“Do you remember how you used to be when you first got into the ministry?”
Chip Luter posed the question at the beginning of his message at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in his home city of New Orleans. Preaching on Matthew 5:8, Luter called pastors to the purity described in the Beatitude, which says “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
The senior associate pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church invited pastors to remember the days of their ministries before titles, degree, platforms and numbers — before meetings and social media — back when Christ was the only audience you preached for, he said.
“Where’s the pull of impurity in your ministry right now?” Luter asked pastors. He urged them to consider those areas as they meditated on the call of Matthew 5:8 to pursue purity.
The hope of a pure heart
Each of the Beatitudes demonstrates the beauty of Kingdom life, Luter said, and purity is no exception. He said it’s a delight given by God to Kingdom men and Kingdom women. It’s lived out no matter what’s happening in the world. But it requires discipline, and Christians can’t go it alone, he said.
“If you’re here today in a crowd, but you’re still living like you’re on an island, I pray and I plead that that stops today,” Luter said. “Accountability is not a spiritual buzzword. It’s an absolute necessity.”
Not only is purity a delight and a discipline, he said, but it’s also a desire of the heart. In the Old Testament, Luter said, purity was an external pursuit accomplished through sacrifice. Jesus didn’t do away with the importance of being pure, he said, but He did update the process. In the Kingdom of God, Luter said, purity starts on the inside.
“It’s not about pure buildings, it’s about pure hearts,” he preached. “It’s not about pure pulpits, it’s about pure hearts. It’s not about pure programs, it’s about pure hearts. It’s not about pure platforms, it’s about pure hearts. It’s not about pure numbers, or pure strategies, or pure methods, it’s about pure hearts.”
‘God will take care’
“And I promise, as I battle it even in my own life, if the heart remains pure, God will take care of the building. God will take care of the programs. God will take care of the platforms. God will take care of the numbers. God will take care of the strategies. God will take care of the methods. And when we start with pure hearts, everything we do will be pure.”
Finally, Luter said, purity has a destiny. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. That means spiritual discernment, he said, but also the future physical enjoyment of God’s presence in glory.
In the meantime, he said, Christians can live purely on purpose by following the admonition of Philippians 2:5-8 and imitating the attitude, authenticity and actions of Christ.
“The character of purity in ministry comes with a high call,” he said. “However, we can be encouraged by this: Christ died and rose for us, so we can live pure for Him.”
A call to kindness
“If you’ve been in ministry more than a month, you can recognize unkindness,” Michael Cloer said. “We live in an unkind world. Even if the church world, it seems it’s seeped into our environment.”
But just as unkindness is easy to spot, kindness is clearly identified too, in the person of Jesus Christ. Cloer, a long-time pastor serving as network mission strategist for the Cape Fear Network of Baptist Churches in Wilmington, North Carolina, encouraged leaders in a pastoral talk on the spiritual fruit of kindness.
He noted the Greek word for kindness, “chrestos,” is only one letter different from “Christos,” the word for anointed one. If we want to know what kindness is like, Cloer said, we need only to look to Jesus. He is kindness personified. The more we hang around Him, the kinder we are, he added.
‘Gateway to the gospel’
“Kindness is not natural. Kindness is supernatural. The kindness that the Bible talks about — the “chrestos” — is the very character of Jesus Christ.” His kindness leads us to repentance, Cloer said. It’s the gateway to the gospel and the pathway to biblical proclamation.
“Kindness is what sets the stage for us to be able to talk to people about Jesus Christ. It softens their hearts. It’s the greatest tool of evangelism we have.”
He ended his talk with a call to kindness here and now.
“Brothers, can I admonish all of us? Let’s choose to be kind. Put it on. Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s not start when we get back to our fellowships, let’s start now. Let’s choose to be kind.”
To view more photos from Luter’s message, click here.
To view more photos from Cloer’s pastoral talk, click here.