WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Though the United States is often considered a Christian nation, North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond says there is still plenty of work to do in making believers and disciples of all people, especially those residing in North America.
Speaking at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Hammond challenged students to hear the call of God and to allow themselves to be sent by God, wherever that may be.
“There is still work left to do,” Hammond said in his April 29 message.
The mission field of the United States, Canada and the territories, Hammond said, is constantly changing and increasingly challenging.
“It is becoming a darker mission field,” he said. “The rise of pluralism, the rise of secularism…. North America is a mission field.” Like many international missionaries working in closed and hostile countries overseas, some NAMB missionaries use a “platform” –- that is, work in another capacity to gain access to people for the sake of the Gospel, Hammond said.
Speaking from John 9:4, Hammond said the passage teaches Christians to do the work of the Lord at all times, because no one knows when “night will fall.” Believers should have a sense of urgency to reach people with the Gospel because the Lord could return at any moment, he said.
“If we as Southern Baptists were as consumed about doing the will of the Father as we were about fellowship, we would be a lot more effective at evangelizing Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Hammond urged students to go wherever God calls and to work diligently.
“Three-fourths of the people who die in the United States die without a saving knowledge of God,” he said. “Be sure, wherever you are, to share the love of Jesus Christ.”
Looking at the numbers of people yet to be reached with the Gospel in North America alone, Hammond likened the church to a cornfield, with the capacity for 300 rows but with only 40-60 rows being cultivated.
“I want to say to you, Southern Baptists, God has given us, just in the United States, over 300 million,” he said. “If we continue to just plant and reap in just 40-60 million of those folks, we will never reach North America for Christ.”
HUNT URGES: OBEY THE CALL — The greatest call of God on a Christian’s life is not the call to an opportunity, but first to Christ and then to a place of service, Atlanta-area pastor Johnny Hunt said at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., challenged the seminary community to examine how and where they have been called, and think about what the call of God has meant for their lives. The April 15 service also was a special time to pray over the many SEBTS students and families who are on the verge of entering service on the mission field.
“We’ve not been called to an opportunity,” Hunt said. “We’ve been called by God to the place of the call…. God put me here. I am a soldier in the army of Christ. I will not be AWOL. I will not back up or shut up. I’ll stand my post until the Commander-in-Chief moves me.”
Speaking from 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Hunt said Timothy had the call to serve God and serve the church and His commission. He, as people are now, was duty-bound to obey the Lord in that calling.
“I’m under divine mandate to do it,” Hunt said. The mandate is to worship the Lord and make His name known among the nations.
“When you know what you’re called to do -– you’re called to preach the Word, to embrace Christ, to love Him and to make Him known -– then you don’t have to read the latest book to decide what you’re supposed to do. You just keep doing what you’re called to do. It doesn’t change every two years with the latest fad,” Hunt said. “I’ll tell you what I’ve found in 31 years: The only thing that is going to reach anybody is the Gospel of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Preach the Word!”
Hunt said there is a call “from without,” which is the call to obey. This type of call is an affirmation from the church of the call God has placed in a person’s heart. But Hunt said people also must have the conviction within themselves. Despite knowing they face danger and death, people must answer the call to follow God, whatever the circumstances.
“A servant of the Lord is duty-bound to carry out His ministries,” Hunt said. “I’d like to say to everyone, regardless of where you serve or where you’re going, I hope you’re going for one reason: ‘I got to.’ Then, when you come to the place where you’re saying ‘I got to’ you’ll begin saying, ‘I get to.'”
SPEAKER: ALL OF SCRIPTURE IS ABOUT JESUS — The single, central message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is God’s unfolding plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, biblical theologian and author Graeme Goldsworthy told students during a lecture series at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Goldsworthy, visiting lecturer of hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, said any individual text of Scripture is only properly understood in light of the unity of all 66 books of the Bible, a unity that is found in the Gospel.
The Old Testament promises the coming of a Messiah who will provide full and final redemption for His people, with the New Testament representing the fulfillment of that promise, he said. The Gospel represents the “big picture,” the overall storyline of the Bible which binds it together and provides the key for interpreting it, said Goldsworthy, who was the keynote speaker for Southern Seminary’s annual Gheens Lectures.
“At the heart of the Gospel is the person of Jesus Christ; He is the Word of God come in the flesh. The nature of the Gospel is such that it demands to be at the center of the biblical message,” Goldsworthy said during the March 18-20 lecture series. “Biblical theology is the study of how every text in the Bible relates to Jesus and His Gospel. Thus we start with Christ so that we may end with Christ. Biblical theology is Christological, for its subject matter is the Scriptures as God’s testimony to Christ. It is therefore, from start to finish, a study of Christ.”
