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Convocations mark new semester

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Following tradition, Southern Baptist seminary convocations marked the start of another academic semester.

IORG ADDRESSES ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., addressed the nation’s economic hardships during the first chapel service of the spring semester.

“What better time to discuss how God finances His work,” Iorg said. “These are serious economic times — a national economic downturn, 2.6 million people laid off since December, home foreclosures on the rise and governmental programs closing because of elimination of essential funding.”

Referring to verses in Genesis and Revelation, Iorg explained the consistent biblical theme that God owns everything by right of creation.

“While you may buy a book, the author still, in a sense, owns it because of copyright laws,” Iorg said, adding that in the same way, while people claim ownership of material things, God still owns them by right of creation. “And for believers, we are doubly owned through redemption. Everything we have belongs to God, and He controls it all.”

The same God who owns and controls everything allows Christians to experience need, he said, to build character qualities such as contentment. Citing the Apostle Paul’s testimony in Philippians 4:11-13, Iorg encouraged the seminary community to learn to be content with God’s provision.

“Are we really any less blessed with what really matters than we were six months ago?” Iorg said, noting that God also uses need to shape values toward eternal goals and “remind us what is really significant in our lives.”

God allows need to correct financial irresponsibility, Iorg said, pointing to Malachi 3:9-11. While rejecting the excesses of the prosperity gospel, Iorg underscored God’s promise to meet the needs of those who give generously.

“When we compromise our giving, we will have need,” Iorg warned.

Another aspect of financial correction is making sure believers are using God’s resources appropriately. Sometimes, need indicates a misuse of God’s provision personally and corporately, he said.

“We are currently evaluating each expenditure of the seminary while creating next year’s budget. We are asking ourselves, ‘Are we using God’s money on items directly related to the core of our mission?’ If so, we will continue those items, trusting God to supply. If not, we will redirect those resources to more essential activities.”

Iorg also said God allows need so believers will trust Him to provide. He reminded students of Paul’s claim in Philippians 4:19: “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God — not the Cooperative Program, other donors or endowment income — is responsible for the seminary’s supply, Iorg said.

“While we appreciate the means of the gifts that come our way, we must never lose focus on God as our source and supply. We depend on Him and ask Him as our Father to provide for us,” he said.

God allows need to keep believers on His timetable, Iorg said, citing Acts 24:27.

“God could have released Paul anytime, but He had a reason to let Paul sit in prison for two years,” he said. “It’s God’s timetable, and He provides when He’s ready.”

MIDWESTERN HEARS FROM BILLY KIM — God has commissioned believers to evangelize the world, not westernize the world, Korean evangelist Billy Kim told students at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Kim traced God’s strategy as revealed in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21 and Acts 1:8.

“I believe with all my heart if all of the Christians combined together, if they have conviction and determination, we could fulfill the Great Commission within our generation with all of the technology we have today,” Kim said, acknowledging a host of enemies of the Gospel who have risen throughout history.

But he reminded students of Jesus’ promise that God has supplied all of the necessary power to fulfill the evangelistic mandate.

Speaking as part of the Drummond Lecture Series on Evangelism, Kim was honored by R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern’s president, who awarded Kim with the presidential medallion. Roberts commended Kim’s leadership as pastor of Sowan Central Baptist Church in Korea, his ministry as an interpreter for evangelist Billy Graham and his leadership of the Far East Broadcasting Company in Korea and the Baptist World Alliance.

Roberts said the incredible growth of biblically-based Christianity in much of that region of the world can be attributed to the leadership of Kim and others like him. Kim has devoted much of his ministry to this largest part of the world’s population that lives in extreme poverty.

“Korean believers are very much the world’s pace setters for prayer, evangelism and world missions among Baptists and other evangelicals. We can thank Billy Kim for much of that dynamic in Korean churches,” Roberts said.

The lecture series was established in memory of Lewis A. Drummond, who was known as an evangelical scholar with a passion for evangelism. He served as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and was the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, having directed the Billy Graham Center there. Roberts also thanked Drummond’s widow, Betty, who was in attendance, for her support in establishing the lecture series.

Joining Kim were members of the Korean Children’s Choir, presenting a concert prior to each day’s message.

