By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
Fred Luter, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans, Louisiana’s largest SBC church with an average worship attendance of 4,800, preached at First Zachary, on Aug. 5, for the final service of the second annual “Mondays for the Master,” summer sermon series.
Before the service began, when he preached on the topic, “In the Master’s Hands,” based on Jeremiah 18:1-6, he graciously agreed to a brief interview.
MESSAGE – You are now in your second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, how’s it going?
LUTER – “It’s going well – it’s going extremely well. The first year went extremely well. I was very honored to travel around the country and preach in a lot of smaller churches that have never had an SBC president speak there – I really enjoyed that.”
MESSAGE – You made history by being elected the first African-American president of the SBC and then re-elected at the last convention. Are you seeing any changes in the area of race relations?
LUTER – “The only changes have been that when I was first elected and I was being introduced there was a lot of emphasis on being the first African-American SBC president – now it’s, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the SBC president,’ – so that’s changed – that’s a good thing – that’s definitely a good thing. Of all the churches I’ve been to there is definitely larger presence of African-Americans there – a lot of them want to come and meet me and a lot of them want to come and see me – so that’s been good. Something I’ve always tried to do since I’ve been in this position is to bring the races together and if we –being a church – that gets some more African-Americans there – that’s a good thing.
MESSAGE – What’s next? What are your goals for this year?
LUTER – “Just like last year – I just don’t want to mess up.” (Laughs) That’s the first thing – but secondly – I just want to continue this work of trying to bring the different races together. I believe that the body of Christ can really have an impact on our society today – what I call our ‘salt-less society.’ But we have to come together to do that – the churches have to come together, the pastors have to come together, and the races have to come together. I believe our churches have to start looking like what Heaven is going to look like – and that is one of the things I’ve been really blessed by – like here tonight, at First Baptist Zachary, in a predominantly Anglo congregation, there will be a number of African-Americans in attendance and that’s a blessing to me. My prayer is that those African-Americans who have come here tonight will be so blessed by the worship that they will want to come here on another occasion when I’m not even here and that is something I’d like to see continue across the country.”
Editor’s Note: Luter’s reference to “our salt-less society,” refers to one of his recurring themes and preached in other venues, “The church is supposed to be salt in a low sodium, salt-less society.”