1. Missionary Work Overseas – It’s hard to imagine what it’d be like to grow up amongst a people and die without ever hearing the gospel. Yet, there are large numbers of peoples who still find themselves in this situation. That’s one of the key reasons that Southern Baptists continue to pool their monies and people together in order to reach these peoples and cultures. What’s it like to lead the first person from a completely unreached people group to Christ? Many have never done this. But, by God’s grace and great sacrifice by men and women, many more will have this experience. The nations need Jesus. In order to hear of Jesus, they need missionaries. That’s why their work is so significant to the SBC and the kingdom of Christ.
2. Changing Presidential Leadership – The significance of Southern Baptist entity heads is often under-appreciated. The decisions that these men make impact massive amounts of people for good or for ill. Southern Baptists are at a critical point in time with three key presidencies opening up. The Executive Committee, NAMB, and IMB presidencies are all open or opening soon. B21 is praying and asking you to pray for the men who will fill these positions. Placing the right men at the head of these entities will do much to advance the Great Commission.
3. Dr. Danny Akin’s GCR Sermon – Whether you’re talking about Dr. Danny Akin’s passion, his preaching, or, simply, his love for the Great Commission, it would be misguided not to mention his work in 2009 as one of the most significant stories. Standing behind the pulpit in SEBTS’s chapel, Akin delivered what would become a great rallying point (and point of controversy) in his GCR Axiom sermon. Clearly coming from a heart for nations, Akin set in motion a movement (or gave it a BIG push) that would change 2009 and, by God’s grace, the way SBC approaches the Great Commission.
4. Increased SBC Unity – By almost all accounts, there seems to be a growing unity in the SBC. That is, we are more unified today than we have been in past years. What this means or implies is up for some debate. Yet, B21 thinks that there is a growing unity around the Great Commission. For instance, at the B21 event at the SBC, the panelists came from all kinds of theological and methodological stripes. Yet, these men were unified around the Great Commission and the BF&M. Still more, the lunch for the 600 attendees was provided personally by SBC President, Johnny Hunt (a man that has embodied unity around the Great Commission as much, if not more, than anyone). Hunt, as many know, would disagree in many ways with the panelists. Yet, because of its Great Commission purposes, he supported the B21 panel. In fact, B21 believes that the unity that Southern Baptists presently enjoy, in large part, is due to the excellent leadership of Johnny Hunt. With men like Hunt leading the way, Southern Baptists have a lot to hope for in the coming days.
5. Union University’s “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism” – Dr. David Dockery has, amongst other things, turned Union University into one of the leading think tanks for Baptist life. Like in his past conferences, Dockery put together a line up that included the most significant and helpful voices in Baptist life. And they didn’t disappoint. Southern Baptists owe a debt of gratitude to David Dockery for putting this conference together, the effects of which we are still enjoying.
6. Higher Attendance at SBC Louisville – Okay, so it didn’t hurt that the SBC was in a town filled with young people and in the heart of the church-saturated part of the country. But, we’d argue, it is still quite an achievement to get that many people in this kind of economy to attend the SBC. Even if the economy wasn’t in the shape that it was (and is), it’s still hard to get people to spend their time at a convention. Come on, there are Southern Baptist associational meetings that know how difficult it is to get people to participate. The numbers at the 2009 SBC pointed to great life and health. It pointed, perhaps, to a resurgence in Great Commission engagement in the SBC. It will be interesting to see how many show up in Orlando.
7. Cancer Classroom – Several prominent Southern Baptists found out that they had cancer this year. This, of course, is terrible news. But, by God’s grace, these men who have taught the church so excellently in their preaching ministries are now teaching the church in a different way. They’re showing the church how godly men suffer. Johnny Hunt and Matt Chandler, to name a couple, continue to battle cancer. They continue to teach us of Christ. Pray for these men and that their cancer will provide great opportunity to advance the kingdom of Christ.
8. Christmas in August – After the heart wrenching news of the IMB financial shortfall, causing them to stop sending “M’s”, Southern Baptists responded to calls from Hunt, Akin, and others to take a special Lottie Moon Christmas offering in August. Thus, the “Christmas in August” movement was born. It’s this kind of responsiveness in which B21 finds great encouragement.
9. SBTS’s Sesquiencentennial – Southern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its 150th Anniversary. This is even more significant in light of an economic situation that’s included the closing of several schools’ doors. SBTS survived the Great Depression, Liberalism, and is currently thriving under the excellent leadership of Dr. Albert Mohler. Their story is amazing and a testimony to God’s grace. SBTS professor, Greg Wills, masterfully tells the story in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 1859-2009. We’re praying for at least 150 more!!
