Southern Baptist Convention head seeks racial harmony

Advocate photo by MARK H. HUNTER -- The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, invites the audience at First Baptist Church of Zachary, La., to put their lives in God's hands during a 'Mondays for the Master' sermon series.
Advocate photo by MARK H. HUNTER -- The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, invites the audience at First Baptist Church of Zachary, La., to put their lives in God's hands during a 'Mondays for the Master' sermon series.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., who was unanimously re-elected to a second term at the Convention’s recent meeting, is also the senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans, the largest SBC church in Louisiana with an average attendance of 4,760. Hurricane Katrina forced a diaspora of Luter’s congregation, and several hundred members now hold their own services at Florida Boulevard Baptist in Baton Rouge.

Luter preached at First Baptist Church of Zachary this week, closing out a summer revival series, “Mondays for the Master,” hosted by FBC’s senior pastor, the Rev. Reggie Bridges. First Baptist’s sanctuary was packed, and another FBC campus building was also filled, totaling more than 700 in attendance. The Franklin Avenue Baton Rouge campus praise team led the service, and dozens of Luter’s members from this area also attended.

Prior to the service, Luter, 57, said he has two goals in the coming year. His first goal, he said with a laugh, “Is just like last year — I just don’t want to mess up.”

“But secondly — I just want to continue this work of trying to bring the different races together,” Luter said. “I believe that the body of Christ can really have an impact on our society today — what I call our ‘salt-less society.’”

A “salt-less society” is one of Luter’s recurring themes describing a secular culture that needs a greater spiritual influence by Christians. It refers to Jesus telling his disciples in Matthew 5:13, “you are the salt of the earth.”

“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,” Luter said. “I believe our churches have to start looking like what Heaven is going to look like.”

Luter said he was “blessed” to see a number of African-Americans salted through the predominantly white audience and added, “My prayer is that (this is something) I’d like to see continue across the country.”

Luter’s sermon theme was “In the Master’s Hands,” based on Jeremiah 18:1-6, where the prophet visits the potter’s house to witness how he molds the clay to his will — and the lesson God has for Israel at that time.

“It is important to put ourselves in God’s hands, because we are all created to do what God created us to do,” Luter declared with his powerful voice. “It’s no wonder why: Our families are messed up, our churches … our towns …our cities, our states, our nation, our society is messed up — when people don’t do what God created them to do. We all need a touch from the Master’s hand!”

For more than 45 minutes, Luter enthralled, entertained and convicted the large audience with his rapid-fire illustrations and scriptural references while his voice rose and fell in intensity according to the point he was making.

“The clay did not fix itself — we can’t fix ourselves,” Luter said with arms open wide. “But God has the healing hands. If Jesus on the cross can put Himself in God’s hands, what’s your problem?”

At the invitation, one young man went forward to dedicate his life to full-time service.

“It was an awesome time of worship together,” Bridges said. “Pastor Luter punctuated the ‘Mondays for the Master’ series with an exclamation point! It concluded a great time of refreshment and renewal for our church.”