Dr. Fred Malone was gospel-centered before being gospel-centered was cool. I made that statement yesterday in my sermon at First Baptist Church of Clinton, Louisiana, during special services that were planned in honor of the 20th anniversary of his ministry as their pastor. I’ve know Fred for over 30 years and during that time he has become one of my closest friends on earth. From my earliest conversations with him about ministry and preaching he has always emphasized that preachers must not merely preach about Christ, but “preach Christ!”
Long before the modern conversation on gospel-centrality Fred was encouraging ministerial students and pastors to read the Bible and preach biblical sermons that exalt Jesus Christ. In those nascent days of the revival of the doctrines of grace among Baptists, Fred’s counsel was greatly needed by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. That remains true today.
As I listened to the testimonies of members of FBC yesterday the one recurring theme that came from young and old, new convert and experienced believer was gratitude to God for Fred’s Christ-centered ministry. One life-long member summed it up well when she described to me the first sermons Fred preached at FBC 20 years ago. “He said that we need to learn that Christ plus nothing is all we need. If we have Christ, we have everything.” By her own admission it took her a few years to grasp the significance of that truth but, once she did, “it changed—and continues to change—everything.”
Fred has written one of the most definitive books on believers’ baptism in modern history. I highly commend it. He has also given lectures on covenant theology that are well worth hearing. But if you want to learn Christ, or want to learn how to preach Christ, listen to his week-by-week sermons. Better yet, plan a trip to the small town of Clinton, that is about 30 miles north of Baton Rouge, and worship with the good people of FBC some Sunday. You will meet a grace-saturated people whose lives are being shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ through the ministry of one of the finest gospel preachers I know.