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Convocations set forth challenges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Following tradition, Southern Baptist seminary convocations marked the start of another academic semester, with a challenge to advance the Gospel set forth in each convocation.

The convocation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, however, was cancelled by the evacuation of the city in advance of Hurricane Gustav.

IORG URGES RENEWED PASSION — When Jeff Iorg was headed to seminary as a student, he remembers that people admonished him with warnings such as “Don’t go to seminary and let them ruin you.”

He thought that meant he shouldn’t allow his spiritual passion to be drained and then replaced with academic information as preparation for ministry. But that’s not what happened.

“If anything, passion for ministry and my love of Jesus Christ was intensified through my seminary experience,” Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the school’s convocation service.

Iorg challenged students to consider the characters described in Mark 2 who demonstrated passion for Jesus.

“Four men carried their friend, a paralytic, to the place where Jesus was speaking,” he said, noting how hopeless a paralytic would have been in those days. “Even though the space was packed, the men were stirred with passion to get their friend to Jesus. So they removed the roof and lowered the man as he was lying on his pallet.”

Iorg asked the students to consider what stirs them today.

“The condition of people in our world should stir our passion,” he said.

Instead, too often people are stirred by anger about child abuse, homosexuality, crime, immoral politicians and other sinful situations.

“People lash out with criticism rather than take passionate action to bring people to Jesus,” he said.

Like the friends of the paralytic, Iorg urged students to be deeply motivated to take action. He reminded them that life is a mission field and their hearts should be broken over unsaved people.

“When we encounter people during our day, it should stir us to be passionate for their salvation,” he said, urging them to channel their passion into action. “Let the condition of the world motivate you to passion and compassion.”

Iorg warned students not to fall into the same trap as the scribes in Mark 2:6, who were drained of passion and ensnared in legalistic discussion. Instead, he urged them to infuse their passion for Jesus Christ into their ministry.

“I challenge you to channel your passion to get the Gospel out to the West and to the world, and resist all temptation to be like the scribes,” Iorg said. “Have fresh passion for the ministry, a fresh passion in your relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Iorg is beginning his fifth year as president of the seminary, and he said his passion has never been more intense.

“What a privilege to be part of God’s mission through Golden Gate,” he said.

CEO NOTES JESUS’ JEWISHNESS AT MIDWESTERN — A better understanding of Jesus’ Jewish background provides seminary students with a key to more effective ministry, Rich Hastings, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, said during Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s convocation Aug. 19.

Hastings outlined the meaning he discovered from his visits to Israel and from biblical studies that focus on Jewish roots.

“I run a large health care system, but my biblical training is from being a Baptist since in the womb,” Hastings said, expressing gratitude for the teachers and pastors who encouraged him over the years, including Paul Brooks, pastor of First Baptist Church in Raytown, Mo., and Midwestern Seminary Professor Stephen Andrews, who teaches Old Testament, Hebrew and archaeology.

Hastings underscored his belief in Jesus’ divinity and then said there must be a reason Jesus came to earth as a Jew. He noted biblical references that confirm Jesus followed Jewish customs, pointing to the racial and religious heritage that comes through the mother as cited in Matthew 1:16, the bris (Jewish circumcision) described in Luke 2:21 and bar mitzvah recorded in Luke 2:42.

Hastings described the covenant of circumcision as one of the first surgical procedures ever performed, recalling Abraham’s agreement with God that every male child would be circumcised and his descendants would possess the Promised Land forever.

“The whole concept is not to give away any part of Israel because God gave it,” Hastings said, showing the audience the orange bracelet he wears in support of Israel.

Abraham was 99 years old at the time the covenant was made, he added.

“It’s impressive that he agreed to the deal and Jewish parents have continued that covenant ever since,” Hastings said.

Hastings compared the account Luke provided of Jesus being questioned by the rabbis to the continuing Jewish practice of teachers quizzing a youngster before determining him competent to join the adults in prayer.

“This is the first time we see that the bar mitzvah which is practiced today is actually in the New Testament and the person getting that bar mitzvah is Jesus,” he said.

Having established Jesus’ Jewish identity, Hastings guided students to understand why that mattered.

“You can’t understand Jesus as our Messiah nor His Word if you don’t understand His Jewish roots,” he said.

