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Missouri pastor delivers SBC's convention sermon
Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009
By Allen Palmeri

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Showing some Ozarkian flair, John Marshall described how three blind men were each healed differently by Jesus in his convention sermon June 24 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky.

Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., spun a tale of three blind men who suffered from "petty divisions" -- comically basing his sermon on the miraculous healings of three blind men described in John 9:6, Matthew 9:29 and Luke 18:42.

Jesus who used a combination of spit, mud, touch and pronouncement in healing the men differently, Marshall said in his message, "Splintering Splinters, Gluing Glue."

"Denominations" formed by these three early believers, Marshall joked, were "spittite-muddite-touchite," "antispittite-antimuddite-touchite," and "antispittite-antimuddite-antitouchite."

Marshall, first vice president of the Missouri Baptist Convention and the fourth Missourian to deliver the convention sermon at the SBC, said Southern Baptists have more reasons to be united than divided.

"Rather than splintering over splinters -- lesser things -- the three could have been denominationally bonded by three important traits they had in common: one, a personal relationship with Jesus; two, God's Word; and three, being on mission."

Marshall launched a plea for unity by tying conversion to the new birth -- the born-again experience of Nicodemus, what the Bible describes as being born from above.

"Holiness matters most, and the only way that sinners can be holy is for God to come live in them through the new birth experience," Marshall said.

Sounding the familiar battle cry that Southern Baptists see the Bible as inerrant, infallible and immutable, Marshall said his prayer is that the Bible will be a unifying agent in Southern Baptist life.

"Our adherence to that authority is what binds us together as a denomination," Marshall said. "Let's trust it. It is sufficient. And let us stop liberalism and legalism by saying, 'Sola Scriptura,' Scripture only."

Pointing to John 9:25, Matthew 9:31 and Luke 18:43, Marshall said all three blind men are identified as witnesses, citing them as examples of how Southern Baptists should do more in the area of starting churches.

"We Southern Baptists also need to do a better job of witnessing for Christ by starting more churches," he said.

"I learned all of the great men, all of them without exception, were church planters," Marshall said, referencing research and writing he recently completed on early Missouri Baptist history. "The Missouri Baptist Convention was started with 150 churches. Fifty of them [were] founded by one man."

Marshall said he remembered pondering what he called his sin of omission. Right then he decided Second Baptist would start three churches next year -- two in the area and one in San Francisco -- and look at which methodology might accommodate the initiative.

"The traditional, institutional model is too expensive," he said. "When we start that church out in San Francisco, do you think we're going to go out there and buy some land and build a building and send 10 staff members out there? You're nuts! You can't do that out there. You've got to infiltrate.

"We've got to ask this younger generation to think differently from us. They've got to be uninhibited by building-dependent plans, program-centered things, staff-intensive ministries. We must let them have their way for awhile."

In defining the urgency of the Great Commission, Marshall pulled out an old red fire bucket and said believers must throw living water on the flames of lostness.

"Southern Baptists, there's an everlasting fire going on, and you've got to get your bucket," Marshall said. "Every believer is called to go. If your people ever get that -- that's when the missions revival explodes. That was when it blew wide open at Second Baptist."

God the Father is the best example of One who had an understanding of what is needed for the Great Commission, Marshall said.

"God had only one Son, and He made Him a missionary," Marshall said.

"Southern Baptists, don't let splinters splinter us," Marshall said. "Let's not quibble over spittite, muddite and touchite. Let's be glued together as Christ-following, born-again Bible believers on mission."
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Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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