10. GCR Task Force – There aren’t many things that you can get 95% of Southern Baptists to agree on. Clothing style? No. Worship style? No. GCR? Yes! When Southern Baptists were given the opportunity to affirm or deny the formulation of a Great Commission Task Force, they overwhelmingly voted for it. Thus, President Hunt put together a 23 member, GCR task force. The task? They are to examine the Southern Baptist entities and structure in order to bring an assessment to the 2010 SBC in Orlando. Everybody is looking forward to this report. They need our prayers. Sign up to pray here.
When R. G. Lee pastored the First Baptist Church of Edgefield, South Carolina, he gave a devotional during a prayer meeting called “Payday Someday.” A deacon told him afterwards that he had some pretty good material and needed to work on it some. Lee did! He ended up preaching Payday
more than 1,200 times! As a part of honoring the past, we want to make young Southern Baptists aware of what is arguably the greatest American sermon in the twentieth century. Lee is perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist preacher of all time, and Payday is perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist sermon. Payday is a narrative sermon. Lee masterfully tells the story of Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah (from 1 Kings 21 & 2 Kings 9) as a theater tragedy with eight scenes: the real-estate request, the pouting potentate, the wicked wife, the message meaning murder, the fatal fast, the visit to the vineyard, the alarming appearance, and payday itself.
Ahab and Jezebel cheat Naboth out of his vineyard, and Jezebel signs a letter ordering his assassination. It looks as though evil will triumph and go unnoticed by God. Lee erupts, “Where is God? Where is God? Is He blind and He cannot see? Is He deaf and He cannot hear? Is He dumb and He cannot speak? Is He paralyzed and He cannot move? Where is God?” Then, Lee assures his audience, “Wait just a minute, and we shall find out.” As a result, Elijah announces God’s judgment sentence upon Ahab and Jezebel, “Ahab, as the Lord God liveth before whom I stand, God sent me here to tell you that someday, someday, where the dogs licked Naboth’s blood will the dogs lick thy blood, even thine. And Ahab God sent me here to tell you that someday, here, by the walls of Jezreel the dogs will eat Jezebel.” All happens according to God’s word. The sermon is about God’s judgment. God must and will judge sin. He may not punish today or tomorrow, but He will punish eventually.
Lee pauses the story after Elijah passes God’s judgment sentence and begins to drive home application. He tells his audience that “Payday Someday” is written “in the constitution of God’s universe.” God has revealed the reality of judgment in His Word, and it cannot be sidestepped or avoided. Sin will be repaid. It may not be today, but it will happen “Someday.” Lee lists certain sins and the payday God promises for them, “Oh, you can take God’s name in vain, if you will, if you’re indecent enough to be a profane swearer, but I have a book that tells us about the cursers payday, ‘God will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.’ You can tell lies, if you will, forgetting that lying lips are an abomination unto God… Here’s the payday, ‘All liars,’ says this book, ‘shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.’…You can live to flesh and sex, if you will, like thousands do, but I have book that tells us about the payday for that, ‘the works of the flesh are these: adultery, fornication, uncleaness…’ Well, what’s the payday? God says that, ‘He who soweth to his flesh will of his flesh reap rotten flesh, corruption, carrion, which buzzards love.’”
Lee presses play on the story and describes how God’s payday came on Ahab and Jezebel. An arrow kills Ahab. He is stood up on the chariot while the bottom fills with his blood. Then, the dogs leap up in the chariot and lick his blood, “according to the word of God spoken by Elijah the Tishbite… God said it, and it was done. ‘The wicked shall be turned into Hell with all the nations that forget God.’ God says that, and it shall be done!” Lee’s point is that just as God’s promised payday came upon Ahab, so God’s promised payday will come upon all sinners. God’s payday continues to come to bear as Jehu, the newly anointed king of Israel, is told to blot out the house of Ahab. Jehu kills Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, and soldiers place his body in the vineyard Jehoram’s parents stole from Naboth. Lee points out the irony, “Listen, the vineyard they got by shedding Naboth’s blood is now stained with their own blood as it flowed in the veins of their son Jehoram. God’s payday train is coming into station, and all the powers of men and hell can’t put on the brakes…” Finally, Jehu commands eunuchs to throw Jezebel down from a palace window. They do, and the dogs eat her, leaving her head, feet, and hands. Lee pleads with his listeners to escape the sinner’s payday for the Christian’s payday though Jesus Christ saying, ““The only way I know for any man or woman on earth to escape the sinner’s payday on earth and the sinner’s hell beyond – making sure of the Christian’s payday – is through Christ Jesus, who took the sinner’s place on the cross, becoming for all sinners all that God must judge, that sinners through faith in Christ Jesus might become all that God cannot judge.”
