Patterson: “talking about gospel” not same as “grinding labor of taking gospel to the lost”

KANSAS CITY—Acknowledging curmudgeonly ways, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson mixed his metaphors with a Texas twang, delivering on his promise to at least amuse the audience of several hundred with a dozen instructive analogies.

“Tapping a veteran of most Southern Baptist Convention wars in anyone’s recent memories to address the topic of protecting the deposits of the former generations of Southern Baptists might be thought to imply the younger generation is impervious to the thesaurus of Baptist Principles,” the septuagenarian confessed to those gathered for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s SBC Symposium Sept. 30, adding, “Or worse—that the speaker is a condescending crank, a convention curmudgeon determined to resist the changes that are a part of the progress.”

He began with a warning that “talking about the gospel is as far removed from effective witness as talking about race cars is from driving in the Indy 500.” Beyond mere talk about how to define the gospel, Christians must be willing to do the “grinding labor of taking the gospel to the lost,” he said, encouraging concerted intercession for unbelievers and an exemplary standard set by the pastor.

Next, Patterson advised, “Culture is your friend in the same way a brown bear is your buddy.” The avid sportsman recognized the value of the artistic and educational aspects of culture but argued that “a life of holiness is neither ruled nor much motivated by culture.”

Regarding the scriptural caution against entering too soon into pastoral ministry, Patterson said a young minister seldom has suffered enough to have proven the goodness of the Lord in his life. “A Christian who has not seriously suffered is like a beautiful Rolls Royce with no engine,” he observed. “While beautiful to behold, it remains totally useless.”

Suffering turns a believer to the comfort of Christ, helping him discover “that the assaults of suffering physically, emotionally and mentally are inadequate to separate us from the love of Christ.”

And although arrogance “knows no age restriction,” Patterson said it “too often occurs in the younger set” when there is too little knowledge, experience and time spent with God. “Arrogance is as charming to God’s people and as appealing to God as an angry bull in a rodeo arena.”

He explained, “A man cannot be haughty when he has just been walking with God that morning. Imperfection has been on a stroll with perfection, and the further they hike, the more obvious the chasm between them appears.”

Patterson said, “In the end, the imperfect one is not so much known by his ascription of praise to the sovereign God words that anyone can echo but by the diminution of himself and his humble service to his sovereign Lord.”

He offered his hope for a recovery of humility and integrity in Christian social media that will distinguish the body of believers clearly from the world. “Above all, may such general piety be observed in our preaching.”

Other analogies dealt with the grandeur of salvation, preaching through the Bible, unchristian ecumenism, therapeutic-minded pastoring, powerless ministry and purposeful fences.

His concluding admonition addressed the law of unintended consequences. “When you get into a Texas shoot-out, once you draw your pistol, it is too late to call time out and say you changed your mind.”

By posing the question, “If I do what I now contemplate, what will happen that I do not yet see?” the answer might “save a thousand sorrows,” he offered.

In spite of the occasional missteps of youth, Patterson said, “Romans 8:28 has not been dropped from the sacred text. A significant number of leaders love Jesus profoundly and will excel far beyond what this septuagenarian has been able to accomplish.”

Watch the full video at https://vimeo.com/140801549.

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