WARNER ROBINS – Matt Peek, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pelham and an emerging leader among Georgia Baptists, was the preacher of the doctrinal sermon on Tuesday morning of the annual meeting of the GBC. He began his remarks by expressing gratitude for his Georgia Baptist heritage.
He stated, “In my earliest years I was raised in a small Baptist church in Thomaston, where I sat under the preaching of a godly pastor who believed in the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program.
“I surrendered my life to the lordship of Christ when I was 15 years old, just up the road at the Macon Centreplex during what was then called Youth Evangelism Conference – an event sponsored by the generous gifts of Georgia Baptists. The very next day at that same conference the Lord called me to preach.”
Peek continued, “I was aided in my ministry by resources from the Georgia Baptist Convention. I received a seminary education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, sponsored in part by the generous gifts of Georgia Baptists.”
The Pelham pastor announced that he was preaching on the doctrine of dependency and used the passage in John 15 where Jesus declares that He is the vine and his followers are the branches and that abiding in Christ is the key to an effective ministry.
Peek used the devastating impact Hurricane Michael had upon southwest Georgia to illustrate his message. “One month ago, my little town was turned upside down when the hurricane made its path through our area. Most of the people in our area lost power, some for weeks. Electricity lines, phone lines, and our cellphone towers were down. We were completely disconnected and completely powerless.
“People were in a panic, because they had lost their power; and they bought $700 generators to try to get some kind of power. I discovered that if you lose your connection, you lose your power; and I am afraid that we have lost our power. It appears to me that our baptisms, our Cooperative Program giving, our attendance, perhaps even our holiness is in decline. I would argue that we are in decline because we have lost our connection. In verse 5 of our text Jesus said, ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ We need to return to an utter state of dependence upon God.”
Peek insisted that we will not bear fruit by association, by apathy, by arguing, by activity, but only by abiding in Christ.
First, of all, in this text,” Peek allowed, “Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience; and they were basing their relationship with God on their Jewish ancestry. They were good-to-go based on their association with Abraham.” In applying the text, he declared, “The Georgia Baptist Mission Board will not be fruitful just because we are the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. There is a name that means more than our name – Jesus. If we want to be fruitful, we must remain connected or associated intimately with Him.”
Second, Peek exclaimed that no one can bear fruit by apathy. “Every branch that does not bear fruit will be taken away and every branch that does bear fruit will be pruned in order to bear more fruit. If we do not bear fruit, we will be taken away. God doesn’t need the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, no matter how much we may love it; and if we don’t get serious about reaching people God will find someone else who will.”
Third, according to Peek, no one can bear fruit by arguing. He illuminates, “’Because of the word that (he) spoke to (them) they were clean.’ The Word of God is what makes us clean as well. Yet we spend so much time disagreeing and arguing about our differences – about Calvinism, our biblical role in politics, church polity and structure, but at the end of the day none of these things make us clean. What matters is the Gospel, not our differences. You can be doctrinally correct, but spiritually cold. You can be right, but not righteous.
“Fourth, no one can bear fruit by mere activity. Busyness does not necessarily equate with fruitfulness. You can talk all you want to about reaching Millennials, church growth, marketing strategies, retention, but if you want a surefire way to grow your church – abide in Jesus.
“We only bear fruit by abiding. There was a time when I got my personal paradigm mixed up. I was connected in all the right places. I was serving in a lot of roles. I was concerned with doctrinal preservation. I was busy – so busy that I convinced myself that God needed me. He needed me on that committee. He needed me at that meeting, He needed me to make that visit. He needed me to do that ministry. I had convinced myself that ‘apart from me, God could do nothing.’
“I was completely wrong. We have gotten the doctrine of dependency backwards. God really doesn’t need us, but we desperately need Him. May we cling to Him. May we be desperately dependent upon Him; and may He produce fruit in us and our convention for His glory.”