"We all talk about believing the words of Jesus," Tony Campolo declared just a few moments ago. But talk is cheap for Christians, he continued. "To be a follower of Jesus is to question every expenditure of your life."
Citing Bono as the "only good songwriter" these days, the well-known Baptist sociologist is challenging thousands of Baptists in the audience to a radical life lived for Christ. Consumerism and materialism have no place in Christianity, he preaches. Campolo is known for evoking grimaces and grins at the same time. I can't see the faces of the thousands sitting and listening to him right now, but I suspect there are a few pursed lips and furrowed brows as Campolo calls upon the followers of Jesus to ditch personal luxury purchases and instead use our resources to save the lives of children in Sudan.
We Baptists are usually more polite among ourselves than to seriously discuss the uncomfortable commands of Jesus to forsake our own comforts for the sake of the needy. Yet much of this New Baptist Covenant meeting is devoted to facing these uncomfortable demands.
"The same spirit that is in Christ Jesus can be in your mortal bodies," Campolo quotes from the Bible. "Rise up you suckers and go out and do the work of Jesus!" (not a quote from the Bible) he almost shouts as the camera pans to former U.S. President Carter, a Baptist layman who has devoted much of his life to helping the needy.
It's a hard message. Yet if Baptists can't come together in unity around the words of Jesus ... where is unity to be found?