Gerald Davidson message delivered at MBC annual meeting October 31, 2006
I got to the funeral home about thirty minutes before the funeral was to begin. I was met by a lady and she said, “I’ll be working with you today.” She said, “I’d like for you to come over and sit down here and I’ll tell you what I want you to do.” That really excites you.
First, I thought she was the funeral director that was taking over, and soon I found out she was the oldest daughter-in-law of the man who had passed away.
She said, “I have planned the entire funeral and I’ll allow you just under ten minutes. (By the way, I’ve noticed they allowed me thirty minutes and we’re fifteen minutes early, please start that clock all over again.) I asked her, “Could you tell me about your father-in-law. Was he born again? Had he trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior? She looked at me kind of with a frown on her face, and she abruptly said, “We won’t go down that road, and I’d prefer that you don’t go there.”
I preached his funeral and I did go down that road, and I did go there. I talked about being born again and about the fact that death was coming for everybody. I talked about the fact that one needs to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I did honor the time. I don’t preach a long funeral but I always preach the gospel whether I am in a wedding or a funeral.
After it was all over the family came by and finally the immediate family, the son and this dominate daughter-in-law. She looked up at me with sort of a precocious eye and kind of glanced at me and she said, “Okay.” She paused for a good bit and she looked at me again and she said, “I guess that’ll be okay.”
I have studied and read a lot of books on how to win friends and influence people. Today, I’m not here trying to win friends. But, I do hope that I do not loose friends. And I hope that I will not turn friends off. I spent more time thinking about this message, having known for a year that I was going to be the convention speaker, than any other message I believe that I have prepared in my entire life, because I have some things that are heavy upon my heart.
My prayer is this, that I not be angry, I not be mean, I not be harsh, but Missouri Baptists we need to know the truth. We need to sometimes just talk about some things so we can get things right. I’d like to be able to come to the end of my sermon and hear a hearty “amen.” But, to tell you the truth, I’m a whole lot more interested in God looking down out of heaven saying to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” I’m trying.
Several years ago, liberalism was taking over our convention. Many of us had fought the battle. There are some today that think they have been waging the battle and they have won the battle. But I want to tell you I began fighting this battle before many of these were even born. – back into the late fifties and the early sixties. We’d win some battles and we’d loose others.
Then there was finally a group called Project 1000. It was a project to get 1000 people out to vote in the state of Missouri and stand for the inerrancy and then infallibility of God’s word. Praise God, the battle was won. Our boards and our agencies are staffed by Bible believing conservatives who believe in the infallible, inerrant word of God. And today, Missouri Baptist Convention and staff all are Bible believing inerrantists. Project 1000 has done its job and we say thank you and praise God for it. But hear me. It’s time that Project 1000 retired.
Now I have been told that Project 1000 ceased to exist after the year 2003. But now, the parent organization called the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association has risen up to take its place. My dear friends I want to say to you this morning, Missouri Baptists do not need a political organization to dictate and to build kings and tear down leadership. Some of that is beginning to happen. I’m not speaking against Mike Green, Bruce McCoy, Jim Cogdill, or Lisa Albert. These are all good and Godly people. And I am not concerned about whether they are elected or not. That’s God divine purpose and will.
But I am saying that we don’t need to say these are the ones we are going to endorse as if to say if somebody else is nominated they’re not approved. I’ve been happier the last four or five years, even in the midst all our struggles for our institutions and agencies than I have been in the previous 45 years. You say, “Why?” Because in David Clippard, our Executive Director, the Missouri Baptist Convention staff that we now have, we have been moving in the direction of evangelism, soul winning, missions, outreach, church planting like we have never been before.
But I’m sad to say, in fact no, that’s too weak. It literally made me sick at my stomach thinking about having to come and bring the message that I bring because we have let rise among us a political group. As good as their intentions may be, and I love these people, they are dear friends. I have not only led my church to contribute to them, I have personally done so, but it’s time that they cease, because we do not have the struggle that we once had.
