Without a doubt, Curtis Hutson was one of the great independent Baptist influencers of the past generation. Great in the sense of both quality and quantity.
I remember as a young pastor how excited I was for him to come preach for our church that first time and how thankful I was for his gracious mentoring in my life. I have a book in my office with the many letters he wrote me over the early years of our ministry in Lancaster.
Dr. Hutson died of cancer twenty-one years ago this week, and I still miss him. (He would be eighty-one now, were he still alive.)
I was thinking this week of a few of the most significant ways Dr. Hutson influenced me. There are many more than these, but these are three that predominantly stand out:
1. Care for Souls
Dr. Hutson was a soulwinner. In every letter he wrote me before he would come preach, he would say, “Let’s pull out all the stops” as he would encourage us to “have as many unsaved people present as we possibly can.” In our services, he would greatly encourage our church family to be faithful witnesses and soulwinners.
But it was more than preaching. I was never with him in public places but that he didn’t give someone, and usually several people, a gospel tract. On many occasions, he asked questions to lead into a gospel presentation and led them to Christ.
It’s amazing to me how many pastors and evangelists preach great sermons on the gospel and our personal responsibility to the Great Commission—but don’t regularly go soulwinning or witness to people wherever they are. Dr. Hutson didn’t just love preaching; he loved souls.
2. Ministry Innovation
Dr. Hutson was a thinker and was never afraid of a new idea. It was Dr. Hutson who encouraged me to move to a two-service schedule on Sunday mornings when we were out of space—even though a two-service schedule at that time was primarily being used by the “seeker sensitive” movement of the 90s. It was a good solution to our problem of more people than space, and Dr. Hutson wasn’t bound by the opinions of others. (He was also the one who gave me incredibly wise counsel on when to begin—not in the middle of a building program when our church may lose sight of our need for space.)
Dr. Hutson wasn’t afraid to take a strong stand. In his book Punch Lines, he said, “You can’t be for something without being against something. You can’t love flowers without hating weeds.” He was orthodox theologically and separated ecclesiastically. But he was passionate about the Great Commission and was open to any biblical method to get the job done.
3. Personal Encouragement
Dr. Hutson was an investor in people. And I will be forever thankful that he was.
I’ve often spoken of the letter he wrote me from his deathbed, challenging me to stand in ecclesiastical separation.
I don’t know how much longer I have for this world. The doctor does not hold out much hope for me; however, life and death are in the hands of the Lord, not medical science.
I challenge you to take your place in the long line of independent, fundamental Baptists, who have stood for separation and soulwinning. I speak, now, especially of ecclesiastical separation. Hold that banner high until Jesus comes.
Dr. Hutson was concerned that young preachers would not give an uncertain sound to their flock by sharing preaching platforms with men whose doctrine was questionable.
But it wasn’t just that letter. It was his life. It was his consistent influence and investment in my life.
I have many letters from him of encouragement and admonition. I remember when I sought his counsel regarding beginning West Coast Baptist College, and I have his letter encouraging me to do so, as well as giving several admonishments regarding keeping our church the “home base” to train soulwinning preachers and maintaining balance as a pastor for our church family. (He also graciously wrote a wonderful recommendation letter for West Coast Baptist College.)
Looking back, Dr. Hutson, who was almost thirty years my senior, could have easily dismissed me as “some young preacher.” I’m more thankful than I can say that when I was in my twenties and early thirties he took time, effort, and interest to encourage me.
I could point out many more areas of Dr. Hutson’s influence, including his faithfulness right up to the end of his life. Indeed, I’ll never forget him singing at a pastor’s meeting in North Carolina shortly before his death in 1995. His body was filled with cancer, and his days were drawing to an end. The song he chose? “I’m on the Winning Side.”
He was (and is!), and I’m thankful for his influence in the lives of other soldiers serving the same Captain.