1981 SBC PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
THE WORTH OF THE WORK
BAILEY E. SMITH
Bailey Smith was born January 30, 1939, to Frances and Ezell Smith. He grew up in Dallas where his father was a Baptist pastor. Bailey graduated from Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
At 34, Bailey Smith became pastor of the second largest church in the denomination. He is also the youngest man ever to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention simultaneously. When he was president of the Pastor’s Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention, he had the largest attendance in history at that point in time. Smith is the only man in Convention history to baptize 2,000 people in a local church in one year. He is the representative for the Southern Baptist Convention to the Baptist World Alliance. Smith is the author of the best seller Real Evangelism and has several books to his credit such as Taking Back the Gospel, Real Christianity, Real Christian Excellence, and The Grace Escape.
Peter and John were having a bold mission thrust, “Now when they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John . . .” In other words, their boldness was obvious and that boldness came from the fact that they believed the work of Christ was worth whatever the price. They said, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
I also notice that their bold mission was empowered by the Holy Spirit which resulted in a new togetherness (v. 31-32) “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the Word of God with BOLDNESS. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.”
Our theme for this Convention, keeping in mind our Bold Mission Thrust emphasis, is Our Bold Response . . . Now! I sincerely believe that in this day of compromise and vascillation that is an appropriate theme –– “Our Bold Response Now! Now is the day for us to speak the claims of Christ and respond to the needs of a hungry, lonely, needy, waiting world.
These past months as your president, I’ve gone across this great land and abroad seeing Christians in many and varied types of work. I’ve heard many of them tell of the challenges of this work, yet never with regret or complaint. I asked almost everywhere I was one consistent question. I would look square in the face of that dear servant of Jesus and I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s worth it?”
In one of our Pioneer Areas, I asked a precious pastor’s wife who was just relating how long it had been since she had a new dress, that very question. She answered, “I’ve never doubted that a moment.” I was kneeling in prayer with one of our vocational evangelists who preaches about forty-three weeks a year. He misses many events in the life of his family. He said, “It’s God’s will. Sure it’s worth it.” A denominational official in Nashville with a heavy load answered the same way –– so did a Seminary Professor.
Ed Horton, on of our African missionaries, and I were walking back out of the deep Kenya bush, after seeing nine people invite Jesus into their hearts at a little settlement. I looked up at this strong Southern Baptist missionary perspiring in that hot East African sun, “You know, Ed, this makes it all worth while.” He said, “Worthwhile –– worthwhile, I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Now, I want my bold response and your bold response to be that the work and opportunity God has given us is a worthy work. I want us to see five worthy parts of our work. First of all, we respond boldly to a waiting world because we have:
1. A SAVIOUR WORTH SERVING:
Oh how the Word is a testimony to His uniqueness and greatness. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3). “By Him were all things created that ere in Heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers –– all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Col. 1:16). Paul said in Philippians “Who being in the form of God, though it not robbery to be equal with God and took upon himself the form of a servant, made himself of no reputation and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongues shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9)
Jesus Christ is not one of the prophets who came to earth to show a “part of the personality of deity” as I read one to say. He, in the flesh, was God incarnate. All man, as if no God. All God, as if no man. Someone observed, “When He was born, He was older than his mother and the same age as his father. He was the heavenly son of an earthly mother and an earthly son of a heavenly Father.” No one has ever been, even similar to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. The song writer said it beautifully, “Jesus the very though of Thee with sweetness fills my breast, but sweeter far thy face to see and in Thy presence rest.”
As Christians we are not proclaimers of some theoretical religious or philosophical meanderings from the dusty libraries of antiquity –– we are ambassadors of one in whom only is salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. The world’s greatest need is not a teacher, because the problem is not ignorance –– it is not a patriot because the problem is not nationalism, not a philanthropist because the problem is not poverty, but the world does need a Saviour, because the problem is sin.
One of my dearest friends is the former State Music Director for Oklahoma, Gene Bartlett. His father wrote many songs that you and I love to sing. One of them he wrote is my favorite song, “Victory in Jesus.” After his father wrote “Victory in Jesus,” he passed away.
