The outgoing and incoming presidents of the Florida Baptist State Convention each offered challenging words Nov. 13 as one exited and the other assumed leadership of Florida Baptists during the annual meeting.
One challenged Florida Baptists about our pride; the other pleaded for unity among us when all the rest of the world is divided.
David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando—which graciously hosted the FBSC annual meeting, gave an inspiring president’s address as he concluded his second and final term.
Preaching from 2 Tim. 4:6-8 on the importance of spiritual legacy, Uth especially emphasized Paul’s assertion that he was being “poured out as a drink offering,” reflecting on his closing days of life and ministry.
Not only did the priest pour out everything, Uth said the cup was emptied upon the proper altar. Some ministers, Uth asserted, are pouring out their offerings on improper altars, especially pride.
“One day we will stand before God and we will answer for the pride that we have held up before Him called our denomination, called our church, called our ministry,” he said. “If you’re pouring your life out on an altar any other than Jesus Christ, you are wasting the life that God gave you.”
Uth warned, “I just have the feeling that one of the things God is after is any of us who would take glory from Him, any of us who would take any glory at all from Him. And I have been convicted about the selfishness and the pride with which we minister.”
The outgoing FBSC president went on to ask, “Wouldn’t it be great if we got egos out the way in this state, if we got our ministries out of the way, our agendas out of the way and we quit pouring our offerings out on altars that give us glory, and we begin to pour them out on the Lord Jesus and His work, and it’s just a matter of incense rising to the Father that pleases Him and gives Him glory?”
All strong, challenging words from Uth. Indeed, tough words. But, no one should question the truth of his words. And all of us should seek God’s examination of our hearts to see if they apply to us.
Equally challenging words were offered by new FBSC President Tim Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Earlier in the day, Maynard was easily elected president over Orlando pastor Clayton Cloer with 59 percent of the vote.
Maynard urged messengers to “hang on to that vision for a minute,” referencing the just concluded special music, “We Shall Behold Him,” following Uth’s president’s message. The song, most notably performed by Sandi Patti, is about our future heavenly reward.
“What else is more important than that?” Maynard asked, beginning brief remarks about the need for unity.
Directing messengers to stand together and join hands as a “physical show of unity,” Maynard elaborated, “Let’s stand before the Father tonight, again [with] that vision of Jesus coming back. And I want us to stand before Him one day saying, ‘We have unity, Father. We did what we’re supposed to do. We stand as one people.’”
Maynard noted the nation is divided and families are divided, but Christians should be unified.
“If we as Florida Baptists could present a picture of unity to this world, we have something that they’re going to want,” he said, citing Jesus’ words, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples because you love on another.”
Jesus’ words gave the world the right to “judge the church” Maynard said, quoting Christian writer Frances Schaeffer. “If we are not unified, then the world will never know we belong to Him,” Maynard said.
“It’s easy to divide folks; it’s easy to focus on division,” he said. “It is a God-thing to focus on unity and to be one. And I don’t know that we’re going to get much else done in this state until we learn how to do it as one people, unified around one, common thing and that is the name of Jesus.”
Maynard quoted one of his favorite devotional writers, A.W. Tozer, who said, “A thousand pianos tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with one another.”
Maynard’s challenge and Uth’s warnings coincided on the matter of fighting over secondary matters.
Rather than be divided and distracted by “side issues and areas that we can talk about all day long [and] fight over,” Maynard said Florida Baptists must come together around Jesus.
Uth warned about Baptists who relish the wrong kind of fight, rather than the “good fight”—a “fight worth fighting”—that the Apostle Paul fought.
“Can I just be honest with you? Man, we’ve been fighting a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter. We’ve let a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter keep us from doing what God has called us to do in this state,” he said, citing petty disputes.
Is it possible to reconcile tough words from Uth challenging pride in our midst and equally strong warnings from Maynard calling for unity among us? Both truths are taught in Scripture. Certainly, no person who accepts the total truthfulness of the Bible would suggest God contradicts Himself in His Word.
In his convention sermon, Jeff Singletary, pastor of Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, paraphrased the late, great Adrian Rogers, whose wisdom is applicable here, I believe: “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals than error that comforts and then kills. It is better to be hated for telling truth than to be loved for telling a lie.”
Pride and division are both errors that must be opposed for the sake of Gospel truth.
Both the challenges of Uth and Maynard are needed. Only time will tell if both will be heeded. Let’s pray they are.
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