One cannot adequately set forth “Payday Someday” as it deserves. “Payday” is a masterpiece. It is meant to be heard. I encourage everyone to listen to it. If you have heard it before, I encourage you to listen again with fresh ears. If you have never heard it before, listen for the first time to maybe the greatest sermon from perhaps the greatest preacher in the long line of Southern Baptist pulpiteers. May we be terrified at the reality of God’s judgment on sin. We deserve the fate of Ahab and Jezebel, and much worse. May we be brokenhearted over the lost who are certain to face the dogs of judgment let loose by a holy God. May we be overjoyed and awestruck that King Jesus received the full force of God’s payday on our behalf. May we resolve to plead with sinners to be reconciled to Christ, because there will be a payday, someday!
At Highview Baptist Church our teaching pastors have been preaching through Acts over the last several months. The sermon series is entitled “Uprising,” because we are looking at how Christ began to build his church through the Spirit-empowered witness of his disciples. This theme of uprising and growth constantly emerges in Acts as people in almost every chapter repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and are added to the church. What is incredibly striking is what Jesus’ followers are doing that is leading to the growth of the church. They are preaching! This is striking because of modern trends in some circles of evangelicalism to downplay biblical proclamation in favor of marketing, entertainment, and a felt-needs counseling approach to “communicating.” And yet we find that the church began at Pentecost through a sermon that led to the salvation of 3,000 people (Acts 2). After another sermon the church grew to 5,000 men (4:4). The Apostles devoted themselves to the Word of God (6:2), which led to growth (6:7). Those who were scattered by the execution of Stephen went “preaching the Gospel” (8:4). Philip went to Samaria and preached Christ and the kingdom (8:5, 12), and a revival broke out. The church in Antioch began and grew through the speaking of the word and the preaching of the gospel (11:19-20). On the missionary journeys Paul preached the word (13:5, 7, 12, 16-41, etc.). Over and over and over the church is built and people are saved through the preaching of the word of God. It is a message that is delivered and received for salvation (2:41; 4:4; 11:1). The Word itself begins to take on life. It grows (6:7; 12:24; 19:20), and as a result of the Word growing the number of disciples multiplies (6:7). Preaching is God’s means for saving sinners and building his church (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Young ministers need to be persuaded of this, and we need to learn from godly men who faithfully preached the Word over decades.
We need to learn from RG Lee. RG Lee was a preacher. He was a bold and dynamic preacher. He was a spellbinding preacher. People would listen to him for over an hour and half. There is much in RG Lee’s preaching that we can learn from. We can learn from the doctrinal depth of his preaching, the passionate urgency of his preaching, and the Christ-centered nature of his preaching. But one thing that set Lee apart from his contemporaries was his oratorical ability. He was perhaps the last great orator in the pulpit.
R. G. Lee’s oratorical preaching style creatively turned a phrase into the topic of his sermon. This turned phrase captured attention and aided in long term reception of the biblical truth taught in the sermon. Lee’s sermon “The Face of Jesus Christ” is an excellent example of his methodology. The text for the sermon is 2 Corinthians 4:6 which reads “… the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He used the last phrase of the verse as his subject matter and title. Lee introduced the Bible as a “vast portrait gallery” of men like Adam, Cain, Abel, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Paul, and more. These biblical portraits set up the contrast for the thesis of his sermon, “But on every page we will get evidence that all its portraits lose their splendor in the greater glory of the face of Jesus Christ. Of His face, His blessed face, His sweet face, His dear face, we would now speak. What kind of face is it?” The overarching theme for the structure of his sermon is that phrase “the face of Jesus Christ.” His outline flows from that. Jesus’ face was: 1) sad, 2) shining, 3) stained, 4) smitten, 5) set, 6) scorching, 7) shrouded, and 8 ) seen. Jesus had a sad face, which speaks of people rejecting his teaching, his compassion for the lost, and his sorrows. Jesus’ face was shining because his appearance transfigured, his face blinded Paul on the way to Damascus, and his face shone like the sun on Patmos when he revealed himself to John. Jesus had a stained face. This speaks of the tears he wept for Lazarus, tears shed for Jerusalem, blood he sweat at Gethsemane, blood he shed at Calvary, and spit he received from Roman soldiers. His smitten face speaks of God bruising him and soldiers beating him. Jesus’ set face points him toward Calvary. His face scorches because he violently cleared the temple and furiously judges his enemies. Jesus’ shrouded face speaks of his death. Yet, his seen face proclaims to the world that Jesus is alive and “we shall see him as he is!”
