Generation Pastor: The Friday Five with Johnny Hunt

From 2008 to 2010, Dr. Johnny Hunt was President of the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest and most influential body of evangelical churches. He pastors one of the largest SBC churches in the United States, the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, and has discipled thousands of men and pastors through the Pastors' Conference and his Timothy+Barnabas Ministry. It is an honor to speak with him for the Friday Five.

When did you first feel the call to pastoral ministry, and what keeps you going? 

I became a Christian in January of 1973, and two years later I began to sense that God was calling me to vocational ministry. I was not sure whether I would be a pastor, a missionary, or a teacher. I just felt a distinct call to surrender and prepare myself for what Christ had for me. 

My mentor, Dr. Adrian Rogers, once said that he had doubted his salvation but never his calling. I can concur with that. In the early days, as I was getting grounded, there were things that would rattle me as they pertained to my faith, but I can also say that I have never questioned my call. My call keeps me going.

You served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2008 to 2010. What was that challenge like? 

I had been asked for numerous years to allow my name to be put in nomination for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was not until early 2008 that I heard a clear, clarion call to permit myself to be nominated; even more, I sensed deep in my heart that God was giving me a vision and passion and clear direction for the Great Commission Task Force. Only time will tell the difference that my two years may have made. But one thing that I can say without a doubt is that I am confident it was God's sovereign will for me to lead at that time.

There seems to be a surge in more substantive, expository preaching these days. As an expository preacher, how does that make you feel? 

I was privileged to be taught expository preaching in 1977 by the great Dr. Stephen Olford, the prince of expositors. He gave me such a great appreciation for exegetical preaching—allowing that which is lifted out of God's Word to speak for itself, and being able to take a passage of scripture, or a book in the Bible, and work through it verse-by-verse, keeping it contextualized, and allowing it to speak with the power of the Word and the gospel. To see many young preachers embrace expository preaching is a joy unspeakable and full of glory! I feel that there has been so much of a mindset of being connected or being cool that we have moved away from being biblical. I rejoice in expositional preaching and expository preachers.

Although Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination, they're often misunderstood. What is the biggest misconception about the SBC? 

Some people believe there is a denominational hierarchy that controls our churches and passes down what we are to preach. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every church is independent. Yet, as you know, we choose to work together to make a difference among our neighbors and the nations of the world. One of the things that we need to learn within the context of Southern Baptist life is that we must have greater trust of each other: our leaders, our pastors, and all of our denominational entity leadership. I believe that God is going to bring that to pass. 

You have a great ministry to pastors. If you could give one piece of advice to a young pastor, what would it be? 

Nineteen years ago, the Lord gave me a ministry that I've entitled Timothy+Barnabas. For the last nineteen years I have been doing two things: attempting to instruct in the area of leadership, and encouraging young pastors. Every pastor needs a General in his life—someone out there ahead of him who has made some mistakes that can save him the heartache of going down the same paths. We all need a "Barnabas" beside us to encourage us, but we also all need a "Paul" to mentor and lead us. It's my prayer that God would use me to reach back to the generations behind me and add value to their work, their walk, and their witness. I encourage all pastors to have someone to speak into their lives and to hold them accountable, and to always stay teachable. They should attend some conference that would enhance their vision, increase their passion, and encourage them in their daily walk.