BRANSON, Mo. — Johnny Hunt
said he experienced a spiritual, emotional and physical “dryness through duty”
a couple of months ago after completing an intense two years as president of
the Southern Baptist Convention.
Hunt, pastor of the
Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, took time here during his
Timothy + Barnabas Pastors’ Conference Nov. 2-4 in Branson, Mo., to relay
several transparent statements about his recent bout with emptiness. After
advancing an epic set of reforms on the denominational level known as the Great
Commission Resurgence (GCR), Hunt found himself experiencing a “meltdown of
biblical proportions” like the Old Testament prophet Elijah did in 1 Kings 19.
He shared heart-felt truths with the conferees in various sessions so that they
would go home better equipped to handle similar situations.
Hunt talked about the
process of how he gradually found himself being separated from his wife of 37
years, Janet, due to all of the busyness that came his way. The concept of
Sabbath rest had become a stranger to him.
“I would start my day at
4:30 or 5 o’clock on Sunday and finish at 10 o’clock that night, go get in bed,
and be up early the next morning and head for the airport to get to something
with GCR or speaking engagements,” Hunt said. “Janet said, ‘You’ve got to be
tired,’ and I’d say, ‘I sleep pretty good on a plane — I’ll get a nap on the
way there.’ Janet would drive me and I’d sleep on the way to the airport, try
to slip it in. I was violating time and it bruised me. It bruised me.”
In January he underwent
surgery to remove a cancerous prostate. It may have been the Lord trying to get
his attention, Hunt said. But there were many more important meetings and
activities and strategy sessions to attend, so he went on with his busy
On Sept. 19 at First Baptist
Woodstock, Hunt preached a sermon on his experience. The notes for the sermon,
which he titled “Dryness Through Duty,” can be accessed through the church’s
website. Since then, he said he has been experiencing the grace, love and
healing of God as his priorities have been realigned.
His testimony in that
message was that he was “leading on empty.” Unable to bounce back, Hunt felt
spiritually, emotionally and mentally empty. All of that gripped him
physically, leaving him drained. He warned the pastors in Branson that
something similar could happen to them.
Hunt, who has been teaching
men in conferences for 19 years, has been thinking about his legacy. He is 58,
and statistics he has seen indicate that men, on the average, will die at 74.
In the recent case of the
Chilean miners who were trapped underground, Hunt said they asked for gospel
preaching to be piped in and received the words in Spanish of Adrian Rogers,
who has been dead since 2005. That told Hunt that Rogers is like Abel (Hebrews
11:4) who by faith still speaks, even though he is dead.
“I want to keep giving the
devil hell after I’m in heaven,” Hunt said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Palmeri
is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of congregations in the
Missouri Baptist Convention.)