Recalling the challenge Paul extended in 2 Timothy 2:15 to be a workman who is not ashamed, Kim said, “In my life there are a number of mentors who helped me spiritually and financially and encouraged me when I was discouraged and ready to quit the ministry because there wasn’t much result. God has placed different people along my journey and when I needed it most they encouraged me and prayed for me.”

Newly elected faculty members publicly subscribed to the articles of the Baptist Faith & Message while the rest of the faculty stood to express solidarity. Those signing at the Jan. 27 ceremony were Larry Cornine, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling, and Daniel Watson, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.

Roberts welcomed Jerry Johnson, who recently was named special assistant to the president and dean. Johnson, who previously served as dean of Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., and president of Criswell College in Dallas, read from Isaiah 55.

KELLEY PRESCRIBES GOD’S WORD FOR HARD TIMES — There is a powerful response in Scripture for those times when life appears to fall apart, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley told students at the first chapel service of the new semester Jan. 20.

Using the powerful example of the imprisoned Paul and Silas in Acts 16, Kelley urged students to praise God through suffering because Christians are never more than a single act of worship away from the presence of God.

“Whenever you have nothing on the shelf to feed your soul, get out of your pantry and into God’s,” Kelley said. “You do that with worship. You do that by calling out unto Him. This is the way God’s people have always responded to adversity.”

Kelley cited the example of Job. Even when his earthly possessions and his loved ones were taken away, Job worshipped God.

“When our pantry is empty, [God’s] pantry is full,” he said. “When our circumstances are tough, His glory is always shining and bright. When our weakness is overwhelming, we get into His presence and His power is great. It’s so wonderful and mighty. Whenever trouble comes, the first thing Christians do is worship.”

Secondly, Kelley urged students to witness by sharing the grace and goodness of God. Even after an earthquake flung open the prison doors, Paul and Silas remained to witness to the Philippian jailer. And his life, as well as that of his family, was transformed.

“There is no more powerful witness that we ever give to a lost world than the witness of our confidence in the love and grace of God in the midst of our suffering and tears,” Kelley said.

“There is not a time in your life, be it pleasant or hard, when you are exempt from the responsibility to bear witness to Jesus. Often the most effective and powerful witness to Jesus we give is not in our prosperity or our celebrations … It is when we are in the midst of our trouble that we bear witness to Jesus that our witness has the greatest effect.”

Kelley also noted that Paul and Silas worked. Even after the local magistrates sought to release them in secret, the two missionaries stayed on task and let the authorities know they were entitled to due process as citizens of Rome. The authorities, as a result, had violated Roman law and the rights of Paul and Silas.

“Paul was there to plant a church, and he had an opportunity in the political system to give that church status that would leave [the church] free and unhindered,” Kelley said. “Life is going to give us good times. Life is going to give us hard times. But in all times, we do the work that God has assigned us to do.”

AKIN HIGHLIGHTS PAUL’S WORDS — Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., exhorted students at the first chapel service of the spring semester to pass on God’s truth to future generations. Preaching from 2 Timothy 2:1-7, Akin emphasized the importance of living well.

“This is not a new problem. Paul was concerned with passing on the truth in the first century,” Akin said Jan. 27, adding that the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy indicate that passing on truth will be hard work that results in spiritual rewards.

Akin said Paul urged Timothy — and modern-day believers — to “have the dedication of a teacher,” entrusting the lessons he learned to reliable men.

“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” Akin said. “You need to know where to stand. Then, stand strong and be strong.”

Paul instructed Timothy to be familiar with the truth he wanted to impart to others.

“You cannot tell others what you do not know yourself,” Akin said. “Paul understood that there are some things that, in regards to the Christian faith, are nonnegotiable. It stuns me that there are people who call themselves Christians, and yet they believe they can earn their way to heaven.”

By demonstrating a lack of understanding and knowledge about basic tenets of the Christian faith, Akin said he is led to believe such people don’t know the Bible, lack good theology or are calling the Lord a liar.

“Tragically, many of them stand in the pulpit, week after week, saying they’re preaching the Word of God,” he said.

Akin also showed how Paul’s metaphors apply to believers today. Looking at the examples of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer, Paul showed that there are qualities in each of those that should be emulated in the pursuit of passing down truth. Just as Paul urged Timothy to have the dedication of a teacher, he also said there were lessons to be learned in the metaphor of the soldier.