I was talking to Bro. Tom Elliff yesterday; kind of pouring my heart out to him. He said, “Bro.Gerald, Baptists don’t know how to win” We win a battle. The victory seems to be ours and then we get broken up fighting, and bickering, and fussing, and picking at this and picking at that, and, that needs to cease.
I don’t know whether Joyce is still with us or not, but I heard Joyce Rodgers speak at North Carolina this past summer. She made a statement that literally echoes from my heart. She said, “My dear husband, Adrian, is not here. He’s gone. But, if he were here he would not be happy with what he sees happening today.”
I don’t think Dr. Adrian Rodgers would be happy with the division, and the bickering and the narrowing down, and the fussing and the fighting over the various issues that pop up, but even more important than that, I don’t believe that God is pleased with it either. So let’s get busy doing what God has called us to do: evangelism, missions, soul winning, church planting.
That clock is moving fast. I’ve got three points I want to share with you out of Luke, chapter 14. They are forms of a question. What is the value of a soul? You see, I believe Missouri Baptists need to stop and ask themselves that question. What is the value of a soul?
Now in the fourteenth chapter, I’m not going to read to you out of that passage but you’ll have it before you. Jesus had just gone into the area and there they were at the temple. There was a man who had a terrible disease called dropsy. The political leaders of that day, the scribes and Pharisees the Sadducees, they all were watching wondering what Jesus was going to do. They knew he was a man of compassion and love. They knew he was a man of concern and they knew what He would do down deep in their hearts and they thought here’s our opportunity to catch Him. It’s a Sabbath day. Is He going to heal this man and do something like that on the Sabbath day? They were far more concerned about their political image and their political desires and agenda than they were a man’s soul. And, Jesus asked the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Which of you if you have a donkey or an ox fall in the ditch on the Sabbath, will you not pull him out?” Immediately they all realized that they would, and it revealed to them how little concern they had for a soul, but it revealed how hypocritical they were in their spirit and their nature. Dear Missouri Baptists we must become soul conscious. We must begin to see the value of a soul and what souls are really valuable. We need to get a burden on our heart and the speakers have been talking about passion and drive and getting up and stepping higher and doing better. It’s time that we Missouri Baptists begin to do that. I’m convinced we’ll never see the value of a soul until we see it through the eyes of a father.
When I was pasturing in Memphis, Tennessee, a young boy ten years of age had been struck by an automobile. One of my deacons worked with his dad. We went to the hospital late on a Wednesday evening after prayer meeting. I met the father, Jim, and his wife for the first time. I slipped into a prayer room and sat with them and had prayer with them and began talking with them. As I shared with them and talked with them they said, “No, pastor we’ve never gone to church. We sent our little boy, Terry, on the church bus a few times but that’s all. The boy was in critical shape. His head was all swollen and wrapped up and he had tubes down his throught and he was lying in the area there in intensive care struggling for breath. Struggling for life itself. That was Wednesday. Saturday morning my phone rang about 5:30 in the morning and it was Jim Aires, the father. He said, “Pastor, could you come up here? I’m going to have to make a decision. The doctors say we ought to turn the machines off, that for all practical purposes Terry is dead. His brain waves are absolutely flat. There’s nothing we can do further. He’s literally gone, but I have to let them turn the machine off.”
I made my way to the hospital and I’ll never forget the sight I saw. We walked into the intensive care room and there lay the body of that little boy. As we stood and looked the father literally fell upon his knees and he began to sob and he began to weep and cry. He cried as though he was praying to his son and he said, “Oh, Terry, Terry, Terry, please, please forgive me for not teaching you about God and about Jesus Christ. Please forgive me because I never took you to church.” And as I stood in that hospital room alone with that father and son, I realized we need to see souls through the eyes of a father. But that’s not really all of it. We need to see souls though the eyes of our heavenly Father.