The Old Testament must be understood through the lens of the New Testament, he said. Christians today are to interpret the Old Testament in the same manner as the New Testament authors, he noted.
“The relationship is a two-way thing; we understand the New Testament only as the fulfillment of the Old. On the other hand the message of the New is that Jesus of Nazareth makes clear the full meaning of the Old. Thus, there is priority to the New for it brings to us the revelation of God’s final and fullest word, which is Jesus.”
Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures is crucial for the pastor in feeding his flock, Goldsworthy said, because taking such an approach is integral to promoting a high view of the Bible, Christology, the Gospel and the ministerial task.
PROF ENCOURAGES ‘CREATIVITY’ IN EXPOSITORY PREACHING — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary professor Paul Smith told students during the school’s academic convocation that, unlike what some people believe, expository preaching isn’t boring.
“A colleague once told me that he was afraid his preaching was more expository than creative. That comment belies a belief that a dichotomy exists between expository preaching and creative preaching,” said Smith, associate professor of Old Testament studies who also serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz. Smith has served as a pastor for more than 20 years in churches in Arkansas, Louisiana and Illinois.
Expository preaching, Smith said in his March 13 message, is the consistent working through a book or section of the Bible.
“Such preaching is based on the twin convictions of the inspiration/inerrancy of the Bible and the authority/sufficiency of Scripture,” he said.
Expository preaching, he said, expands the range of preaching content, does not carry veiled or explicit messages for certain individuals or groups within the church, maximizes study time and is faithful to Scripture. He said “the best pastoral preaching is expository.”
“If the purpose of expository preaching is to communicate God’s Word, must the method of delivery be only verbal?” asked Smith, who said the method of delivery can make the difference between a memorable message and one that is dull and lengthy. Smith noted that God communicated to Old Testament prophets through dreams and visions, to Moses through the burning bush and to the Israelites through the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament’s Book of Acts, he said, God’s creative messages were communicated through healing a lame man and the death of a husband and wife.
“Today’s audience benefits from creative sermons, without dumbing down the message,” Smith said. “In addition, today’s audience is very visual and we have learned that a multi-sensory approach helps listeners to focus.
“Creative preaching helps keep the attention of every generation, and helps connect the audience to the text,” Smith said, giving such examples as changing the venue, for instance holding the service outside. He suggested using presentation software, props and people, and he demonstrated several props. But he reminded his listeners that the focus of integrating creative elements must always be to enhance the message.
“The Bible indicates that preachers are to incorporate creativity in their messages. A pastor must be faithful to the text, but be as effective as he can to communicating God’s Word…. Creative and expository are not competing adjectives and pastors don’t have to make a choice between creative and expository preaching. That is why a pastor who believes in the inspiration and authority of the Bible employs creative expository preaching.”
WOMEN GAIN PRACTICAL MINISTRY TIPS — A women’s leadership conference at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary drew 110 women from the San Francisco Bay area for six seminars led by Chris Adams, national Southern Baptist women’s ministry leader for LifeWay Christian Resources, and Deb Douglas, a speaker and minister to women at First Baptist Church in Bossier City, La.
“When Jesus was present during a tragedy, He spoke from His heart,” Douglas told the women during a session on ministering to women in crisis. “He wept and shared emotions with the person going through the loss or painful experience. He physically touched them and allowed the person that was hurting to become a priority.”
Douglas also told the women it’s OK if they don’t have all the answers when ministering to others.
Helen Groat, women’s network coordinator at Golden Gate, and Ann Iorg, wife of seminary President Jeff Iorg, organized the two-day conference in mid-March, which Groat described as “specifically designed to provide tools to help women lead in today’s global setting.”
Jackie Nolen, whose husband was a Golden Gate student in the 1960s and whose son is an adjunct professor at the seminary, said she attended the conference looking for spiritual renewal and encouragement.
“Spiritually, it’s a dynamic conference,” Nolen said. “The information really hits home, especially the Emerging Cultures seminar on how to reach women from other cultures who live here. I’m getting lots of good ideas on how to approach my Muslim neighbor.”
Nolen said she has found “that the world is coming to us and we don’t have to travel to foreign lands to reach the unsaved.”
Conference volunteers were impressed by the enthusiasm of the women who attended. “It’s important for women to know how to effectively reach the women in their community,” said Dawn Gary, who was in charge of registration. “I was so pleased to have someone tell me, ‘This conference came at the right time for me.’ And another woman said, ‘I was looking for something just like this.'”
CAMPUS EMPHASIZES SPIRITUAL RENEWAL — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a spiritual renewal week at its Northern California Campus in mid-April.
