Johnny Hunt, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is more importantly, as he will tell you, the pastor of First Church of Woodstock, Ga. From the time he became its pastor, Woodstock, First has grown from around 250 to about 7,000 in services on Sundays. Known for its passionate evangelism, the church has far-reaching ministry in multiple areas, including a unique redemptive outreach to pastors who have experienced failure in their own ministry.
Hunt has always been one of my favorite preachers. His dynamic and expositional style is laced with a passionate gospel presentation and appeal. A member of the Lumbee Indian tribe, Hunt had a tough upbringing. When he was saved as a teen, he was saved all over—and he has never gotten over it.
Woodstock, First, under Hunt’s leadership, has always been involved in missions, both in the United States and around the world. Volunteers from the church have spanned the globe sharing the Gospel and helping to start churches.
Hunt is a no-nonsense kind of guy. Intense in both his preaching and personal relationships, few surpass his genuine and caring style. He has always had a great love for pastors and has invested in them. When I was a young pastor, W. A. Criswell was my hero, and I will never forget attending his School of the Prophets. In the same way, many young pastors see Bro. Johnny as their mentor and attend his training events.
All of these factors have made Johnny Hunt a sought after preacher and leader. It was no surprise that he won election and re-election as president of the SBC. Yet, one thing has always troubled me about Hunt and caused me to struggle between incredible respect and questioning his place of prominence. While his church gave $525,000 through the CP, that amount was only a small percentage of its undesignated receipts. This is no crime, but I have always felt that those who lead and make decisions regarding our cooperative work should also demonstrate commitment to generous cooperative giving through their churches.
I have communicated my feelings both privately and publicly. In fact, for some time I have stated that if Hunt and those who serve on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force would step to the plate and give even the average (6 percent) of most SBC churches, we would see a groundswell of support for our cooperative mission work. I also have contended that all of the structural changes and tweaking of our work so as to produce efficiencies would not bring about a Great Commission resurgence. That will take a spiritual renewal as well as renewed focus on the Cooperative Program as our method of funding. Honestly, I have chided our leaders to step up.
Well, I want to loudly applaud Hunt and the recent step of Woodstock, First for increasing its CP to $900,000 in a down economy. (See story on page 12).He has proven he is a man of integrity and one who keeps his word. He told a group of us privately and has often stated publicly that he would lead in a renewal of Cooperative Program giving.
Hunt has demonstrated extraordinary leadership. He has stood tall and done what so many other leaders fail to do. He has not merely called us to a Great Commission resurgence—he is leading us there.
I do not know what the GCRTF will recommend. Some of its recommendations will no doubt cause heartburn. Some will cause us to rise up and say a loud “amen.” Indeed, I hope most will be so evidently of God that they will draw us all to stronger commitments of energy and dollars to reach a lost world. The recommendations will be fodder for debate, and I will not be shy in my own willingness to engage.
But for this time and this article, I just want to say thank you to our leader. I want to applaud his commitment to the Gospel at home and abroad. I want to stand beside him and thank him for demonstrating a commitment to cooperative missions that has been the source of the SBC becoming the greatest evangelical mission force on Earth.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.