Sometime after that, his mother lay in a comatose state in a Fort Smith, Arkansas, hospital and had not spoken or moved a muscle for days upon days. One day, Gene came into her room, put his hand under the oxygen tent on the aged arm of the dear lady whose husband had written so many of the old Gospel songs. Gene said, “Mother, it’s Gene. Will you talk with me?” That sweet lady raised her hands to indicate she wanted the oxygen tent raise. Gene pulled it back over her head and she opened her eyes to full measure. She raised herself upon her elbows as she pulled that silver head from the pillow and began to sin, “I’ve heard an old, old story, how my Saviour came from glory.” She got to the chorus, “O Victory in Jesus, my Saviour forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming Blood.” She then fell back on the pillow and went on to claim the Victory.
I said, “Gene, isn’t it a shame your mother didn’t get to finish the song.” He said, “Oh, Bailey, but she did. She and Daddy made it a duet in Glory.”
We have a Saviour worth serving. There is, indeed, Victory in Jesus!
When Dr. Adrian Rogers introduced Shadrach Meshach Lockridge last year at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis as a fraternal messenger from the National Baptist Convention, he challenged us in his eloquent and powerful way to preach Jesus the: “Mast of the Mighty; Christ of the Conquerors; Head of the Heroes: Leader of the Legislators; Overseer of the Overcomers; Governor of the Governors; Prince of the Princes, King of Kings and Lord of Lord.”
Bless His Holy Name. We have a Saviour worth serving. I want to say that ––
2. WE HAVE A CHURCH WORTH REVIVING:
It really doesn’t matter whether a church has a carpeted aisle or vinyl tile. It is not essential to know whether a man has a Th.D. or never had the opportunity for training. Whether a church meets in a concrete block or chiseled stones or whether it sings a Bach Anthem or Gaither Gospel or whether it has a pipe organ or a Hammond miniature, are not the ultimate issues.
What does matter is that within those walls the Holy Spirit of God does its work, it’s might work where “sinners are converted and God’s Name is Glorified.” A revived church is a caring and sharing church.
We don’t want to be a cloistered crowd creating cultural calisthenics but, a lighthouse where men in the darkness can be saved; a rock for those sinking in life’s despair; a hope for those who face a dead-end street. A wife out there needs a new husband; a little girl needs a new Daddy; a young boy needs a loving Mother and a Church ablaze with Great Commission compassion can bring that bout through the power of Christ.
Years ago in England, lived a fine preacher name John Holden. One late afternoon in the village where he lived, everyone began to run to the seashore to man rowboats to go out into the sea where a vessel had capsized. Little boat after little boat would go out and bring to shore those who had been throw into the icy waters.
When the last rowboat was coming in, John Holden standing on shore called out to the rowboat, “Did you get the last one?” Came the reply from the little boat, “I think there’s one more, but I can’t fine him.”
John Holden began immediately to prepare to gout in his own little boat. His mother grabbed him and said, “Oh son, it’s so dark and foggy –– don’t go out there. You may never come back.” John Holden said, “Mother, I love you, but I be got to go out there.”
After what seemed to be an interminable time, John Holden’s little rowboat could be seen through the nigh and fog. Someone on shore shouted out, “Did you get him? Was there one more out there? Did you get him?” “ Yes, I got him and tell my mother, it’s my brother.”
Oh God, let the revived church go out on life’s sea and bring men and women and boys and girls to the shore. Only a revived church can do the job. Our greatest song still is, “We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus Saves –– Jesus Saves. Shout salvation full and free. Jesus Saves –– Jesus Saves.”
3. WE HAVE A DENOMINATION WORTH SUPPORTING:
A few months back, I spoke to the Home Mission Board in Atlanta and said these very words, “The Southern Baptist Convention is the greatest force every put together for winning this world to Christ. Frankly, I don’t want anything to bother that. I want God to keep blessing it and enriching it and strengthening it and binding it together in love and harmony.” I believe that even more today than I did then.
Someone shared with me that the annual income of the eight leading electronic evangelists are spread over a range of from $60 million down to $11 million, for a grand total of $293 million. With no thought of disparaging the work of these good men of God, it has been pointed out that their budgets supported two churches, five schools, one hospital, T. V. ministries and some special and periodic mission work.
