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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Julie Pennington-Russell @ Covenant Celebration

Tonight’s sermon at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant was given by Julie Pennington-Russell, Senior Pastor of the historic First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia. Before coming to Decatur, Julie was my pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Read my past posts about her here. The title of Pastor Julie’s sermon was “The Bible Speaks About Respecting Diversity.”

You can watch the Video HERE. Below are a few snippets from her sermon.

On Our Big Baptist Tent:

“Friends, that is no small accomplishment, we do have some diversity. At least this week we have racial diversity. Thank You Jesus!

We have other differences as well. Theological differences. We Baptists are People of the Book. We look to the pages of this Book, looking for guidance on every subject: War, Women in Church Leadership, Borrowing Money, Creation Care, Alcohol Consumption, Peacemaking, Speaking in Tongues, Role and authority of pastor in the church, miracles, interfaith relationships, abortion, immigration, death penalty, and human sexuality.

Some of our differences are small and some of our differences are substantial but as Baptists we agree to respect each other in our diversity.

A question jogging her mind:

Is this really the gift we came so far to give each other this week? Respecting diversity? Diversity. It’s a fine word. When we’re respectful of each other, God is in that. But truthfully, when you and I open the box and peel back the tissue, is respectfulness the gift we most wanted to find? Or is it something else?

Respect in the end has no power to change something that is fundamentally broken in you and me and between you and me. Only love can do that. Respectfulness is not a bad gift. It’s just that it runs out of steam at the 50 yard line. But love runs all the way down the field like Forest Gump – Out the Endzone and Into the Parking Lot!

The thing that gives me trouble is this. See I know, I have it in my power to be respectful of our differences and can keep you at arms length and even secretly harbor this prideful satisfaction that I am not like you. Love won’t do that. Love doesn’t give a hoot about propriety. And of course Jesus is the face of Love. And when He was here, didn’t he show us that?

It’s love y’all. Why is that so hard for us? And what they often find instead is pews full of people who seem to have figured out everything about Christianity except that it’s about Love. Above us, let’s not doubt that the love of Jesus Christ in Us and Throug Us has the power to change the world. We’re talking about real power.

Friends, there is power just as free and just as frightening running through your church and this room tonight. The power of love wants to blow a hole in our assumptions about each other. Love will uproot you. Love will dislodge you from the place you’ve been living. It’s love – that’s the gift!

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Anonymous Jeremy said...

BDW - thanks for the great coverage of the NBC and the shout-out. Hopefully I can meet you before the convocation is adjourned.

We are truly part of something special this week.

7:06 PM

Blogger dave said...


Thanks for the great job covering the NBC.

Did you see some of the folks from 1st Decatur there supporting her?

They had on shirts that had on the front bore her initials "JPR." On the backs read "She's my Pastor."

She is every bit called to preach by God as evidenced by her gift of preaching.

Again, Thanks for all you do.



1:31 PM


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