You see Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, and I had trouble with this as a young boy. He said, “Oh, Father I pray that this cup might pass from me but not my will but Yours be done.” And, He sweat as though it were great drops of blood. Truth about the fact was that I thought as a young boy that Jesus was afraid of the punishment and afraid that He was going to die. That’s not what Jesus was concerned about. You know what He was praying for?
You know what He was concerned about? You know why he wanted that cup to pass from Him? He was just about to become sin for us. He was about to take our sins upon Himself and die in our stead. He knew that for the very first time that holy God in heaven could not look down upon sin. And for the very first time throughout eternity He would be separated from His father, God.
As God looked down, darkness came over the face of the earth. God turned His face away from his own Son and Jesus cried out, “My God, oh my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” John 3:16 sums it up. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
You see, God, the Father, saw His son become sin and He loved the world enough that He let His son die in our stead. And so you see, you and I need to begin to see the world as God sees the world. We need to see souls through the eyes of the Father.
I have a second question. What should be the response of us, Missouri Baptists, for lost souls? How should we respond? In Luke the fourteenth chapter, Jesus gives us a response. People went out and invited people to a great wedding feast. Nobody came, very few. One said, “I’ve married a wife, I can’t come.” Another said, “I’ve bought a team of oxen, I can’t come.” Another said, “I bought a piece of ground and I can’t come.” Boy, I’d like to sell those people a piece of property. They bought something they had never seen. Just excuses. The world is full of excuses, and make all sorts of excuses. Therefore, how should you and I respond? What should be our response?
If you’ll read the fourteenth chapter of the book of Luke, you’ll find that Jesus tells us in verse 21 down through verse 23. He says, “Go out.” He says, “Go quickly.” He says, “Go compelling.” He says, “Go out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in. Do everything you can that my house might be full.” That’s exactly what we as Missouri Baptists need to be involved in. Going out and going and telling and compelling. And, going to the highways and hedges and bring in the halt, the blind, the lame, those who are crippled. Bring in those who are the outcasts. Bring in those who are the downcast. Bring in those who are the up and out. Reach everyone we can with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s room. We need to be doing what we can do.
I had a picture burned into my mind years ago. It’s still there. My wife and I had made a trip up to New England, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island. We had come back down through Niagara Falls. We stopped at Niagara Falls. We took a tour. We rode the little “Maid of the Mist” underneath the falls. We rode the little elevator down to the foot of the falls. There was a tour guide leading us and we rode back up to the top of the falls. There was a pathway and there was an iron rail fence along the mighty Niagara River. There the falls were probably not fifteen or twenty feet away, as far as from here to that speaker there. We stood there and the man said “I want to tell you a story. It happened right here and it was not long ago. There was a man on the upper river with a boat and he had two children with him, his neighbors. One was a little boy about five years of age and one was a little girl that was twelve years of age. They drifted down the mighty Niagara River too far and they got caught up in the current and all of a sudden their boat came rushing down the Niagara River going to head for the falls and they hit a big boulder and it threw the boat into the air. That little boy was thrown out of the boat. He went over on the other side of the river and the little girl was on this side That little five year old boy went shooting out over Niagara Falls. We all saw it happen. Never happened before but one totally unprotected, whether it was because he was so small and so light, nobody knows. He shot out over the rocks at the foot of the falls 169 feet below. They pulled him out of the water and he didn’t have a scratch.”
All of a sudden everybody in our group began to applaud and they began to clap and cheer. But he said, “No that’s not the part I want to tell you about.
He said, “What I want to tell you about is the little girl on this side of the river. We saw her coming tumbling head over heels. She had a little dress on. We didn’t know what we were going to do. She was out in the river a ways. A man ran and leaped over this iron rail fence and he grabbed it with one hand and he reached as far as he could and he could see that wasn’t going to be far enough. Another man ran and leaped over that same fence and he joined his hand with his and they reached out and slowly they got a hold of the hem of the garment of that little girl. They began to pull her to themselves and he slowly put his arm around her and pulled her to safety.”