This sermon shows how Lee used a phrase from scripture as the theme for his sermon. He strung together meditations and thoughts on the theme for the body of the sermon. Indeed, turn of phrase is the most striking feature of his preaching. Mostly he used scriptural phrases or phrases loosely derived from the scriptures (i.e. the sermon title “Christ, Above All” is derived from Philippians 2:9-11 and John 3:31).
There are other oratorical features to Lee’s preaching such as: repetition, poetry, and rhetorical questions. His repetition is seen in the sermon “The Blood of Christ” where Lee preached (italics mine), “The blood in drops, falling like red rain from the cross… The blood in rills, pouring down like red wine from the crevices of a wine press… The blood, splashing like shafts of red sunlight in the face of his enemies, is saving blood” (Lee, Blood of Christ, 3-26). The poetic aspect of his preaching was not only apparent in the artistic way that he strung words and phrases together, but also in the way he used poems in his sermons. In one sermon about the Gadarene Demoniac he quotes the boy’s testimony, “In loving kindness, Jesus came. My soul in mercy to reclaim; And from the depths of sin and shame, Through grace he lifted me.” Finally, Lee used rhetorical questions to drive home his points. In his sermon “The Paths of Disappointment” he said, “What shall it profit a man if he be a great artist and know not Jesus, the one altogether lovely? What shall it profit a man if he be a great architect and know not Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone? What shall it profit a man if he be a great baker and know not Jesus, the Living Bread? What shall it profit a man if he be a great biologist and know not Jesus, the Life? What shall it profit a man if he be a great carpenter and know not Jesus, the Door? What shall it profit a man if he be a great doctor and know not Jesus, the Great Physician? What shall it profit a man if he be a great farmer and know not Jesus, the Lord of Harvest? What shall it profit a man if he be a great geologist and know not Jesus, the Rock of Ages?” (Lee, “Paths of Disappointment” in Whirlwinds of God, 33). Ralph Turnbull described Lee as an orator when he said, “Part of the secret of Lee’s effectiveness lies in his oratory. He is one of the few men left in this era who has a link with past oratorical preaching” (Turnbull, A History of Preaching vol. 3, 221). Comparison, repetition, clever phrases, poetry, and much more demonstrate the depth and uniqueness of Lee’s abilities, and these made Lee one of the most powerful and popular preachers of the 20th century.
Lee was best known for his powerful preaching. The two biggest influences on Lee’s preaching were T. DeWitt Talmadge (whose sermons were published in full in the New York Newspapers every Sunday) and Sam Jones, the great evangelist. Paul Gericke said, “Lee’s own preaching style would combine the biblical wisdom and oratorical skill of Talmadge with the down-to-earth applications and evangelistic fervor of Jones” (Gericke, The Preaching of Robert G. Lee, 13-14). Lee possessed old era oratorical skills repackaged and applied to his modern hearers. He commanded attention. People would listen spellbound for more than an hour.
Modern preachers need to study the way that Lee used words in a Spurgeon-like way to engage his audience. Words are extremely important, and preachers should be intentional in the way they craft their sermons to dynamically communicate God’s Word. Lee and old era oratory may both be resting quietly in their coffins, but the need to craft our words intentionally to effectively confront modern hearers with the truth of the Gospel in a compelling and convicting way has never been more alive! May we learn this and more from this preacher so that in our ministries the Word of the Lord might multiply and “prevail mightily” calling sinners away from idolatry to the Living God (Acts 19:18-20).
*I encourage you to listen to Lee: http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=110
*In our next post we will look at Lee’s most famous sermon “Payday Someday.”
Previous Sermons in the Series:
Part one of this series: (Lordship of Christ) – Philippians 2
Part two of this series: (Gospel-Centeredness) – Matthew 4
Part three of this series: (Commitment to the Great Commandments) – Matthew 22:34-40
Part four of this series: (Inerrancy and Sufficiency of the Bible) – 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The recording for part five is not available.
Part six of this series: (A Commitment to Biblically Healthy Churches) – Matthew 16
Part seven of this series: (A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching) – Acts 16
Jon Akin sermon series through the Axioms of the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration continues with Axiom 8 “A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed.” In examining this axiom, he teaches his people through 1 Corinthians 9.
