BAPTIST MADNESS 2017: First Round, Part 4

The polls for the fifth and sixth match ups have closed. The two advancing pastors are: From #5, with 76% of the vote, Pastor Adrian Rogers advances, From #6, with 57% of the vote–in the most closely contested match up thus far, Pastor Isaac Backus advances.

Now for the final set of match ups in the First Round!

Match Up #7


[Adapted from article “A Man of Many Firsts: George Liele” at ChristianTimeLines website:; and from article “Liele 1st Baptist missionary from America” at Baptist Press website: ]

George Liele
George Liele

George Liele (1750-1820) was a man on the go. He began his life as a slave on a plantation in Virginia and died a free man in Jamaica. In between he was an ordained preacher, traveling evangelist, church planter, and missionary. And, in most cases, he was the first African-American to hold that title.

Liele was born into a slave family owned by Henry Sharpe in Virginia. Sharpe was Baptist and a deacon. In 1773 at the age of 23, Liele became a Christian at the Buckhead Creek Baptist Church. He soon if not immediately wanted to preach, and Sharpe and the Baptists allowed him to do so. (In those days in order for one to preach he had to be “licensed,” not just anyone could preach publicly.)

He traveled and preached at numerous plantations (with a white preacher named Wait Palmer). (The first first: He might have been the first African-American traveling revivalist.) While preaching at Silver Bluff, SC, a young slave named David George was converted. The owner of the Silver Bluff plantation was one George Gaulphin. He allowed his slaves to receive preaching (some slave owners did not) in one of his barns. As the Revolutionary War drew closer, Liele and Palmer were not able to travel as freely. Because of their restricted travel, they left David George in charge of the small (eight slaves) church in Silver Bluff in 1774. George learned to read the Bible with the help of white children, and the church grew to perhaps thirty-five members at its height. (The second first: This church, founded in part by Liele, may have been the first Black Baptist church in America headed by an African-American. The third first: It may have been the first Black church in America.)

Even though he traveled great distances and preached at many plantations, Liele was still technically a slave. This ended perhaps in the next year (1775) when Liele’s owner, Sharpe, set him free. In that same year, on May 20th, Liele was ordained as a minister. (The fourth first: Liele may have been the first ordained African-American Baptist minister, if not the first ordained African-American minister.)

Sharpe died during the Revolutionary War, and his heirs wanted to re-enslave Liele. At that time the British were in control of Savannah, GA, and Liele fled there. He stayed in Savannah, preaching, baptizing many (including his wife), and starting churches. Today, both the First African Baptist Church and First Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah claim Liele as founder.

When the British withdrew from Savannah, Liele and his family left also. They went to Jamaica in January 1783 where Liele became an indentured servant to the Governor of Jamaica. In less than two years, Liele paid his debt to the Governor and became a free man. As was his nature, he began preaching. (The fifth first: Since he was first in America and then went to another country, some consider him the first Black American foreign missionary. The sixth first: He was probably also the first American foreign missionary.) His preaching was so successful, that he was soon pastor of a church with 350 members and a church building. (The seventh first: This was the first Black Baptist church in Jamaica).

Liele spent the remainder of his life in Jamaica. At his death he had four children by his wife and countless spiritual children because of his ministry.

“Many Baptist historians have heard Liele’s name but few know his significance to the denomination”, said Carlisle Driggers, executive director emeritus of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and one of 14 co-authors of the book, George Liele’s Life and Legacy.

“George Liele was really and truly the first Baptist missionary; there’s no way to get around it. Even before William Carey, or Lott Carey or any of those persons who are so celebrated in Baptist history, there was George Liele,” Driggers told Baptist Press. “And George went out on his own. He was not funded by any missionary society or any group whatever.”

Driggers and others compare Liele to the Apostle Paul of the early Church.

“[Liele] was a missionary if there ever was a missionary. Just like Paul, on his own, he went from place to place. Everywhere he went he preached the Gospel. They’d put him in jail; he’d get out, he’d start a church,” Driggers said. “But everywhere George went or where his disciples went, they’d start churches.”


