By Karen Brewer
Braxton Hunter felt the call to the ministry at the age of 17 while on a mission trip to a church in Michigan with his church’s youth group. He explained to this writer, in an interview with The Christian View, how he felt the certainty of God’s call on his life. “We were praying about what we were going to do as a group,” he said. “I’m not one that asks God for a sign, but I said, ‘God, I really feel that you’re leading me into the ministry, but I need to hear from you in a very direct way. I’ve read your word. I’ve studied. I’ve prayed. I’ve tried to hear from you what it is that you want me to do. I just need some more confirmation.’ I looked up, and, right there, in the front of the church on the communion table, as most churches have, was the message, ‘This do in remembrance of me.’ That was all of the confirmation I needed, since I had already prayed and studied God’s word and felt I was being led that way.
“That was a very melancholy night for me, because I knew, at 17 years old, what I was going to do for the rest of my life, which is something a lot of 17 year olds don’t have the benefit of, but, at the same time, it was kind of bitter sweet, because I really didn’t want to go into the ministry. I’ve come to appreciate it and love doing God’s work now, but, at the time, I didn’t want to go into the ministry, because I had grown up in a minister’s family and thought, ‘When I get out of this, I’m going to run as far away from this as I can.’ But I think God used all of that to lead me to surrendering to the call.”
Hunter and his wife, Sarah, whom he calls a great influence in his life, reside in Evansville, Indiana with their daughter, Jolie. He is Executive Director of Trinity Crusades for Christ and is a visiting Professor of Apologetics at Trinity College and Seminary, where he earned his Master’s degree in Theology. (He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Pulpit Communication and is currently a Ph.D. candidate.) As an evangelist, Hunter preaches in crusades, revival services, and conferences, as well as at suicide prevention high school assembly programs.
In addition to evangelist Dr. Junior Hill, Hunter’s father, Dr. Harold Hunter, has made a profound impact on his life.
“Probably one of the greatest influences I’ve had is my father, who also was in full-time evangelism and who pastored a large church in Jacksonville, Florida. Trinity Crusades for Christ was started in 1991 by my father, and it is underwritten by Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana. He did his evangelistic work for 14 or 15 years.
“In 2006, I had been pastoring for five or six years and was pastoring at that time in McMinnville, Tennessee, about an hour south of Nashville. I don’t think of myself as a great preacher, but I’ve always felt that, if I have a gift, it’s evangelism. Our church was seeing record baptisms. We were seeing a record number of people come to Christ. Our church was growing. I realized that I have this strong desire to be in full-time evangelism. When my father became the President of Trinity College and Seminary, the ministry of Trinity Crusades for Christ would have dissolved. Those 15 years, people had been supporting it with prayer, churches regularly had my father come preach, and all of that would have fallen away. So, I prayed about it. I felt it was time to move into evangelism and this was a great opportunity, so I left Cornerstone Baptist Church, where I was pastoring at the time, and became Executive Director of Trinity Crusades for Christ.
“One of the unique features of the ministry, aside from the apologetics aspect that I brought in, was that it is underwritten by Trinity College and Seminary, which is a very rare thing. Most evangelists can hardly survive in this tough economic time, because they have to live week to week based on what a church might take up for them in a love offering. The seminary underwriting our ministry enables us to go to churches of any size, no matter how small. I preached in one of the largest churches in Nassau the Bahamas several years ago, and there were thousands of people. The very next week, I was in Cookeville, Tennessee and I was in a church with maybe 20. That’s one of the positive things that being connected with the seminary helps us, and I think that makes our ministry unique.”
At the age of 29, Hunter was elected as President of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) at a meeting of the June, 2010 Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Florida. “I’m the youngest who has been elected,” he said. “There was a panel discussion a couple of days before the vote. I was on that panel discussion, and it was about what an evangelist looks like and does in the 21st Century. Roy Fish, who is the eminent professor of evangelism, was also on that panel, so I was nervous as could be. Someone from the crowd asked a question: ‘Why would a young person want to go into evangelism today and want to become a member of this conference?’ I had to think long and hard about that question, and it led to my making a statement that we, as evangelists, need to reach out to young men who are feeling the call to the ministry, and we don’t need to present ourselves in a position of arrogance but humbly help them understand what needs to be true about them if they’re going to have a successful evangelistic ministry. Whatever I said caught the ear of a man named Bobby McFalls, because he nominated me a couple of days later, and I was elected. I think that there is no question that I was elected in hopes that the conference could reach younger evangelists and bring them into the conference. My goals for the Conference on Southern Baptist Evangelists are to reach out to young people and to bring in an important apologetics facet to the conference, because I believe that apologetics is going to be an extremely important part of the evangelistic ministry.
“Our ministry has a strong apologetics aspect to it. Apologetics is a defense of the faith. I became fascinated with the subject of Christian apologetics and being able to defend the faith in the face of atheism and skepticism in our day because, in high school, the valedictorian of our class, who was my best friend, started having strong temptations toward a homosexual lifestyle, though he had been raised in a conservative Christian home in a conservative Christian community and in a Christian school. In fact, this began a degradation of his faith, to the point that he claimed to be an atheist. He repeatedly challenged my faith, and it developed in me a desire to have an answer. I believe that scripture mandates that we do have an answer for people like that. My favorite verse, I Peter 3:15, says that we should be ready and willing always to give an answer to everyone that asks us a reason of the hope that’s within us. And so that was one of the major issues -- that friend falling away from the faith. I believe in eternal security. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation. But whatever happened with him, in turning away from the faith of his parents, that was a big impact.
