I got a call from Thomas Hammond weeks ago telling me what he had planned for the annual session of the Georgia Baptist Convention in Savannah. Our president thinks big.
He told me that in the course of preaching his president’s address he was going to have Elizabeth Bailey (the cutest cowgirl in the state) sing “How Can It Be.” He was going to show a clip from the movie, Black Hawk Down, and then have Jeff Struecker, one of the principal soldiers who lived through the dramatic rescue in Mogadishu, come on the platform in his full military dress uniform for an interview. There was also another inspiring video Hammond used to accent a point in his sermon.
Hammond’s sermon was powerful and persuasive in and of itself, but with the addition of songs and testimonies and videos the president’s address became a veritable, divinely inspired, spiritual variety show. It was fabulous.
His appeal for pastors to become part of a prayer network was compelling. His call for Georgia Baptist churches to visit one million homes before Easter to bolster attendance on the Sunday we gather to celebrate the resurrection was a bodacious challenge. But, his idea about getting Derrick Moore to give us a pep talk as the last item on the Convention program was creative, if not mind-boggling.
A closing motivational speech and water pistols
Moore is the chaplain for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets’ football team. Interestingly, the Jackets’ head coach, Paul Johnson, does not address the team with a motivational speech prior to each game. That is the task assigned to Moore.
So, Hammond told me that he was going to have Moore give one of his motivational speeches to the messengers as the last thing they would hear before the annual session came to a close. Moore is pure intensity. Even in the Tech locker room he has an evangelical fervor to his oratory.
I have heard one of Moore’s “Go get ‘em” speeches before a Georgia Tech home game. I know he is a masterful persuader, a cheerleader, a prime mover, so I suggested to our GBC convention president, “Why don’t you ask Dr. White to give you the money to buy 1,500 water pistols to give to the messengers, because after Moore has finished his speech they will be prepared to go out of Calvary Temple Baptist Church and charge hell with a water pistol.”
When I mentioned the expenditure of money for water pistols to Dr. J. Robert White, he said, “Thanks, Gerald.” It didn’t happen, but I thought it was a good idea.
Something to shout about
Moore said he wanted to see Georgia Baptists win Georgia to Christ. He said, “We’ve got something to talk about – to shout about. If you go to Athens on a Saturday afternoon you will hear the ‘Dawg nation’ cheering wildly for their team. If you come to Atlanta on an autumn Saturday afternoon you will hear the folks at Bobby Dodd Stadium cheering loudly for the ‘Jackets’. If we can cheer for a football game, surely we can get vocal for the sake of the Gospel.
“We have a Savior who was born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, who went about doing good, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead for our salvation. Surely, we can raise the roof for our Savior.
“As I look out over this crowd I see many moving parts, but we all have one objective – to win the lost. It is going to take all of us to unite Georgia, but we can win the lost in our state if we do it together.”
Start a fire
“Let’s start a fire. Anybody got any matches? We must turn the Gospel loose,” he continued. “It is the Gospel of peace, love, grace, and hope. It is the Gospel that saves, that forgives sin. We must turn it loose. We must stand fast with one mind for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We have the Good News in a bad news world. The Gospel is the greatest news you will ever hear or tell. We have got to tell them the truth of John 3:16. That is our mission.
“Last week before we went into the stadium for the game with the Virginia Tech Hokies,” Moore thundered, “I told the team we were between a rock and a hard place, but when Jesus was in that grave He was between a rock and a hard place. He was in a grave – a hard place – and a rock. If he was going to get out of that grave somebody was going to have to move the stone. If we win this game somebody is going to have to move the stone.”
‘Get up and fight some more’
Then Moore resurrected a speech he used in 2007 when Georgia Tech went to South Bend, IN to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. On that day Derrick Moore lit a fire under the “Tech” football team. The best part of his speech was from a quote he remembered from his middle school teacher.
The Yellow Jackets’ chaplain shouted, “We’re going to fight until we can’t fight no more. We are going to lie down and bleed awhile. Then we are going to get up and fight some more.”
For Georgia Baptists, Moore added, “We will fight for the souls of men. If you think Jesus coming to earth wasn’t a fight for your liberty and mine, you are mistaken. We must fight for the souls of boys and girls and men and women in Georgia.”
I think we all left the meeting challenged. Hopefully, the message will be as effective upon Georgia Baptists as it was upon the Yellow Jackets in South Bend in 2007. They beat Notre Dame 33–3.