Hobbs’ Legacy Remembered

On the day after the fifth anniversary of the death of Herschel Hobbs, Dr. Jeffry Zurheide, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, considered the Baptist statesman's legacy during the Hobbs Lecture at Oklahoma Baptist University, Nov. 29. To reflect upon Dr. Hobbs' faith, message, and legacy, Baptists must presume what he would say if he were alive today, Zurheide said. "'You Baptists must continue to protect your precious Baptist freedoms,'" Zurheide conjectured. Throughout all of his deliberations and writings on Baptists' contributions to Christendom, Hobbs did not believe it was only salvation by grace or baptism by immersion that set Baptists apart, but a belief in "soul competency," he said. "Baptists' most unique contribution to Jesus' church universal, Herschel Hobbs believed, was and is ... 'the competency of the soul in matters of religion,'" he said. "I think if Herschel were with us this morning, he would indeed tell us, 'Protect these key Baptist freedoms - the freedom of the individual competent soul, and the freedom of the local Baptist competent church community.'" The freedom to minister, to do ministry in Jesus' name, or "priesthood of all believers" is a privilege and a responsibility that many believers take for granted, Zurheide said. Many people would find it difficult to determine the overlap of soul competency and priesthood of believer, he said. "The way I have come to distinguish the two is characterizing one under the rubric 'being' and the other under 'doing,'" he said. "The former has to do with our identity: we have competent souls. The latter explores what we do with such God-given competency: we serve." Freedom from the state, and religious liberty accompany the freedom to relate to God and the freedom to minister. "Why not make Christianity 'happen?'" he asked. "Why not legislate the Gospel and the dynamics of the Kingdom of God?" Because if we resort to anything but 'spiritual means' ... we essentially label as 'ineffective' the power and work of the Holy Spirit." And relying on our own power can become an easy substitute for the hard task of love, he said. If able to question Hobbs today on the state of time-honored Baptist freedoms, Zurheide supposed the Oklahoma pastor would repeat the words he offered at an OBU Hobbs Lecture in 1980, just 20 years ago. "Through the liberating work of Jesus Christ, we Baptists have believed from our humble beginnings that we have been 'untied,'" Zurheide said. "We've been untied, students, faculty, and friends. Let's stay untied. We're free. Please, please, don't ever let anyone take your Baptist freedoms away from you." Zurheide has been senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, since 1998. Dr. Hobbs was pastor of Oklahoma City's First Baptist Church from 1949-72. He delivered OBU's Hobbs lecture in 1980 and 1987. He died on November 28, 1995, at the age of 89. The Hobbs Lectureship program sponsors an annual series of lectures on the OBU campus or other selected sites. The lectures deal with Baptist theology, Baptist history, studies of the Bible and other related themes.