|OLMSTEAD, Ky. (BP) -- Louise McIntosh rushed to get to Dripping Spring Baptist Church in time for the 7 p.m. service, having heard on the radio that quite a good preacher, Fred Luter, was delivering the sermon.
It was 6:30 p.m. when the 75-year-old realized the hour. She rushed great-granddaughters Justice and Kelly Norris, 9 and 5, to get dressed and in the car for the short drive from nearby Russellville, Ky. They took a seat among the 600 worshippers in time for the medley of such old-time favorites as "Nothing but the Blood."
Luter, unanimously elected in June as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, touched McIntosh's heart as he spoke about the consequences of choices in his sermon "The Importance of Having a Renewed Mind," based on Philippians 2:5-8.
"I heard him and Bro. Jeff (Dripping Spring pastor Jeff Noffsinger) talk on the radio," said McIntosh, who was baptized at Dripping Spring at age 13 and now attends nearby Post Oak Baptist Church.
Congregants as well as visitors who drove hours trekked to the vibrant Kentucky church among the parched cornfields on Watermelon Road in rural Olmstead to hear the SBC's first African American president during the Fabulous Friday service.
Among the visitors was 83-year-old John Southerland, a member of Southern Heights Baptist Church in Russellville who said he believes Luter will usher in a new era in the SBC.
"I'm hoping and praying that we will all get a different look at Christ," Southerland said. "I believe ... it's the beginning of a new era. We've been on the verge of it for several years."
Southerland, who sat with two black men during the service, said he values the enthusiasm African Americans have in worshipping the Lord.
"We are a little bit more reserved and timid. We want to ... but we don't turn loose and do it," Southerland said. "We have a desire for it. We need to learn how to do this. They just turn loose and worship. We hold back."
Noffsinger had scheduled Luter's visit last year to the rural farming community where corn, wheat and tobacco fields are the livelihood. By sight, only the farmland and the adjacent cemetery mark the church as a rural congregation. Nearly 300 regularly worship in the modern, attractive and spacious auditorium.
"The Lord worked this out and I'm glad that He did," Noffsinger told Luter. "And I'm thankful for this opportunity tonight and I'm grateful for you being here. It's an honor. It's a joy. It's a privilege. It's a blessing to have you here this evening."
Luter, ever humble, encouraged worshippers to pray for him in his new position.
"This has been a month yesterday since I've been elected president of this wonderful convention. And people ask me all across the places that I've been ... 'What can I do for you?' One thing you all can do, you all can pray for me," Luter said. "This is new territory for me. I'm raised in the Lower Ninth Ward of the city of New Orleans and ... now to have this amazing privilege to be president of this wonderful convention is just a great honor. And I just want to do everything I can.
"I don't want to mess it up. I want to honor my family, honor my church. I want to honor this convention and most of all, I want to honor God," he said. "Pray for me for wisdom. I need wisdom."
Luter said he received a congratulatory call from President Obama shortly after the SBC election.
"He said, How does it feel to be the most popular president in the United States of America?" Luter said, as the crowd roared with laughter. Continued...