RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) —“When Sinners Show Up” — the title of a Sunday School lesson — sparked the preaching of T. Vaughn Walker during the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference (better known as Black Church Week) with nearly 1,000 in attendance at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
“You need to give yourself an attitude check,” Walker, who preached each morning, suggested, “and ask yourself if you’ve become ‘too good’ to reach out to certain people.”
Walker, senior pastor of First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and a professor of Christian ministries at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was followed by afternoon and evening messages featuring several pastors: James Dixon of El Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.; James Graham ofMount Pleasant Baptist Church in Herndon, Va.; Brian King of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia; and Delroy Reid-Salmon of Grace Baptist Church in the Bronx, N.Y.
Participants were offered the opportunity to start each day at 6:15 a.m. with praise and worship led by Gwen Williams, a folklorist, worship leader and author from First Baptist Church in Picayune, Miss. Williams, known throughout the black church world in her “Ms. Chocolate” persona, also served as the children’s storyteller during the July 18-22 conference sponsored by the black church area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
More than 70 breakout sessions were offered during Black Church Week conference focusing on church leadership, discipleship/Sunday School, evangelism, prayer and spiritual renewal/motivation.
Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and his wife Elizabeth led one of the sessions, drawing from the book “6 Secrets to a Lasting Love” by Gary and Barb Rosberg.
“Do you remember your courtship?” Fred Luter, the SBC’s first vice president, asked. “You were always looking for ways to serve each other.Men, I bet you always opened her car door back then. Do you still do that?
“Marriage today is at great risk,” Luter said. “But despite what the world, society and even Oprah might say, God still intends marriage to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.”
Walker, in his morning messages, referenced a lesson in LifeWay’s YOU Sunday school/small group curriculum to ask how the church members react to people out of their cultural “normal” and whose lifestyle makes them uncomfortable.
“Who do you find repulsive?” Walker asked. “It’s all about perspective.
“All of us, to some degree, are repulsive,” he said. “We may look clean on the outside, but we all have sin inside us.”
Drawing from the Luke 7:36-50 passage when Jesus went to Simon the Pharisee’s house for dinner and the prostitute came in and washed Jesus’ feet, Walker said four primary lessons were taught:
— Don’t avoid sinners.
— Get the right perspective.
— Realize that sinners make the best converts.
— Know that people will want to know who this Jesus is.
“Jesus went beyond the normal human perspective,” Walker said. “He went to a Pharisee’s house, and then he let this woman — identified by Simon as a prostitute — come in and touch Him!
“This woman risked everything to get to Jesus,” Walker continued. “Everything bad that could have happened to her already had happened, so she had nothing to lose. She was desperate to get to Jesus.”
In the passage, Walker noted, Jesus wanted Simon to see that one who is given more, loves more; one who receives more grace is more appreciative.
“This woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears,”Walker said, “but Simon didn’t even extend the courtesy of a basin. She kissed His feet, but Simon didn’t even offer a kiss on His cheek. She anointed His feet with fragrant and expensive oil, but Simon didn’t even offer Jesus some olive oil for His skin or hair.
“Simon did only the minimum,” Walker said. “It wasn’t really wrong not to offer those things, but it would have been the courteous and respectful thing to do.”
In the passage when Christ told the woman that her faith had saved her and that her sins were forgiven, people sitting around the table wondered who this Jesus was that He forgave sins.
“They didn’t realize they were just as filthy as she was,” Walker said. “Our problem a lot of times is that we have too much dignity.
“My wife will praise God anytime, anywhere. But I was raised to have too much dignity,” he said, standing upright and straightening his clothes.
“I don’t like to get all worked up and sweat,” he said. “But when we think about what all God has done for us, we should never, never have too much dignity to shout and praise Him and be most grateful.”