Dr. George H. Harris, the writer of the article “contrasted the work of the Southern Baptist Convention in a recent year in which the mission income totaled $316 million. But these mission funds supported 6,000 full-time missionaries in more than 90 countries, six seminaries (10,000 students), 67 colleges, schools and Bible Institutes, 1,100 Baptist Student Directors, 32 Radio and T. V. programs each week, and leadership and materials for 35, 255 Southern Baptist congregations which have averaged 1,000 baptisms per day for the past 25 years.
This is why I believe the Bold Mission Thrust emphasis is right on target because Southern Baptists have the capacity to bring Jesus to a lost and dying world. We can confront our world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ by the year 2000. I want to say ––
4. WE HAVE A BIBLE WORTH BELIEVING:
You say, Bailey Smith, do you believe the Bible is totally the Word of God? Do you believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God? DO you believe what Southern Baptist adopted as our Statement of Faith in the 1963 Southern Baptist Convention that quote, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end and truth without any mixture of error, for its matter.” YES, YES, YES –– I believe all of the above!
If the Bible is the Word of God at all, it is the perfect Word of God, because God will not give a word of flaws and mistakes. Dr. Daniel Vestal, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas, is exactly right when he says, “If the Bible is truthful, it must be truthful in all parts. Because truth and error are mutually exclusive. And if it’s not true in all parts, who is to determine which part is truth and which part is error.”
I know we must never get bogged down in anything that keeps us from missions and evangelism, but I also know that no soldier wants to go into Battle with a defective weapon. We can have confidence in the Word of God. We do have a Bible worth believing –– 66 Books, 1189 chapters and 31,175 verses, all true inspired Word of God without any mixture of error. Praise God for His wonderful, infallible Word. Last of all, let me say ––
5. THAT WE HAVE A FUTURE WORTH LIVING:
Our denomination has a great and joyful future fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your church has a future worth living because the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. You have a great future because if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you can rest assured that what He said is true, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you that where I am there you may be also.”
He is coming again, too. Sometime ago, I stood at the graves of my young parents. My Mother was in the hospital for routine surgery, but died there at 41 years of age. My preacher father examining the foundation of his new auditorium had a piece of reinforcement wire to strike him in the eye and he fell dead at fifty-five years of age. They are buried side by side.
As I stood there I remembered when Mom and Dad use to drive down the road –– (I would be leaning over the front seat peering from the back) and Dad would put his right hand down on the seat. Mother would take her left hand and put it on his and down the road we would go. She would always do that –– put her hand on his.
I thought of that coming day when Jesus shall appear. The graves will open and I believe Dad will come out of one and Mom out of the other and Dad will reach out his hand and Mom will take his and, together, hand in hand even though having been with Him, they shall rise and forever be with the Lord. Oh, the great, grand, and glorious future we have in Jesus Christ.
Southern Baptists, God is on His throne and challenges us to love one another because there is a world out there in need to which we must minister, remembering that we have a Saviour Worth Serving; a Church Worth Reviving; a Bible Worth Believing and a Future Worth Living.
I believe that I’ve tried to say can best be expressed in a poem that enriches me and challenges me every time I recall it. I hope it can be our motto for the days ahead. The author is unknown, but it says:
The world’s great heart is aching,
Aching fiercely in the night
And God alone can hear it ––
And God alone give light.
The men to bear the message
And speak the living Word
Are you and I, my brother,
And the millions who have heard.
We grovel among trifles
And our spirits fret and toss
While above us burns the vision
Of Christ upon The Cross.
And the Blood of Christ is streaming
From His pierced hands and side.
And the lips of Christ are saying
Tell the lost that I have died.
No power of man shall thwart us
No strongholds shall dismay
When God commands obedience
And love has led the way.
Dr. Bob Rogers is pastor of First Baptist Church, Rincon, Ga. He earned a B.A. from Mississippi College, and an M.Div. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He likes to write about theology and practical Christian living, and he loves humor. He writes a weekly column, “Holy Humor,” syndicated in several newspapers and magazines, and that column will soon appear in SBCToday.
Recently, Outreach magazine published its list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.
But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we do not find a list of fastest-growing churches. Not many numerical reports are even given, other than the 3,000 baptized at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and the fact that the number had grown to 5,000 a little while later (Acts 4:4). After that, numbers are rarely given. We don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?
It’s time to change our terminology. Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.