Once he began to search the Bible for its Jewish background, Hastings said, “Scriptures I had read all my life all of a sudden took on new meaning. I began to look at the words behind what Jesus was saying.”

That quest helps the reader “understand where Jesus was coming from,” Hastings said, referring to both Jesus’ teaching for Jews at that time as well as the meaning it holds for today’s believers.

“By understanding Jesus from a Jewish perspective, you are able to hear, smell and taste the texture of the world in which the Savior lived,” he said. “After doing that, when you read the Scriptures it’s much different, because you can feel it.”

Hastings said believers need to care about Jesus’ Jewish heritage so they can understand His words and His direction, and he referred to Romans 1:16 as his life verse. He reminded the audience of the instruction to not be ashamed of the Gospel and to recognize its power “first for the Jew.”

Hastings offered several examples of how his newfound understanding enhances biblical study. The guidance Jesus offered to His disciples as they prayed in Matthew 6:9 upholds the Jewish tradition of a rabbi answering the questions students posed about proper conduct, Hastings said.

“Jesus taught us to pray most differently,” he said, recalling the instruction to avoid “babbling like pagans because they think they will be heard. This is the dichotomy of Jesus — following the tradition, but changing the way the tradition was practiced.”

From Luke 4:14, Hastings pointed to another instance where the recognition of Jesus’ faithfulness to Jewish tradition offers greater significance to the study of Scripture. Hastings concluded that Jesus’ reading from Isaiah 61 followed a common Jewish practice of reading from the Haftorah, a collection of books of the prophets and other writings.

Quoting the instruction to “preach good news to the poor … to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,” Hastings said, “If you want to write your mission statement as ministers, that pretty well does it.”

“You’re beginning a new year, studying Scriptures all the time,” Hastings said. “I challenge you to think behind the words to the tradition, the history, the life and how it was during the time of Jesus so you can get the fullness of the Gospel that I’m not ashamed of and so that you can understand your goal — your responsibility to teach it.”

R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Seminary, awarded Hastings the president’s medallion for playing an important role in the development and growth of the institution. Hastings serves on the seminary’s board of regents and co-chairs the Building for the Future capital campaign, which will provide state-of-the-art facilities that include a renovated classroom building, library, new apartments and a new 600-seat chapel.

Earlier this year the school established the G. Richard and Judy Hastings Chair and Institute for the Study of Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Roberts commended Hastings for his involvement and support in helping Midwestern achieve its mission “to biblically educate God-called men and women to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the world.”

SOUTHEASTERN’S AKIN LAUDS BRAINERD’S FAITH — Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, opened the school year with a call to the Great Commission through the example of a great missionary.

Akin, president the seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., spoke during the convocation chapel service for the fall semester. As he had done several times during the previous academic year, Akin compared a passage of Scripture with the life and testimony of a modern missionary.

With 2 Timothy 1:1-12 as his text, Akin shared the parallels found in the lives of the Apostle Paul and missionary David Brainerd. Though he lived only to the age of 29 and was in ministry only for a few years, Brainerd often is considered an inspiration for those credited with impacting the modern missions movement.

Unlike other missionaries Akin spoke on last year — including William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon and Jim Elliot — Brainerd was not a missionary overseas but instead dedicated his short life to the Native Americans in the United States.

“Parallels between the lives of Paul and David Brainerd are striking. They are too numerous to be merely a coincidence. Their mutual and equal commitment to the power of the Gospel, the necessity of a clear and undeniable call, a ministry of suffering and an unsurpassing confidence in Christ drove them,” Akin said, adding that their motivation was, as William Carey said, “to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God.”

Drawing from 2 Timothy 1:8, Akin said just as Paul wrote that no one ought to be ashamed of the Gospel or of Paul as a willing prisoner of Christ, Brainerd also knew what it was to suffer yet stand unashamedly for the Gospel.

“This was Paul’s benediction letter of his ministry,” Akin said, noting that Paul made clear he was a willing prisoner: “‘I am not Rome’s prisoner. I am Christ’s prisoner. I am here because of His will for my life.'”

Just as Paul suffered willingly for the Gospel, Akin said Brainerd suffered through the deaths of his parents while he was young as well as severe depression and a debilitating disease that took his life prematurely.