“This annual student-led spiritual renewal week is designed to bring an intentional focus to our personal relationship with Jesus Christ as ministering persons and as students of ministry,” dean of students Mark Tichenor said. “More formally, we hope this campus emphasis brings a fresh examination of confession, repentance, church renewal and our rich Baptist heritage of revival movements.”
Kris Wieser, director of student ministries for Golden Gate’s Campus Life Association, said one purpose of the week was to allow the campus to embark on a journey together.
“We asked our fellow students to consider a spiritual discipline that we normally think we’re too busy to fit into our lives,” Wieser, a member of the planning team, said.
This year’s theme was “Re:Spond,” Wieser said, “with the idea that everything we do is a response to what God has already done for us. God has revealed Himself to us, and all we need to do is respond to Him on that level.”
Each day’s theme began with the same two letters: release, remain, reform, rejoice and remember. Students followed a guidebook centered on the daily themes, which included Bible verses, ideas for reflection and spiritual exercises. In the evenings, students met to explore the day’s theme in a group setting.
While participation is optional, interest has grown each year since the emphasis began in 2003. “There was a pretty good response to the program as a whole,” Wieser said, “and the Wednesday evening prayer journey had the largest turnout yet.”
People appeared renewed and rejuvenated, especially toward the end of the semester when they would normally feel burned out, Wieser said.
HONEYCUTT RETIRES FROM GOLDEN GATE — Dwight Honeycutt, who taught church history at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for 20 years, has announced his retirement.
“I have enjoyed the benefit of having a part in sparking the interest and the careers of so many students,” Honeycutt said. “Many of the students continue to keep in touch.”
When considering the offer to teach at Golden Gate in 1988, Honeycutt said the location is what persuaded him.
“San Francisco, the Pacific Rim, it’s such a strategic area. I’m not sure anything else could have convinced us to leave Colombia, [South America], except the challenge and the opportunity of living in this diverse area,” he said, noting the “magnificent laboratory for multicultural ministry we have at our doorstep.”
Honeycutt recounted the interview he had with William (Bill) Crews, who was Golden Gate’s president at the time. They talked about Crews’ vision for contextualized theological education with the establishment of regional campuses.
“I wanted to be involved with this concept,” Honeycutt said. “I liked the idea of students being able to go to seminary in the area where they already had a ministry.”
In addition to his Golden Gate teaching and faculty responsibilities — which include chairing many committees and departments — Honeycutt has lived in Colombia, South America, as a missionary, served as guest professor in seminaries all over the world, given numerous keynote addresses, pastored many churches and authored several articles and books.
“I’ve enjoyed teaching. I tend to thrive in an academic environment,” he said. “Being around young adults has helped me to keep a fresh perspective.”
After taking a year off to “debrief” and travel, Honeycutt plans to return to Golden Gate to teach occasionally as a senior professor.
“I had great experiences when I was in school, and I want to recreate these experiences for my students,” he said. “I was impacted and impressed by the challenges and encouragement I received from my professors, and I hope that I’ve helped to pass on my enthusiasm and knowledge.”
Michael Martin, vice president for academic affairs at Golden Gate, said Honeycutt’s background in pastoral ministry, as missionary and as a proven scholar made him a valuable part of Golden Gate.
“During his time here his passion for Jesus, his love for students and his command of his discipline have been evident and have earned him the respect of students and colleagues alike,” Martin said. “We celebrate with him his retirement but will miss him greatly.”
SEMINARY KIDS GET NEW PLAYGROUND — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, was surrounded by the school’s trustees, staff and children from the Golden Gate Academy preschool as they dedicated a new playground on the campus in April.
“The quality of life on our seminary campus is determined by many factors. When you’re a 5-year-old, it’s having a fun place to play,” Iorg said.
Trustee Bob Galey said the original playground was 47 years old and in need of replacement.
“This is something that has been on our prayer list for five or six years,” Galey said, adding that he often heard students voice concerns about the need for a new playground for their children and he in turn reported those concerns to the trustee board. Too often other projects needed funding before the playground.
Last fall, Iorg attended a neighborhood social event and met a man who had recently moved to the area. “He enjoyed walking the campus in the evening with his family,” Iorg recounted. “He saw the need and offered to anonymously pay for the playground in appreciation for living near the seminary.”
A playground company in California handled the installation of the $80,000, 5,000-square-foot play area.
Iorg said the playground is intended for use by the children on the seminary campus as well as those in the local community. During the spring semester, he said about 30 seminary children would use the playground, but that number often doubles.
Based on reports by Lauren Crane, a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Phyllis Evans, director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jeff Robinson, director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.