“Paul is fond of military metaphors,” Akin said. “Those of us who are evangelistic and conservative in theology often get confused on who our real enemy is. We become cannibals. Paul told us the real enemy is not our brother or sister in Christ but Satan and the flesh.”

All believers are commissioned to participate in a conflict, Akin said. “Teaching the truth is a battle. It’s a war. It’s not a place for sissies or wimps. If that’s what you are, you will not be a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” he said. “All you have to do is be willing to go. When you enter into King Jesus’ army, He trains you, He equips you and He goes with you.

“I fear so many of you are going to miss out on God’s best, and you will look back with regret because you played at being a Christian.”

Paul also used the analogies of an athlete and a farmer to illustrate the need for spiritual discipline in the effort to win people to Christ, Akin said.

“The life of a farmer does not involve much glamour, prestige or recognition. It involves early and long hours that go unnoticed, constant toil, regular disappointments, patience and even boredom,” he said. “We must come to grips with the fact that living and growing as a Christian is just plain hard work. It takes energy, investment and time like your marriage and your family; like anything of real value in life.”

But the prize after the hard work is a share in the harvest of souls. Akin said believers should persevere and look ahead to the joy of seeing future generations come to Christ.

In closing, Akin quoted Charles Spurgeon, urging believers to live well:

“If you do not wish to be full of regrets when you are forced to lie still, work while you can. If you desire to make a sickbed as soft as it can be, do not stuff it with mournful reflections that you wasted time when you were in health and strength.”

Galatians 6:9 is a good reminder to keep close at hand, Akin said. It says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

MOHLER EMPHASZIES GREAT COMMISSION — Jesus told His disciples to proclaim the Gospel everywhere, so ministers must be ready to take the Gospel to every cultural context on earth, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Feb. 3 during spring convocation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preaching from Acts 1:1-8, Southern Seminary’s president used four worldwide cities as metaphors for the diversity of people and contexts to which ministers must faithfully bear witness: Memphis, Miami, Milan and Mumbai.

After all, Mohler pointed out, Jesus told His followers to take the Gospel to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth, to areas with radically different cultures, areas posing difficulty and danger to the faithful minister.

“The Gospel was not seen as just for those in Jerusalem or the Judeans, but it was also for the Samaritans,” Mohler said. “And Jesus went on to say that it was for the remotest parts of the earth.

“They were to go with the same Gospel: one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But they were to go to different places, different contexts, with different challenges as the book of Acts makes abundantly clear. What we desperately hope for is a global generation ready for a global context.”

Some will be called to minister in a place like Memphis, Tenn., Mohler said. Memphis sits in the heart of the Bible belt where evangelical churches dot the landscape and where some form of Christianity is virtually a cultural assumption. In this kind of context, ministers will be called to go and preach to many who are unconverted but believe that they are Christians, he said.

“That is really a unique ministerial context, but it may be a lot like Jerusalem, because in Jerusalem people thought they were fine, they assumed that they were the sons and daughters of Abraham,” Mohler said.

“There are people in our own Bible belt who think they are just fine because they live in a really religious culture or they went to church or were raised by Christian parents. They desperately need the Gospel.

“There is a need for graduates of this institution to go to those churches and love those people and to teach faithfully and to preach the Word in such a way that those congregations have their visions raised beyond Memphis to the very ends of the earth.”

God will call others to a place like Miami, which represents postmodern, multiethnic America, he said. Over the past 30 years, Miami has morphed from a predominantly white, middle-class tourist attraction to a city in which the population is 65.8 percent Hispanic.

Miami’s transformation represents the multiethnic future of America, Mohler said, and presents a significant opportunity for the next generation of ministers to develop Hispanic congregations.

“Southern Baptists were ready for Miami so long as Miami looked like Memphis with a beach,” Mohler said. “But Miami isn’t Memphis with a beach. It is Buenos Aires in the peninsula…. This area has become a laboratory for ministry in postmodern America.

“Before our very eyes, we have to understand that as Miami now is, so also much of America soon will be. We need a generation ready to be faithful church planters and faithful expository preachers in a context that doesn’t look like home, when home looks so familiar.”

Others will find themselves proclaiming the Gospel in a place like Milan, Italy, Mohler said, a city that represents post-Christian Europe. Milan has deep roots in Christian history as the scene of the famous Edict of Milan — a proclamation of religious toleration signed in 313 by Constantine — and the home of church father Ambrose.

