In my four years of this job, I've come to appreciate good preaching, and I heard some of the best last night at Peaceful Rest Baptist Church in Shreveport. Dr. Stephen Thurston, president of the 3.5 million member National Baptist Convention of America, is the featured speaker at Peaceful Rest's two-day revival this week.
Like all visiting preachers, he covered a wide variety of topics, but they all tied back to his text from the gospel of Matthew about the money changers in the temple.
Thurston talked about how changing our practices is necessary to becoming better Christians, "Our salvation is authenticated by a change. If you never got changed, you really have nothing more than a tinkling cymbal."
In the passage, he said, Jesus wasn't condeming the act of selling goods in the church (I'm sure all the ladies' auxilliaries and youth groups were glad to hear that), but theivery, which he saw in the vendors. A similar sort of thievery he said can been seen in the church today when people come expecting great things from God without wanting to give anything.
"Even right here at the Peaceful Rest Baptist Church, some thievery is going on. Some of you came not to give God anything but to rob God of something," he said. "That’s one of the problems I have with some of what we’re hearing in the pulpits now – that which relates to prosperity."
He continued by reminding them that God doesn't owe anyone anything.
"You’re not doing God a favor by showing up here. You’re not adding anything to God," he said. "You didn’t get up this morning because you were so good or so holy. You are here by the grace of God."
If you want to hear more from Thurston, he'll preach again tonight at 7 p.m. at the church, 8200 St. Vincent Ave., Shreveport. And as a side note, their choir is awesome - I would have been happy to listen to them for two hours, but it wouldn't have left me much to write about.