Axiom 8 States:
VIII. A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed. We call upon all Southern Baptists to consider themselves and their churches to be missionaries in non-Christian cultures, each of which requires unique strategies and emphases if the gospel is to penetrate and saturate every community in North America. (Phil. 2:1-5; 4:2-9)
There are essential and non-negotiable components of biblical ministry like proclamation, evangelism, service to others, prayer, and corporate worship. At the same time, we are convinced there is no specific style or method ordained by our God through which we must engage in these biblical ministries. In the past, Southern Baptists were characterized by a remarkable uniformity in both style and substance, but those days have long passed. Though we must remain united in substance, we must embrace a healthy, biblically informed diversity in our methodology if we are to effectively evangelize North America.
Different contexts demand diverse strategies and methods. We must think like missionaries and ask, “What is the best way to reach the people I live amongst with the gospel?” Various ethnic believers and social/cultural tribes will worship the same God, adore the same Jesus, believe the same Bible, and preach the same gospel. However, they may meet in different kinds of structures, wear different kinds of clothes, sing different kinds of songs, and engage in different kinds of ministries. We must treat the United States missiologically and do so with the same seriousness that our international missionaries treat their foreign people groups. As long as our varied methods communicate gospel truth, with theological integrity, unto God’s glory, we should not allow our different approaches to divide us.
The charge has been made recently that many young Southern Baptists do not fully appreciate Southern Baptist heritage. No doubt there is some truth in what has been said. In our zeal to adapt and push towards the future many of us have neglected, forgotten, or even criticized the past. It is true that sometimes younger SBCers treat the SBC like the cousin you are afraid for your friends to meet. Southern Baptists are certainly not perfect, nor is our history. However, there have been wonderful characteristics like faithfulness, evangelistic passion, missionary zeal, cooperation, theological education, and triumphs in our past (and in our future by God’s grace). There are also godly men, pastors, preachers, missionaries, professors, who have gone before us. These men are heroes who faithfully followed King Jesus and led others to follow Him. Part of the purpose of Baptist 21 is to honor, respect and learn from the past, specifically from godly men and women who have run well and with great endurance the race set before us.
Robert Greene Lee was one of those men that we believe younger Southern Baptists need to get to know. Indeed, Baptist 21 is grateful for the ways God used RG Lee. Not to sound cliché, but he is a giant upon whose shoulders we stand. We want to over a few posts highlight his ministry and ask what we can learn from him for ministry in the 21st century.
RG Lee was born in a log cabin to poor sharecroppers in South Carolina on November 11, 1886. Mam Lindy, Mrs. Lee’s midwife, said at his birth, “Praise God! Glory be! The good Lord has done sent a preacher to this here house” (Lee, Payday Someday and Other Sermons, 5). Lee trusted Christ at the age of 12 in the First Baptist Church of Fort Mill, South Carolina. Lee was a hardworking, blue collar Southern Baptist. He worked on the Panama Canal at the age of 21. He delivered newspapers at 4 AM every morning walking his eight mile route in order to pay his way through Furman University. He also pastored a little country church up in the Mountains in order to pay school bills. The church paid him 50$ a year for one sermon a month. When the topic of a raise came up, one of the longstanding deacons, spitting tobacco from his mouth, said, “We’ve been paying 50$ for a long time. And, we can’t afford now to bite off more than we can chew, or swallow, or digest. And, as far as I’m concerned we’re paying for as much as we’re gettin” (Lee, “What Have I Done,” audio). Not only was he a hard worker, but he was also a brilliant student who graduated magnum cum laude. One of his most significant crossroads came when Dr. E. M. Poteat, the president of Furman University, who mentored Lee, asked him to chair the Latin department at Furman. Lee soon found out that the university would not allow him to pastor and teach at the same time. He resigned, and his wife Bula said, “That’s good! God never meant for you to dig around Latin roots. He meant for you to be a preacher” (Lee, Payday, 5). Lee pastored churches in South Carolina, Louisiana (FBC New Orleans, adding over 1,000 new members in his four years), and Tennessee (Bellevue Baptist Church, which grew to over 10,000 members in his 33 years). He served three terms as president of the SBC and four terms as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Not only was he a gifted preacher, but he was a brilliant scholar. He turned down presidencies at Union University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (see more biographical information about Lee at http://www.siteone.com/religion/baptist/baptistpage/Portraits/lee.htm).
What can we learn for ministry in the 21st century from the life of RG Lee?
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