As a young preacher boy as I stood and listened to that story I could not help but think in our churches, in our association, in the state of Missouri, Brother David, what we need to do is join our hearts and our lives together and get busy being soul conscious and reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, because that’s the greatest thing in all the world.
Brother David, I speak directly to you. State staff, and we got one that we can be proud of, keep your eyes on Jesus and don’t be derailed by your detractors.
Missouri Baptists, I speak to you. Let’s quit bickering and fussing. And, Missouri Baptist Layman God bless you we love you, but quit thinking that you’re the king builders cause you aren’t. It’s good for you to be concerned, but I believe we can trust Missouri Baptists today to do that which is good and godly and right.
One last question. Why? You don’t know how much I love you, buddy.
He turned the clock off. So, I don’t know how long I been preaching, but we’re going to get out before twelve.
What are rewards of winning souls? Let me tell you the immediate reward of winning a soul to Jesus Christ means a person who was headed for the devil’s hell, lost and undone, being in an eternal hell for time without end, has been delivered no longer will he be going there, now he’ll be headed for heaven. That’s the first reward. But there’s a second reward. You know I have read this Bible through many, many times and it was late before I actually realized what one passage says, Luke 14:12-14. “Then Jesus said unto him that bade Him, when you make a dinner or supper call not your friends or your brethren, neither your kinsmen or your rich neighbors lest they also be _________ and recompense you. But when you make a feast call the poor, the maim, the lame, the blind, the halt, and thou shalt be blessed for they cannot recompense you.” Now get this last sentence. “You shall be rewarded at the resurrection of the just.”
Boy, I want to tell you that means something to me. I love Missouri Baptists. If I didn’t, I’d have given up a long time ago .but I’m not working for the approval of Missouri Baptists. I’m not looking for rewards from Missouri Baptists. I’m going to be rewarded one glorious day but it’s going to be from One who really, really, really counts. That’s God.
When I pastured in Kahoka, Mo, a little county seat town, Rick Seaton was
there and I was with him a revival not long ago. I went out and I endeavored to reach every person I could. I went up and down the streets knocking on doors, and told the people about Jesus Christ. There was an old man named Earl Hufford and boy I – everytime I make that statement old man — he was 76 years old, his wife was 76, and I’m getting the age I am and called him old.
He cursed like no man I’d ever heard before. Everytime he’d speak five words three of them would be curse words. I remember the first time I visited with him he said, “No, preacher I’m not going to come to your church. I don’t like preachers. I don’t like churches, and to be truthful I don’t like you.” Now, there’s nothing like truthfulness. I said, “Lord, I’m going to reach that old man with the gospel.” I went back time and time and time again. I remember the last time I went by. I knocked on the door, and I know this isn’t proper etiquette. I could hear feet shuffling around inside and it was EdnaMae. She was kind of deaf, but I put my head up to the front window and saw that old well she was going out the back door. I’m going to head her off at the pass. I ran around the house; thought I’d catch her. She got away before I got there, but she did lead me out past the garden and there Earl was hoeing in the garden. I thought this is my opportunity, I’ll witness to him one more time out here in the garden all alone. Started [to] witness to him about Jesus Christ.
He said, “No preacher I’m not going to come to your church, and I’m not going to come and listen to you preach. Just forget about it go on and leave. I turned. I’m so meek and tender, I’d never say this but I thought it. “God, that old man.
He’s so wicked and sinful he can go ahead and go to hell if that’s what he wants.” Now, you remember I didn’t say that but I sure thought it. It was about two weeks later I had come home from the office for lunch. My wife had cooked a meal and [I] had picked up a fork getting ready to eat. There was a knock on the door. I went to the door and you know who it was? It was Earl
Hufford. I say, “Hello, Earl it’s good to see you.” He said, “My wife doesn’t know where I am.” And he said, “I had to run downtown for a minute and I thought I’d run by your house and ask you a question. Could you come by and see me this afternoon?” I said, “Sure, Earl, I’d be glad to come by and see you.”
