NASHVILLE (BP) — Conserving the Gospel is Russell Moore’s primary goal in the year ahead, the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethicist and religious freedom advocate told trustees in their annual meeting.
During his report to the board of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Sept. 16, Moore — the entity’s president — said his top priority in the next 12 months is “to set the course and set the tone for a Gospel conservatism that is anchored in the churches and addressing the outside world.”
To describe oneself as a conservative requires an explanation of what a person is conserving, Moore said. Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians have the opportunity to “test everything and hold fast to that which is good,” thereby practicing Gospel conservatism.
Basing his comments on Galatians 1:11-2:14, Moore said the Gospel conservatism the ERLC should foster this coming year requires conserving:
— “Gospel authority;
— “Gospel community;
— “Gospel ministry.”
[QUOTE@right@180=“[T]he most important arena for our mission is children’s Sunday School.” — Russell Moore]If the ERLC and others fail to maintain the authority of the Word of God demonstrated by the apostle Paul to the churches in Galatia, “then we have nothing to say and nothing to do,” Moore said. “We have to conserve a Gospel authority that is rooted in the fact that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
“We must be the people who are not ashamed of the Gospel and not ashamed of the Bible.”
Some revisionists are challenging biblical authority and adding a new apostolic authority on the issue of sexuality, he said.
“This is not a question of interpretation,” Moore said. “This is a question of apostolic authority.”
Like the false teachers in Galatia, these revisionists are saying the apostle Paul did not know what those in the 21st Century know about sexuality. “That is not an argument with a dead figure,” he said. “The argument is with the Holy Spirit, who did know in the First Century everything that we now know about sexuality and more.”
To conserve Gospel authority, Christians have to be the people “to speak with gentleness and kindness to lost people on the outside and to speak with fierce ferocity to false teachers who are on the inside, and we often have done exactly the opposite,” Moore told his audience.
Christians need a “deep knowledge” of Scripture to thrive in this century, he said.
The entity he leads will continue to work with the SBC’s seminaries, including through its ERLC Academy, to help future pastors and missionaries to think biblically in evaluating cultural issues, Moore said. The ERLC must prepare Christians not only to live an entire lifetime but to train the next generation for the unknown threats of another lifetime, he told the board. The ERLC Academy was held for the first time in May as an intensive, two-day training in ethics.
The ERLC’s target audience is actually even younger, he said.
“[T]he most important arena for our mission is children’s Sunday School, preparing a new generation of children to be able to recognize the authority of the Word of God and to be able to apply the authority of the Word of God to their lives under the Lordship of Christ and to what is happening in the ecosystem around them,” Moore said.
Conserving Gospel community consists of building “alliances outside of our immediate tribe,” equipping the next generation of Baptists and other evangelicals, and overcoming any ethnic divisions, he said.
“We must see to it that the future of the SBC is not a bunch of old, angry white men who have around us a few people that are African American and Latino and Asian Americans,” Moore told the trustees. “We must make sure that we are building the sort of connections where we are cultivating a new generation not to be ministered to — as though they are on the periphery — but to lead. That is an imperative that we have, and that is one of the great burdens I have.”
Conserving Gospel ministry calls for work on religious liberty, he said.
“[T]he focus on our minds when we work on religious liberty is lost people,” Moore said. “We need to be the people who are teaching our churches and our communities what it is to be separate from sin … and yet never separate from sinners, and too often we’ve done exactly the reverse.”
Gospel ministry – which is based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ — is action, he said. The Christian leaders in Jerusalem urged Paul to “remember the poor,” something he eagerly desired to do, the apostle says in Galatians 2.
“Poverty means a lack of power, means those who are marginalized and those who are victims,” Moore told the trustees. Therefore, the ERLC works for the unborn, trafficked women, orphans, the disabled and the mentally ill, he said.
“We ought not only to remember the poor,” Moore said. “It ought to be the thing that we are eager to do.”