[Adapted from article “Senior Pastor: Fred Luter, Jr” at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church website: ]

Fred Luter
Fred Luter

Pastor Fred Luter, Jr., is the Senior Pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and the first African American to be elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Fred Luter began his ministerial journey on what he refers to as his “Damascus Road Experience”.  In 1977, a motorcycle accident seriously injured his body but ultimately saved his soul! As a result of the accident, he made a conscious decision to surrender his life entirely to Jesus Christ. Every Saturday on the street corners of Galvez and Caffin Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Luter would share the gospel to all who would listen.

In 1983, God elevated Luter and equipped him to preach his first sermon at the Law Street Baptist Church in New Orleans. Three years later while preaching at Greater Liberty Baptist Church, Luter learned of the opening at Franklin Avenue and applied for the position as pastor.

In September of 1986, the small but faithful 65 members of Franklin Avenue elected Fred Luter as their pastor. This young street preacher from the Lower Ninth Ward was humbled and honored to serve this church as his first pastorate. This first time pastor committed himself to encourage the people by preaching, teaching and living the Word of God. Dedicated to saving the family, Pastor Luter purposely sought ways to draw men to the church. His belief has always been that if you save the man, the man would save his family.

By 1989, Pastor Luter had grown FABC to over 300 members. By 1994, the church could no longer accommodate the crowd in their current building so Pastor Luter challenged his congregation to increase their tithes and offerings to build a larger sanctuary. In March of 1997, God rewarded their faithfulness and Franklin Avenue moved their growing membership into an 1800 seat sanctuary. By 2005 prior to Hurricane Katrina, FABC grew to over 7,000 members. Currently, FABC is still growing and Pastor Luter has shared a vision with the congregation to build a 4,500-seat sanctuary through its Capital Campaign “Committed to Changing More Lives”.

Pastor Luter’s strategy for church growth is embedded in his concept he calls “FRANgelism”—the acronym “FRAN” standing for Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors where he encourages his congregation to invite those individuals they already have a relationship with to come to church with them.

Pastor Luter’s commitment to his family, his passion for church growth, and his love for God’s Word and God’s people led him to make history when he was unanimously elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant Denomination in America, in June 2012. He travels all across the country preaching at state conventions, associations, colleges, revivals and churches.

Pastor Luter was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He is married to his “Prime Rib” Elizabeth, who is the most influential person in his life. They are the proud parents of one daughter Kimberly Luter Terrell (Howard) one son Fred “Chip” Luter, III (Jasmine) and the grandparents of two grandchildren, Fred IV “Drew” and Zoe Grace Luter.

Match Up #8


[Adapted from article “Charles Stanley” at Wikipedia website:; and from article “Dr. Charles F. Stanley” at First Baptist Church Atlanta website: ]

Charles Stanley
Charles Stanley

Charles Frazier Stanley (born September 25, 1932) is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in northern Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries and also served two one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984 to 1986. Modeling his ministry after the apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians, Dr. Stanley believes that:

” … Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24 LB).

Dr. Stanley’s earliest childhood memories are of God’s support during the difficult circumstances following the death of his father. Through the counsel and example of his godly mother and grandfather, he learned to trust and obey God’s Word. At the age of 14, Dr. Stanley received a clear call to the ministry, which later led him to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, and a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He then earned the degrees of Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta. Always practical, Dr. Stanley often says, “I feel I cannot honestly tell you how to believe Bible truths, and put these truths to work in your life, until I have first let God work them into my own life.”

In 1971, Dr. Stanley became senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta, Georgia. In 1972, a half-hour program was launched on an Atlanta-area television station. Looking for a practical Bible-teaching program, the Christian Broadcasting Network contacted Dr. Stanley in 1978 to request the program inclusion on its new venture, a satellite distribution network to cable systems. At no cost to First Baptist Church, the broadcast grew from 16,000 local Atlanta viewers to a nationwide audience in one week. By 1982, In Touch Ministries was incorporated and began radio syndication. The In Touch program penetrated almost every major market in the United States during the 1980s, reaching more than 1 million households with the message of Christ’s sufficiency for life’s demands.

Today, Dr. Stanley can be heard in every nation on earth via radio, shortwave or television broadcasts. In the United States, the In Touch television program is seen on 204 stations and seven satellite networks. The In Touch radio program is heard on 458 stations and via shortwave radio. The ministry continues to produce audio- and videotapes, CDs, DVDs, pamphlets, books and an award-winning daily devotional magazine, In Touch.

