Becomes Leader Of Millions
Fred Luter, Jr was born in New Orleans in 1956. He and his four siblings grew up in the city in the Lower 9th Ward. His parents divorced, and he was raised mostly by his mother, who made her living as a seamstress and a surgical scrub assistant in a hospital. She strung together several part-time jobs to make ends meet and provide for the family.
Even as a youngster Fred was active in the church. A terrible motorcycle accident in 1977 left him with shattered bones in his left leg and serious head injuries. That incident was what he calls his “Road to Damascus” moment, referring to the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience in the Bible. The time Fred Luter spent as a patient in New Orlean’s Charity Hospital gave him time to think. At age twenty-one he made the decision to devote his life to Christ.
He began working as a gospel disc jockey as a sideline. His full-time job was as a commodities clerk at a brokerage firm. Luter had no church in which to preach, so he began as a street preacher. He set up shop on the corner of Galvez and Caffin Avenues in New Orleans every Saturday at noon and preached to anyone who would listen.
(Author’s note: Biblical examples of street-preaching are mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4); Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); and Paul preached to the people of Athens in the public square (Acts 17:16). All were in the open air.)
People heard him street-preaching and were impressed enough that he was invited to preach his first church service in the Law Street Baptist Church in 1983. By 1986 he was preaching regularly at Greater Liberty Baptist Church. It was while serving there that he learned about an opening at the financially struggling sixty-five member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. By this time his preaching had gained him a reputation, and with blinding speed he was ordained and installed the same day as the new Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
He worked a bi-vocational life. He had advanced to vice-president of the brokerage firm and worked there during the daytime. He would work at the Franklin Avenue Church in the evening. He enrolled at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and took classes at night. He served the church as the Sunday preacher and fit funerals and other church concerns into his workday during the week.
He immediately saw a need to attract men to the church. He reasoned that men are head of the family; if he could get men to come to church, then wives and families would follow. On several occasions he invited men to his home to watch special sporting events; while they were together, he would make his pitch for the Lord.
Luter created an outreach strategy he called “FRANgelism”, an acronym for Friends - Relatives - Associates - Neighbors. He believed in acts of networking and that everybody needs to be a missionary and bring people to Christ. By 1989 the church membership had grown from 65 to 300 members.
The church continued to explode with growth. The leadership told him that they needed him to come to the church on a full-time basis, which he did. By 1994 the church was bursting at the seams and additional services had to be scheduled. A building program was begun and enough money was raised over the next three years to construct a new facility that could accommodate 1,500 people.
The church continued its growth and became one of Louisiana's largest churches. By 2005 membership reached 7,000 people. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the church took on more than eight feet of water and was destroyed. Personally affected by the flooding of their own homes, many of the members scattered across the United States. Some lived with relatives or friends. Others abandoned New Orleans and resolved to rebuild their lives elsewhere.
Though it was a herculean task, Fred was determined to find these members, convince them to return to New Orleans and to rebuild the church. He began the painstaking process of trying to locate the members and get them to return home. He travelled all over the United States and preached in cities where they had resettled. New FABC churches were established in cities like Baton Rouge and Houston, but he was determined that there had to be an FABC church in New Orleans to serve those members who had managed to return back home.
The all-embracing First Baptist Church in the Lakeview area of New Orleans had not suffered major damage and was able to reopen a few months after the New Orleans tragedy. The pastor there, Pastor David Crosby, and Fred Luter worked out a deal. Luter was able to hold worship services at 7:00 AM on Sundays at Crosby’s church, before the scheduled services for the First Baptist congregation. Through this period Luter spent his time rebuilding the FABC membership. On April 6, 2008, Pastor Fred Luter, Jr. welcomed his congregation back to a new sanctuary. The church membership at FABC has continued to grow, and there are plans to raise the money for an even larger sanctuary!
Fred Luter, Jr., who had started as a street preacher, was elected president of the American Southern Baptist Convention in 2012 and was reelected in 2013. It is the largest Protestant denomination in America consisting of sixteen million members and 45,000 churches. When the American Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 it was steeped in its support of slavery and segregation. It shed that mantle when Fred Luter, Jr. became its first black, African-American president.
Luter has said, “We’ve had some differences of opinion, [between members] but the problem is that while we are arguing about these topics, lost men, women, boys, and girls are dying and going to hell every single day. Time is running out. We do not have time for debate. We do not have time for arguing. The world needs to know that Jesus saves…for the sake of those who are lost.”
One of the things that’s very obvious in the life of Jesus is a concern for people. “Red, yellow, black and white—they are all precious in his sight.”
EVANGELISM - the commitment to or act of publicly preaching the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NASB