He said, “Now, when you come by please don’t tell EdnaMae that I came by and talked to you. Will you not?” I said, “No, I’ll not think about telling her.”
I said, “I’ll be by in about an hour.” He said, “That’ll be fine. I’ll be back home and I’ll be waiting for you.”
I went back in and sat down at the table and started to pick up my fork, and as I did the phone, which was on the wall right by the table, rang and I reached over and took the phone off the hook. Said, “Hello.” The voice at the other end of the line said, “Preacher, this is EdnaMae.” Isn’t it strange how God works.
She said, “Earl’s gone right now but he’s going to be home shortly, but do you think you could come by our house and talk to us this afternoon?” I said, “Sure, EdnaMae, I’d be glad to.” She said, “Please don’t tell Earl that I called you..” I said, “I won’t.”
To make a long story short, I went by the house. I rapped on the door. I looked through the window and there sat Earl and EdnaMae Hufford. Two 76 year old people in twin rockers. I walked in and I walked right across the floor and I got on my knees. I said, “I come to tell you all about Jesus Christ. Would you like to be saved?” That old couple got on their knees and prayed and asked Jesus to come into their heart.” I’ll never forget that as long as I live.
A couple of weeks later, we baptized. EdnaMae got dressed in the ladies room over on this side of the pulpit area. Just a few feet on this side was the men’s dressing room. I got dressed, put on an old suit that I baptized in. Earl had on a blue denim shirt and blue denim overalls and he put his arm around me and hugged me and he said, “Preacher, I want to tell you something I never told you before, I love you.” And this is what he said, I’ll never forget it, “I may never account too much for God but I’m going to do the best I can. I’ve had a bad habit of cursing and with God’s help I’m going to be cured of that. My life is going to be different. “
Then he made this statement, “Preacher, when I die and go to heaven and I meet God I’m going to tell Him it’s your fault.” That’s not the end of the story. Two weeks later, Earl Hufford got sick and he had to go to the hospital.
They were going to have to do surgery on him and he said, “Don’t worry about coming, God can hear your prayers from here.” He was going to be in the hospital about 150 miles away. He said, “At 1 o’clock on Thursday afternoon I’m going to have surgery. You pray for me and that’ll be sufficient. Whatever happens, I’m ready.”
My phone rang about quarter till two and it was EdnaMae and she said, “Preacher, Earl died on the operating table.” I preached Earl’s funeral. I stepped out from behind the pulpit and I looked into the casket and I could see the face of that old farmer and I could still hear the curse words that he had once said. No he may not have ever become much for Jesus, but thank God he was gloriously saved. His heart was transformed. He was made new. And those words rang in my heart, “Preacher, when I go to heaven and I meet God I’m going to tell Him it’s your fault.”
I’m going to meet God. But you know what? I got a sneaky feeling as I step up to the gates of gold ahhh the streets of gold and the gates of pearl, I got the feeling one of the first people to meet me will be Earl Hufford. He’ll grab me by the hand and he’ll say, “Come on, preacher, I want to take you to Jesus. You introduced Him to me way back.” One day, I’ll hear God say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
David, you’re the executive director. Keep us on track. Missouri Baptists get behind him and support him. And I may not ought to say this, executive board you represent Missouri Baptists about 360 days out of the year. Don’t try to micro-manage our executive director. That’s not your job. David Clippard is answerable to the executive board, but you don’t have to look over his shoulder all the time. But, executive board you’re answerable to this body right here.
So let’s you and I join our hearts and our lives together and say, “God, we are going to get [on with] the business reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God bless you. I love you. So does Jesus. Let’s do His work.