FIRST-PERSON: Thank you, Southern Baptists

AUBURN, Ala. (BP)--I am a thankful Christian. Since God redeemed me at the age of 17 through the ministry of a Southern Baptist church in Jacksonville, Florida, I have seen His greatness revealed in ways too numerous to count.

I praise the Lord that He has given me eyes to see His goodness and mercy, and thankful that He changed my heart with the gift of His Spirit. The Beloved Apostle wrote in John 21:25 that were the actions of our Savior to be recorded in detail, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." I often feel the same way when recounting my blessings in Christ. They are so numerous and amazing that words often fail me in my times of private and corporate worship.

Our God is a great God. Not only has He blessed me by adopting me into His family, He gave me a loving, Christian wife, two wonderful children that have come to trust Christ as their Savior, and the opportunity to belong to several churches that esteemed Christ and loved me as their pastor.

Another significant way in which our Father has blessed me is with my varied relationships with the Southern Baptist Convention. In mid-May, I received the doctor of philosophy degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. As I walked across the stage and was called Dr. Bonts for the first time by the seminary's president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., it marked the culmination of 12 years of theological education that began in 1997 at The Baptist College of Florida.

Throughout those years, I have sat under the tutelage of men of God who were educated in Southern Baptist institutions and supported by Southern Baptists churches from across the country. When I made my semester tuition payments, they were supplemented by the sacrificial giving of men and women who would never meet me, but believed that God-called men and women should be trained well for Christian ministry. I studied in classrooms and libraries built upon the cooperative giving of Christians of the SBC that have worked together for more than 100 years to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My theological education would not have been possible if not for churches that gave faithfully to the Cooperative Program of the SBC.

While I was pursuing my Ph.D., I was called to plant a church in Indiana. Once again, Southern Baptists assisted me greatly in my endeavors. I was commissioned as a Nehemiah church planter with the North American Mission Board. As a result, I received financial support and insurance for my family. Through Southern Baptists' faithful support of the Cooperative Program, a church was planted in Southern Indiana which is now flourishing and being used by God to reap a harvest for His glory.

Our God is a great God. Thank-you, Southern Baptists, for being used by Him to be a blessing in my life. Thank you for giving to the Cooperative Program of the SBC. Thank you for investing in my theological education and training for ministry. I believe the future of the SBC is bright. I look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the Kingdom of God in Christ. May God receive great glory from our cooperative service and use it to bring many to faith in Christ.


Chris Bonts is senior pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

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