“I guess another impact just as big, if not bigger, was when I was dating my wife. She had all of the right answers. I thought she had a good, Gospel testimony. She went to a church in Nashville, Tennessee, and it seemed like a harmless, non-denominational church. However, it turned out to be a cult, with the pastor claiming that he was co-equal with Christ as God. This led me to start asking her a lot more questions about her own faith, and it turned out she had never truly accepted Christ. I didn’t bring that to her attention. We were at a crusade where my father was preaching, and she surrendered her life to Christ that night. But the fact that that church existed and that it had deceived someone so close to me, who I thought was already a believer, also pushed me into not just evangelism but the apologetics ministry, as well. So those are two major issues in my life that probably shaped what my ministry looks like today.”
Hunter has written two books, Blinding Lights: The Glaring Evidences of the Christian Faith and the forthcoming Death is a Doorway.
“The first one I wrote when I was 25, the first year that I was in full-time evangelism,” he said. “With the rise of what is called the new atheism today, I really believe that this is the first time in the history of the United States that atheism is a socially acceptable position for a young person to take. With the things going on in my life, I realized that evangelists, in general, need to have an understanding of how to reach out to people of various belief systems and various world views, and people who are atheists. So I thought I needed to create a resource not just for the people in the churches to read and understand (because I believe that even church members are mandated to have an understanding of why they believe what they believe), but also for other preachers and pastors. So, with that in mind, I put together the first book, Blinding Lights: The Glaring Evidences of the Christian Faith. At the time, I was working on a Master’s degree, but I intentionally wrote it in as simple a way as I could, not because I don’t appreciate the intelligence of the pastors or churches, but I wanted it to be so that anybody in that congregation could understand completely what I was trying to say about how we can defend our faith in the face of evolution and atheism. I cover the evidences for the resurrection of Christ and the problems with false doctrine, such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I tried to make a one-volume resource for anybody who’s a believer to be able to defend their faith. That was the goal. The purpose of the title was I believe that these evidences that the Christian God exists are a blinding light -- they’re glaring. It’s obvious there is a God. So, that was the purpose of the first book.
“When writing the second book, I found that there are a number of sweet, older people in church who might be coming toward the end of their life, and there are people who experience death in the lives of people they love. In many of the churches I go into, there are men and women who have spouses who are dying overseas in Afghanistan. So, I wanted to put together a book on death, and I wanted to do two things. The first half of the book I want to be good Christian living material to develop, in a person who reads it, a proper Christian view of dying. In the next half of the book, I want to give the best evidence (even if you didn’t have the Bible) that there is life after death. I wrote that book intentionally for people who are dealing with death or maybe who have a fear of death. What I believe is unique is that I take the different kinds of death that people can experience, whether it be a child’s death, or suicide, or a military combat death, or death from old age, all of these types of death and others, and compare them to different types of doorways that people go through. So, I’m playing off the title there. ‘Death is a doorway. And what does your doorway look like?’ That’s the purpose of the new book, and I’m hoping that it will help people who are struggling with death and people dying, maybe someone who is facing death itself.”
As for books by others he enjoys reading, Hunter said, “I love to study books on Christian apologetics. I love to study books on theology and any book on the subject of Christian philosophy. Basically, any book that will give me a better understanding of how to reach the heart and mind of a lost person -- that’s the book I want to read.”
His favorite book of the Bible to preach from is Acts. “I would have to say the book of Acts, because it’s such an action-packed account of what happened when the church was very young, and I think it has so much to say for us today, because they were at the start of the growing church there, and receiving a lot of persecution. In today’s church, we aren’t seeing that kind of persecution, of course, yet we are in an environment that is growing more and more hostile to the faithful.”
He remembers the first sermon he ever preached. “I still occasionally preach on that passage of scripture, and I’d have to say that is probably the message that God has blessed the most throughout my ministry. It was on Deuteronomy 6:13-15, and it was on the subject of having a proper fear of God.”
He admires the character of David from scripture. “There is a human aspect to David that I really appreciate, because, like a lot of us, in many places in his life, he messed things up really bad, yet God still used him in a remarkable way.”
A favorite song is “How Great Thou Art.” “My father, in his evangelistic meetings, maybe once a week would sing the song, “How Great Thou Art.” Of all of the songs that I love, that one still grabs me the most.”
Hunter has traveled to the Holy Land on two different occasions. “I have been twice to Israel -- in 1995, when I was 15 years old, and, in 2005, when I pastored, I took a group over there. That was a life-changing experience, walking where Jesus walked, seeing the places He would have preached. It brings the Bible to life. It changes the way you read the Bible.”
Realizing that we need to let every experience change us to become effective witnesses for Christ is of vital importance.
“We should use every major and minor event in our lives to try to see people who don’t know Jesus Christ come to know Him,” he said. “I think that is the essence of evangelism.
“I think the condition of America right now is grim, but that does not mean there is not hope. Hope is found in the word of God, if we will indeed turn back to Him. The reason America is in the state it’s in is not the fault of lost people. Lost people are doing what lost people do -- sinning. It’s our fault for not reaching out to them in evangelism. I think there’s hope if the church will become evangelistic as they ought to.
“I would say to the lost person, ‘God loves you. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross to take your place, to pay for your sins. And if you have trouble accepting that, just know that there is good reason intellectually to believe that all of that is true, if you’ll just look for the answers.’ ”
Link: Braxton Hunter