Dr. David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando and president of the Florida Baptist Convention, doesn’t hesitate to challenge his congregation to act on its faith, not just proclaim it.
"Faith is not what you say. If saying something is all that it is, it would have had impact," Dr. Uth told Palm Beach Atlantic University students during chapel services on Wednesday.
See a portion of Dr. Uth's Oct. 12 PBA chapel message.
Dr. Uth said that as a young man, he learned rather early that sometimes faith was just about showing up. Then about two years ago, God challenged his definition of faith.
"I won’t ever look at it the same way again," he said. "And I’m asking for a generation to redefine faith in the local church because, guys, it’s not just showing up. It’s so much more."
Based on the teachings of the second chapter of James, he said, faith can be defined as compassionate generosity, sacrificial obedience and uncalculated risk.
The reason we’re not good at compassionate generosity is that we think that all of our material possessions are ours, he said. "To say I'm giving something to help someone out, you’re not giving anything from you. God owns it all."
|Dr. David Uth (center) poses with Dr. Randy Richards (left), dean of the School of Ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Bernie Cueto (right), campus pastor at PBA, following chapel service on Wednesday.|
"We had 1,000 people get out of their seat and walk to the front to join the person in need and say, 'I'm going to live this out. I'm going to demonstrate faith by compassionate generosity,'" he said. "Our church has never been the same."
Faith also requires people to give up things that are precious to them, the way Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in the book of Genesis, and it involves uncalculated risk, as the prostitute Rahab demonstrated in the second chapter of Joshua, he said.
Sometimes that involves acting on our gifts that we are inclined to keep hidden, he said. "If God put it in your heart, He intended you to do something with it."
Dr. Uth said his church took a risk when it decided to open its doors to local prostitutes for a day, showering them with love, clothing, jewelry and gifts. He called on members of the church to donate items for the event.
"I said to them, 'I don’t want your garbage. I want your best. Because if we’re going to do this in the name of Jesus, His name is great. He deserves the best.'"
One woman responded by bringing a $1,500 purse, he said. The first year, 300 prostitutes came. The event has been held annually for the past three years, he said, and it has turned many of the women’s hearts to God.
"Faith means when God gives me an idea, I’m going to take the risk," he said.