Mississippi College

Rev. Fred Luter Preaches to Mississippi College Students

February 5, 2013

College students are often far away from parents, grandparents, and youth pastors and must make daily decisions that have consequences, the Rev. Fred Luter says.

“Every choice you make should please your Heavenly Father,’’ Luter told hundreds of Mississippi College students at a chapel program Tuesday. “That’s what Jesus did.’’

Delivering a fiery and thought-provoking message at First Baptist Church Clinton, the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention urged students to carefully weigh their choices. “Every decision you make is either a blessing or a burden.’’

Luter advised students at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College to remember the consequences of bad decisions for celebrities like the late singer Whitney Houston, golf star Tiger Woods, or NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

The New Orleans pastor spoke of the need for students to develop a “renewed mind’’ to equip them when attacks come from the devil. “None of us is exempt from the attack of the enemy.’’

At various points during his sermon, scores of students stood up and applauded.

“He kept the focus on the Bible and turning your life around,’’ said senior Yolanda Johnson of Jackson from her seat on the back row of the large sanctuary. “He was great.’’

The pastor’s message “was awesome and interesting,’’ said MC junior Ki Brewster of Meridian, a future elementary education teacher.“ It was about doing what you are supposed to do – follow the Bible and refrain from sin.’’

Luter quickly struck a chord with his audience, said junior Cristina Moody, 21, of Star. “It was a great reminder to us as college students that the choices we make will affect our future.’’

Often waving his hands to make points and clutching the Bible during his talk, the former street preacher has served as senior pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church for the past 26 years.

Membership rose steadily at the New Orleans church from 65 members to 8,000 members by 2005, but many had to evacuate to cities like Houston, Texas after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. The church recovered and today has 8,000 members once again. Membership at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church is 99 percent African-American.

In June 2012, Luter attracted nationwide media attention when he was elected the first African-American president of the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention that dates back to 1845. The vast majority of its members at 45,000 churches across the nation are white.

Later in a question and answer session at the B.C. Rogers Student Center with students and faculty members, Luter spoke of today’s challenges facing pastors and congregations.

“We are living in a society that doesn’t honor God,’’ he said. “Spiritual warfare is real. The enemy wants to steal your joy and take back everything God has given you.’’

Asked to mention a few of his favorite pastors, Luter ticked off such names as Dr. David Jeremiah of  Shadow Mountain Community Church of  San Diego, Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. Evans, who has a widely syndicated radio broadcast, once spoke at Luter’s church in New Orleans.

Working as a minister is never easy, Luter said. “The enemy will encourage you to throw in the towel. We are in this thing for God.’’

Mississippi College leaders on hand for Luter’s Clinton visit included President Lee Royce, Vice President for Christian Development Eric Pratt, Wayne VanHorn, dean of the School of Christian Studies and the Arts, and Burn Page, chairman of the Department of Christian Studies and Philosophy.

In the fall, Luter delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in Jackson.

Photo: Rev. Fred Luter, President of the Southern Baptist Convention

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