Hunter: Missouri Baptist army must march on its knees
By Allen Palmeri
February 8, 2005
SPRINGFIELD – Phil Hunter started the State Evangelism Conference the same way he finished it, making reference to the theology of brokenness, suffering and pain that a widowed pastor’s wife used in her testimony to gently teach Missouri Baptists how to be humble.
“There are a lot of things that God can only teach you when you don’t have dry eyes,” Kathy Ferguson said to Hunter, pastor, West County Community Church, Wildwood. Ferguson’s late husband, Rick, was pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, Denver, when he was killed in an automobile accident in 2002.
Hunter, who delivered the first and last messages of the conference Jan. 24-25 at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, prayed near the end with Ferguson’s statement in mind.
“We thank you, Father, that when our eyes are filled with tears You have truth to teach us that we cannot learn when our eyes are dry,” Hunter prayed. “So we pray that we will not waste our tearful times.”
Hunter had plenty of tearful times from 1984-1991, when he was called to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) evangelism department. He was promoted to state evangelism director in 1987, but he soon found himself up against entrenched moderates who resisted many of his ideas to spread the Gospel. In his Jan. 25 closing message titled “No More Excuses,” Hunter described a difficult time period in Missouri Baptist life.
“I had a couple of bosses over me, and I would say, ‘When are we going to just do what the front window of that building says, Matthew 28:18-20?’” Hunter said, referring to the Great Commission on the front of the Baptist Building. “‘Take it off the window! We’re a bunch of liars.’”
Hunter, 53, now pastors a growing church in the western suburbs of St. Louis. Among his church members is St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who is being discipled, in large part, by Hunter’s three sons—Phil Jr., 29, Joshua, 27, and Matt, 20. A tool that Pastor Hunter developed for Pujols titled “Who Jesus Christ is!” takes the believer through various character qualities of Christ from A to Z. The idea is to lift up Jesus in evangelism so that all peoples will be drawn to Him (John 12:32).
Hunter came to Springfield to exhort Missouri Baptists to pray. In his first message, he invited them to go to their knees “right now,” which many of them did. His core preaching, which often took place as he kneeled, never strayed very far from this theme.
“Live from your knees,” he said.