Dr. Stanley’s messages tackle such issues as parenting, finances, personal crises, emotions and relationships. Instructional teaching for personal spiritual growth focuses on prayer, the character of God, fellowship through the Holy Spirit and the Person of Jesus Christ. Dr. Stanley fervently believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, a belief strongly reflected in his teaching.


[Adapted from article: “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Brief Biography” at VictorianWeb website: ]

Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Victorian England’s best-known Baptist minister, was born on June 19, 1834 in Kelvedon, Essex and spent his childhood and early teenage years in Stambourne, Colchester, and Newmarket. In 1856 he married Susannah Thompson; their only children, twin sons Thomas and Charles, were born on September 20, 1857.

Spurgeon had no formal education beyond Newmarket Academy, which he attended from August 1849 to June 1850, but he was very well-read in Puritan theology, natural history, and Latin and Victorian literature. His lack of a college degree was no hindrance to his remarkable preaching career, which began in 1850, when he was only fifteen years old. A few months after his conversion to Christianity, he began preaching at Teversham. The next year, he accepted his first pastorate, at the Baptist Chapel in Waterbeach. The church quickly grew from fewer than a dozen congregants to more than four hundred, and Spurgeon’s reputation as a preacher caught the attention of New Park Street, London’s largest Baptist church. He was invited to preach there in December 1853 and, following a brief probationary period, he agreed to move to London and become the church’s new pastor.

Spurgeon’s New Park Street congregation grew rapidly as well, soon becoming too large for the 1200-seat auditorium. On August 30, 1854, the membership agreed to enlarge the chapel; during the remodeling, services were held at the 5,000-seat Exeter Hall, a public auditorium in Strand Street. The renovations to New Park Street were complete in May 1855, but the chapel was still too small, and in June a committee was formed to oversee the construction of the church’s new home, the 5,000-seat Metropolitan Tabernacle. The congregation moved once again, meeting in Exeter Hall and the 8,000-seat Surrey Gardens Music Hall until the Tabernacle was dedicated on March 18, 1861.

Spurgeon began publishing shortly after he started preaching. In January 1855, Passmore and Alabaster inaugurated the “Penny Pulpit,” publishing one sermon every week; the series continued until 1917, a quarter-century after Spurgeon’s death. Every year these sermons were reissued in book form, first as The New Park Street Pulpit (6 volumes, 1855-1860) and later as The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (57 volumes, 1861-1917). Spurgeon published scores of religious books in addition to his sermons; the most significant works include Lectures to My Students (1890), a collection of talks delivered to the students of his Pastors’ College, and the 7-volume Treasury of David (c. 1869), a best-selling devotional commentary on the Psalms.

Spurgeon’s work in London was not limited to preaching and sermon-publishing. He also served as president of the Pastors’ College, which he founded in 1857; established the Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and girls in 1879; and oversaw evangelistic and charitable enterprises such as almshouses, organizations for distributing food and clothing to the poor, and a book fund for needy ministers.

Spurgeon’s preaching was both enormously popular and highly controversial. The “Down Grade” controversy began in 1887, when Spurgeon published a series of articles declaring that evolutionary thinking and liberal theology threatened to “Down Grade” the church. In this case, he was concerned with what he believed to be doctrinal error, particularly Unitarian ideas, within the Baptist Union. He discussed his concerns in private letters to ministers such as Samuel Booth and Joseph Parker and in several articles published in The Sword and the Trowel, the Metropolitan Tabernacle’s monthly periodical. When these articles did not receive the response Spurgeon wanted–the matter was not discussed at the Union’s 1887 meeting in Sheffield and some members of his own congregation dismissed or made light of it–he concluded that he had no choice but to resign from the Union, which he did on October 28.

Illness forced Spurgeon to keep a low profile during the last few years of his life. He preached his final sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on June 7, 1891. He died in France on January 31, 1892; on February 9, over 60,000 people filed past his casket in the Tabernacle. He was buried at Norwood Cemetery on February 11.

This final part of the First Round of Baptist Madness 2017 concludes on March 17. Remember to check back in each day between now and then to continue voting to advance your pick in these final match ups! March 17 will also be the beginning of the Second Round of our friendly competition.


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