Monday, May 11, 2009

Three of My Favorite Preachers

Pictured here are three of my favorite preachers. L to R - Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. Fred Luter, & Rev. Jay Adkins.
Let me start with the guy on the right (my former little boy) who is Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego in suburban New Orleans.
Jay has been in church since 9 months before he was born. He cut his teeth on church hymnals, and grew up exploring the nooks and crannies of the various Baptist churches in which I ministered.
After a few years of bumping into spiritual walls, Jay finally nailed down the important things in his life and committed himself to Christ. Things happened pretty quickly after that. He started his public work for Christ as our song leader at Wayside Baptist Church in rural Boyd County, Kentucky. He continued in that capacity at Ashland Baptist Church, when I was called to serve that congregation as pastor in 1996, the same year he married Michelle Slater. At that church he also took on duties of Youth Pastor, and he and Michelle were a tremendous asset to my ministry there. Shortly after an "Experiencing God for Couples" seminar with Henry Blackaby at Ridgecrest Conference Center, Jay surrendered to God's call into a preaching ministry. He eventually left us at Ashland Baptist when he answered a call to serve as Mission Pastor at Rose Hill Baptist Church's Fellowship Chapel in South Shore, KY.
After several years at Fellowship, he led them to be a self supporting, constituted church and went from "Mission Pastor" to "Church Pastor". There he gained several years of first hand pastoral experience, and even though the church was no longer a mission chapel, Jay continued to be involved in missions, through Disaster Relief and other Mission trips. It was on a musical mission trip to France, where Jay met Gary Halquist of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was that relationship with Gary that led Jay to leave the Bluegrass State, to continue his education at NOBTS. He completed his Bachelor's Degree requirements at Leavell College, on the seminary campus, and enrolled in the Master's Program at NOBTS. Hurricane Katrina put a one year kink in his academic journey, but he earned his M.Div. with emphasis in Biblical Languages in May, 2007, and is now enrolled in the Doctorate program at NOBTS.
Jay is a dynamic preacher, with a pastor's heart. Over the past seven years at Westwego, he has been instrumental in leading FBC Westwego in dynamic growth into a vibrant "going" congregation in that Westbank community. Although still young in years, with over 10 years of pastoral experience, Jay has also served as a mentor to several other young men, leading one of the finest young ministry staffs you could ever find - anywhere. Jay has a rich spiritual heritage, standing on the shoulders of three previous generations of Baptist preachers.
Tonight Jay called to let me know he was going to be visiting Revival services at Pastor Fred Luter's Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. That's Dr. Fred in the blue shirt in the photo. Fred Luter is legendary in the Crescent City. Franklin Avenue Baptist Church is the largest Southern Baptist Church in New Orleans, and it was devastated by the floodwaters spawned by Hurricane Katrina. Luter's congregation (like many other New Orleanians) was scattered all over the southern United States, from Houston to Atlanta. In a modern day miracle, God held that congregation together, while geographically separated, and Luter preached regularly for the next two years, to his scattered flock in Houston, Baton Rouge, and in tempory space in the Big Easy, offered by David Crosby's First Baptist Church of New Orleans.
Dr. Luter is first and foremost a shepherd to his flock. But he is also a powerful preacher, who is one of the greatest "pulpiteers" in America today! So good, in fact, that he is traditionally invited to be the featured speaker in the first chapel service at the beginning of each academic year at the Seminary. I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Luter speak at the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, KY next month. I'm sure he'll "clear him off a patch and preach a while"! If Fred Luter can't light your fire - your wood is wet!
The Franklin Avenue Church property has been restored, and the Church is back up and running. Tonight Jay says there were about 2,000 folks on hand for the Revival Meeting. The speaker tonight was Dr. Tony Evans (pictured at left in the above photo). Tony Evans is probably one of the greatest preachers alive in America today. Evans is long time Pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, TX. He is a prolific writer and is always in demand at crusades, Bible Conferences, and other evangelistic events throughout the country. Many of you have heard him on one of over 500 radio stations in his broadcast ministry, "The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans".
I have been blessed to have heard Dr. Evans speak in person on a number of occasions. The first was at a Promise Keeper's Clergy Conference in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in February 1996. I will never forget that conference, as it was truly a turning point in my ministry. The Lord used several speakers in that series of meetings to revitalize and refocus the scope of my ministry. God used Max Lucado to challenge my previously narrow viewpoint with a message on "Life Aboard the 'Fellowship'", and John Maxwell and Tony Evans were empowered by the Holy Spirit to renew my vision - through their respective messages, "Finishing Well" and "Moses Get's a Recall".
That was thirteen years ago, and my life has not been the same since that night.
How I would love to have been in that great service tonight at Franklin Avenue. I am sure that God showed up!

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