Today, however, like the rest of Europe, Milan has largely rejected the faith it once believed and features a highly secularized culture that rejects the very notion of revealed truth, Mohler said. Some, though, still consider Europe Christian because of its history.

If a generation of ministers is ready to go to Milan, it will also be ready to take the Gospel to places like New York and Canada, both of which are rapidly embracing the secularism of modern-day Europe, he said.

“In reality, there are as many teeming millions of unreached persons on the continent of Europe today as in any other geographically comparative place in the world,” Mohler said.

“We desperately need a generation ready to go to Milan, a generation bold enough to say, ‘We’re going to show you what authentic Christianity looks like, so that the false and artificial Christianity that is the cultural artifact of centuries past is replaced by a vision of a vibrant Gospel Christianity that points, without any hesitation at all, to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only answer for sinful people.”

Others will be called to a place that resembles Mumbai, India’s largest city, which Mohler said depicts “the cutting edge of population growth in the developing world.” The city formerly known as Bombay was renamed in 1996 after a Hindu goddess, a reality which points to the nation’s rampant idolatry.

Sixty-seven percent of Mumbai is Hindu, 18.5 percent is Muslim and only 3.7 percent is Christian. It is a region rife with spiritual turmoil and terrorist activity as illustrated by a series of Islamic terrorist attacks in December that killed more than 170 people.

“I hope we produce in this institution a generation of ministers of the Gospel ready to go somewhere, anywhere, even everywhere,” he said.

“We can’t go everywhere ourselves, but we can go a lot of places. And we can send everywhere. If we are faithful in doing what the Lord Jesus Christ has called us to do, then disciples will be found not only somewhere and anywhere, but eventually, by God’s grace and for His glory, everywhere.”

Mohler announced that Mark McClellan, professor of Christian theology and missions at Boyce College, has been named dean of the faculty at Oklahoma Baptist University. McClellan will join the administration of David Wesley Whitlock, who took office as OBU’s 15th president last fall.

Mohler also installed two professors into endowed chairs: Jesse T. Atkinson as the J.M. Frost assistant professor of leadership and church ministry and Hal Pettegrew as the Gaines S. Dobbins professor of leadership and church ministry.

PATTERSON LAUNCHES ‘HARD QUESTIONS’ SERIES — Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, introduced a new sermon series during the school’s convocation chapel service Jan. 15. Throughout the series, Patterson is addressing the unavoidable questions of life and ministry. During convocation, he confronted the first of these questions, “Truth: Can We Know It?”

“Many who call themselves evangelical Christians have no idea how to discover truth or if it is even existent,” Patterson said after noting that a recent poll claimed 47 percent of evangelicals believe there is more than one way to God. Turning to Psalm 19, Patterson discussed God’s revelation in nature and Scripture.

“God has revealed [Himself] in Holy Scripture and in other ways,” Patterson said. “That which He has revealed, though it cannot be proved in a scientific classroom, can be certainly counted upon to be true in every case.”

Through His creation, God has revealed His glory, Patterson said after reading the first six verses of Psalm 19. Then he displayed a picture of the Milky Way galaxy, which contains 200-400 million stars, and described the comparatively insignificant size of Earth. Patterson argued that such a glimpse of the universe offers humans a glimpse of God’s glory, and he pointed out that the existence of such a creation offers philosophers arguments for the existence of God.

God’s revelation through nature, however, falls short of His special revelation, Patterson said. Located in Scripture, this special revelation shows humans the character of God, convicts them of sin and shows them how they may be saved. In Psalm 19:7-11, Patterson noted, Scripture is described as God’s law, testimony, statutes, commandment, fear and judgments.

Also during convocation, five newly elected faculty members signed the seminary’s book of confessional heritage, indicating their agreement to teach in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Faculty elected to Southwestern’s school of theology were Dongsun Cho, assistant professor of historical theology; Jason G. Duesing, assistant professor of historical theology; Mark Leeds, assistant professor of systematic theology; and Thomas White, associate professor of systematic theology. In the College at Southwestern, Michael N. Keas was elected as professor of the history and philosophy of science.
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Tammi Ledbetter for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paul F. South of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff Robinson of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Benjamin Hawkins of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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