“There was no shame of Christ in the gospel of Paul. There was no shame of Christ in the gospel of David Brainerd, and there should be no shame of Christ in our gospel,” Akin said.

In addition to there being no shame in the Gospel, Akin said believers must have a certainty in their calling as Gospel ministers.

“We did not save ourselves. God saved us,” he said. “God called us with a holy calling.”

Brainerd’s life reflected the same belief in the certainty of his calling that Paul’s did, Akin said. In verses 9 and 10, Paul confidently affirms the call of God upon his life. In the same way Paul lived with that certainty of the call by remaining true to the ministry, Brainerd did not allow the tough times of life to dissuade him from his call to ministry.

“If you do not have the same certainty of your calling, when tough times come, you will run,” Akin warned.

He also said that just as Paul and Brainerd suffered for the Gospel, there must be a willingness in every Christian to suffer for the cause of Christ. Brainerd, Akin said, suffered through his illness, years of seeing nearly no fruit of his ministry among the Mohegan Indians, rough living conditions and depression. Even so, Akin said Brainerd remained with that ministry despite being offered a prestigious pastorate at a church on Long Island.

“There is little appearance of success to comfort me,” Brainerd wrote in his journal. Akin said through months and years of suffering, Brainerd eventually saw more than 130 of the Indians he had been ministering to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, all within the span of a few weeks.

Akin also said Paul and Brainerd were confident in their security in Christ, no matter what. The confidence of Paul that God would “keep that which I have entrusted to Him until that day” made an impact on Brainerd, who in turn influenced the famous theologian Jonathan Edwards, who resolved to wholly place his security in Christ.

“Paul knew he was at life’s end. He was in the twilight of life and though many things were uncertain, one thing he knew for sure: ‘I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day,'” Akin said. “Paul has placed his life, his eternal destiny in the hands of a sovereign God, a God he is confident will keep him no matter what and no matter when. Come life or death, he is secure in the God who is able. At the end of his life David Brainerd had the same assurances as Paul.

“This is how Brainerd lived and how he died …. No wonder he wrote, ‘Oh, how precious is time! And how guilty it makes me feel when I think I have trifled away and misapproved it, or neglected to fill up each part of it with duty to the utmost of my ability and capacity,'” Akin said. “It is wisely said, ‘He lives long who lives well.’ By that measurement David Brainerd lived long. My hope and prayer is that we will live long too.”

Also at Southeastern’s convocation service, recently elected faculty members Greg Heisler, associate professor of preaching and speech; Tracy McKenzie, assistant professor of biblical studies; and Steven Wade, assistant professor of pastoral theology, signed the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, signifying their commitment to the standards of the institution and to their calling as professors.

Bruce Little, professor of Christian philosophy, associate dean of theological studies and director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. David Nelson, the faculty dean, said Little “is truly a Christian gentleman. His character is marked by wisdom, humility and grace.”

SOUTHERN’S MOHLER: LIVE DANGEROUSLY THIS YEAR — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, challenged students to embrace the danger of the Christian life during the coming school year.

“Christian discipleship is inherently dangerous. Christ Himself told us that it was,” Mohler said during Southern’s convocation Aug. 21. “He said of His own disciples that He sends us out as sheep among wolves.

“We are indeed surrounded by a host of enemies. It is no physical army that is encamped against us. It is, rather, far more significant than that. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. How much more dangerous can it get than that?”

Mohler called believers “God’s resistance army,” noting that Paul urges people to put on the full armor of God.

“Paul didn’t say, ‘Don’t worry, be happy, be safe, be comfortable,'” Mohler said. “Following in the teaching of his Lord, he said ‘this is deadly, dangerous business.’ The Gospel has enemies. God has enemies. In this politically correct day, in the age of the harmonious, we need to recognize that there is disharmony because there is rebellion against God. There is danger for the one who would follow the call of Jesus to take up his cross.”

Students must reject the notion that the Christian ministry is a profession they graduate to, and instead must view it as a calling, a mantel, that they must bear, Mohler said.

“If we conceive of the Christian ministry as a profession, we will be seeking safety,” he said. “The logic of a profession is that we have earned the right to be respected. Professionals aren’t supposed to be in danger. You are supposed to put your certificates on the wall, show your credentials to the world and go about your business.

