture is living immodestly, we bring the gospel to see that their hearts our transformed by Christ as well as their immodesty. If the culture's music is fleshly, then the same is true of it. Etc.

So, while Dr. Hunt, you and I have a heart for the gospel and for reaching the world, let us be united to give the gospel without being 'synergistic' with sinful culture while doing so. A true Calvinistic trusts in the sovereign God to turn hearts while being careful not to trust in any fleshly mediums to do so. In other words, it is ungodly to give the gospel in a worldly, fleshly manner. All of us agree but then we all would differ on what worldly and fleshly means or how it looks.

I realize this is a huge topic I just want us to be careful in our day of gospel compromise that we are not falling prey to youthful lusts while attempting to give the gospel under the power of the Spirit - who does transform our lives both within and without.

I do not look for a fight. I grieve to see even among our reformed brethren a tendency to worldliness and youthful lusts only to call their methods 'missional'.

On a different note, I am glad to know that Dr. Hunt is willing to work with Calvinists.

Thanks for your gracious consideration.


Tom said...


You are correct that you have raised a huge topic. Though it is important it is tangential to the point of this post. I appreciate and share your concern that we not rely on anything other than the power of Spirit in the ministry of the Word to bring people to Jesus.

Those of us who embrace reformed theology must never provide cover for worldliness and youthful lusts, whether in the name of being missional or something else. Neither should we tolerate any tendency to be narrow and legalistic in the name of being conservative. Dangers lurk on all sides.


Steve Loeffler said...

Thanks Tom for your reply.

Brother, I do believe that I am on topic since Dr. Hunt raised the issue of being culturally relevant as we give the gospel. Dr. Hunt hinted at our view of our youth culture today which was a hint toward a culture that is on a downward trend at large and given over to their lustful, pleasure seeking ways, especially in their music.

I do believe the narrow way has been already set and that the ditches to the left and the right as you mentioned are a constant danger. Yet, I do believe, if Spurgeon, Dagg or Edwards were among us today they would all be labeled Fundamentalist right-wingers for their refusal to go along with much of what passes for missional outreach. What many reformed folks are tolerating today is nothing but compromise of the gospel - maybe not in their preaching but in many of the attendant activities that passes as worship. Broad brush, I know, but where there is room to evaluate and make adjustments for the sake of a pure presentation of the gospel, then let us welcome it.

May we keep nudging each other for the sake of staying to the narrow Gospel way.

Thanks Brother again for your gracious patient ear.

Tom said...


If a point is "hinted" at in a statement then it is by definition tangential to whatever main point is being made. I am unwilling to let the exemplary display of our brother's humility and Christ-like attitude be set aside to chase pursue a tangent. You raise and important issue, but it would be more appropriate to debate it in a different forum.

Further, I have no desire to argue with you and I think you have some valid concerns, but there are equally valid concerns that go in the other direction. If Spurgeon were alive today some Fundamentalistic Calvinists would label him a compromising liberal because of his radical commitment to the gospel and refusal to kowtow to unbiblical standards in the name of holiness. His cigar-smoking, planting-churches-in-taverns practices would put some modern brethren over the edge.


Will said...

What I thought I heard Dr. Hunt say was we must be very careful to distinguish between style and substance. What music is played or what people wear are not the issue. The issue is are we faithful to the gospel. In my opinion those who call themselves Reformed often elevate style to an even par with substance. I no longer call myself Reformed for that reason.

Tom I was blessed by the video because I was hurt by some of his comments years ago about Calvinists. It is a sign of his maturity that he has made this testimony.

God Bless
Cedar Hill Tx