SBTS grad ministers in wake of Iowa floods

Communications Staff — June 27, 2008

For one Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, recent flooding in the Midwest proved that a steady diet of biblical truth is the best medicine for hurting people.

“I told the congregation the Sunday before the flood, ‘You’re in one of two camps. You are suffering, or you’re going to suffer. That’s true of everybody here,’” Eric Schumacher, pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said. “And I said, ‘And the reason that I preach to you on the difficult doctrines that the Bible contains is because one day you’re going to be suffering. And I want you to have a foundation to stand on.’”

Within four days of that sermon, floodwaters swept away the home of one family in the church and another sustained massive damage to its business. But a biblical view of life helped Northbrook Baptist see the situation from a unique perspective, said Schumacher, a 2002 master of divinity graduate.

“It was just eye opening to say those things and then the next week see our city get hit with the worst disaster that’s ever struck it and to think, ‘You do need to be laying these foundations,’” he said.

The pastor’s first response to the floods was to launch a sermon series examining several aspects of the disaster. His initial sermon discussed the flood in light of the curse that befell humanity as a result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Our only hope, he told the congregation, is to trust Christ as our Redeemer who exercised dominion over the fallen creation and will create new heavens and a new earth where there will be no disasters.

Schumacher’s second sermon treated the flood as an
opportunity for Christians to comfort others because Christ has comforted them. The final two sermons were scheduled to cover how Christians should use their possessions to minister to people in need and how God’s sovereignty relates to disasters.

Schumacher’s ability to preach Scripture as a Christ-centered story that gives hope to ordinary men and women came largely from his training at Southern Seminary, he said.

“The biggest thing I took away from Southern was reading the Bible as redemptive history, reading the Bible as one storyline that all comes together in Christ,” he said.

One of the most encouraging experiences in the wake of the floods was to watch affected church members respond with godliness and grace, Schumacher said, noting that the business owner experienced a personal revival because of the damage he sustained.

“The first Sunday he just confessed to the congregation that he had been sort of a renegade the last couple of years and the Lord was really using this to break him and humble him and work in his heart,” Schumacher said.

In addition to seeing God work in their own lives, the church has also seen how ably Southern Baptist disaster relief crews can respond to natural disasters. Approximately 50 disaster relief workers helped the two affected families in the church cleanup, Schumacher said.

Because there are so few SBC churches in Iowa, Schumacher said many of his church members did not know how Southern Baptists do ministry cooperatively. Observing the disaster relief workers perform cleanup and serve meals provided a chance to see some of the work accomplished by giving to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ mechanism for jointly funding ministries and missions, the pastor said.

“To be able to see some of those Cooperative Program dollars at work—Southern Baptists are able to come together to do things like disaster relief—had an impact on people thinking about cooperation,” he said.

Although people often associate disaster only with sadness, Schumacher said he has drawn encouragement from seeing believers respond to trials with faith and even witness to their neighbors about the hope they have in Jesus.

“Just to see how their faith has been fixed on Christ through all of this has been really encouraging,” he said.

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