Roy Fish extols pastors to preach Christ crucified & resurrected
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptists are in danger of losing their evangelistic passion, Roy Fish, professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned during the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference June 20.
"Much preaching has become the theories of men rather than the Word of God," Fish said. "Sermons have become psychological doses of uplift."
Fish said he is concerned that "it takes 42 of us 365 days to win one person who confesses faith in Jesus Christ" and that 10,000 SBC churches would not be able to cite a single profession of faith last year.
This problem, he said, can only be corrected by returning to the New Testament preaching displayed amply by the apostles.
Fish said his sermon was a call "to redefine our primary message in preaching to this postmodern world -- a world very much like the world confronted by the Apostle Paul 2,000 years ago." Paul's method of preaching, described in Ephesians 3:8, was that of preaching "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Paul, and Peter like him, seemed to place little confidence in fine speech or apologetic sermons, Fish said. "Jesus was the message hot on the lips of the apostles," he said. "Jesus was the introduction, the body and the conclusion.
"Peter might have called for a march or put bumper stickers on chariots; he could have challenged the social ills of the day. But he didn't do that, even though he would have been applauded. He preached Jesus and 3,000 people were saved," Fish said.
Ministers must return to preaching Christ crucified and resurrected, avoiding theories that human beings conjure up, Fish said. This preaching helps humanity to know that Christ is acquainted with the suffering of humanity. "If we show our people Calvary, towering over the wrecks of time, our preaching will not be in vain," Fish said.
This message is not easily accepted by the lost of the world, he said. "Today's Athenians still mock the resurrection ...," Fish said. But he said that ministers shouldn't take insults to the Gospel personally, for a minister's first calling is not to defend the Gospel of Christ. His calling is to preach it.
"Spurgeon said, '[T]he Gospel is like a lion -- you don't have to defend him, just turn him loose,'" Fish said.
Fish said that this desire to preach Christ has always been what separated Southern Baptists from other denominations. The mission of Southern Baptists, he said, has been to share Good News rather than good advice. "If there has ever been a slight departure on this, let there be a major emphasis on return," Fish said.
In calling on Southern Baptists to return to preaching Christ, Fish said he was not trying to limit the preaching of pastors. He said that they would never exhaust the riches of Christ in preaching. "You are never going to run out of material preaching Jesus," he said. "Lift him up and see that he draws sinful people to himself."
Participants at the Pastors' Conference honored Fish, now in his 40th year as a professor of evangelism, for doing just that -- exalting Christ with dedication and giving his life to train younger ministers to do the same.
Following a special video presentation that featured comments about Fish from SBC leaders such as former SBC President Adrian Rogers and Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, Pastors Conference President Steve Gaines presented Fish with a love offering of more than $31,000 collected from the participants at the conference.
"He could have gone to any of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, and he could have made a lot more money than he did as a seminary professor," Gaines said of Fish before presenting him with the offering.
A few years after he was saved at age 19, Fish said he knew that God was calling him to teach evangelism. He said God revealed to him in 1957 that the place he would teach would be Southwestern Seminary. Eight years later, he received an "expected surprise" when Southwestern Seminary President Robert Naylor invited him to teach at the seminary. "I have been afraid to uproot because God rooted me so deeply here," Fish said of Southwestern.
Patterson said that the spirit of B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Seminary, and L.R. Scarborough, the school's first professor of evangelism and second president, is embodied in Fish. "He is the spirit of evangelism walking across this campus," Patterson said.