“We ought not to seek security or status, recognition or worldly respect. We must be willing to forfeit all of these things and more. We need to have the spirit of Esther the queen, ‘If I perish, I perish.’ There is a trail of blood and it is the blood of the martyrs who have watered the church, beginning with Stephen and going forward until our own time, thousands, even millions of those who have forfeited their lives for the high calling of faithfulness to Christ.”

While faithful Christian ministers face danger and should live dangerously, they are also those who posses the greatest amount of security and are the only truly safe people on earth, Mohler noted.

“From the Gospel we also draw confidence that we are safe in the strangest sense,” he said. “We are safe in the arms of God. We are safe in terms of our eternal salvation and final destiny. We are safe by His grace and to His glory. Thus we can say with Justin Martyr as he led members of his own congregation to be martyred for the faith: ‘Fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ: remember, they can kill, but they can’t hurt us.'”

Mohler said Christian ministers should not only embrace danger but should be those who are a danger to every enemy and opponent of the Gospel.

“I want us to be an institution that scares people,” he said. “We are gathered here at this place, with so many of us — it appears — who are committed to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; this is a dangerous place. The forces of evil and darkness and the enemies of the Gospel have more than met their match. Not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is. Not because we have any tactical skill, but because we follow a Lord who is going to vindicate His Gospel.”

At the convocation, Mohler installed David Sills as professor of Christian missions and cultural anthropology. Gregg Allison, associate professor of Christian theology at Southern, signed the Abstract of Principles, marking his receiving tenure at the seminary in April.

“This institution learned early both the price and the necessity of confessional accountability,” Mohler said. “One of the reasons we commemorate this signing in such a public way is lest we forget the responsibility that is entrusted to us.”

Southern welcomed two new faculty members — James M. Hamilton, Jr., who serves as associate professor of biblical theology; and Jesse T. Adkinson, assistant professor of leadership and church ministry — and three new trustees: Philip Gunn, Bruce McCoy and John Thweatt.

Mohler also introduced new Boyce College Dean Denny Burk, who additionally serves as associate professor of New Testament at Boyce; Alvin Hickey, associate professor of Christian education and department chair of Boyce’s teacher education program; and Heath B. Lambert, instructor of biblical counseling and department coordinator of biblical counseling.

PATTERSON WASHES STUDENT’S FEET AT SOUTHWESTERN — Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, washed the feet of Anthony Moore, a master of theology student, during the school’s convocation service Aug. 21.

Following Christ’s admonition to serve in John 13, Patterson then urged students and faculty members to “wash the feet of the saints.”

“If you have come to Southwestern … with anything other in mind than to learn the ways of servanthood, to learn to be a slave to our Lord and to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, which He bought with His own blood, then you have misunderstood the calling,” Patterson said.

Though the service of the saints is essential, he said, Christ also calls ministers to serve unbelievers.

“He washed the feet of Judas,” Patterson said. “He washed the feet of the man who in a short time was going to betray Him. … All your life, you are going to minister to churches. In those churches, there are many of the saved, the saints of God. But in those churches there will also be lost people, many who think that they are OK with God but in fact they have never been born again. May I remind you, sweet student, that it doesn’t matter what they are in their hearts or how they act. You are still called to wash their feet.”

Before Patterson spoke, students Jason and Amy Welker performed the fourth in a sequence of dramatizations to celebrate the seminary’s centennial. Jason Welker played the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough, challenging faculty members and students to testify passionately to the Gospel of Christ: “It is found that so long as the heart of an institution burns hot with fires of soul-winning, it is not likely to drift in its theology from the fundamentals of New Testament faith.”

Following the dramatization, Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost of the seminary, introduced Laura Zettler as assistant professor of homemaking and director of homemaking in the College at Southwestern. Herbert Bateman and Aaron Son joined the seminary’s faculty as professors of New Testament in the school of theology. The 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.

Blaising also introduced five newly-appointed faculty members: Michael Keas, professor of history and philosophy of science in the College at Southwestern; Dongsun Cho and Jason Duesing, assistant professors of historical theology in the school of theology; Jeremiah Kim, director of the Korean doctor of ministry program and assistant professor of systematic theology in the school of theology; and Yoon-Mi Lim, associate professor of organ in the school of church music.
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; freelance writer Tammi Reed Ledbetter; Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Garrett E. Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Benjamin Hawkins of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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