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‘For the Church Phoenix’ seeks to encourage, edify

PHOENIX (BP) — Midwestern Seminary hosted “For the Church Phoenix,” its third in an annual series of micro-conferences, at the Phoenix Convention Center during the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

The event featured leaders from across the SBC presenting on featured topics in a seven-minute TED Talk-like format.

“Our aim at For the Church Phoenix was to give attendees the very best encouragement and instruction that Midwestern Seminary could possibly provide through these brief presentations,” Midwestern president Jason Allen said during the June 13 event. “Existing for the church is what this school stands for, and our desire is that everyone has departed here more edified to carry out their ministries.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary presented on the topic, “Why Inerrancy Matters,” stating the bottom line is that God’s word is true, and when the Scripture speaks, God speaks.

In four points Mohler explained that inerrancy matters because God’s Word claims to be inerrant; it is the church’s doctrine of inspiration; the history of the church demonstrates its necessity; and the fact is that we really have no other option.

Of the last point Mohler said, “We have learned that when the doctrine of inerrancy is not fully, enthusiastically and consistently affirmed then failure, compromise, falsity and heresy inevitably follows. We affirm the inerrancy of Scripture because I believe very clearly that Jesus affirmed it. It is necessary to our teaching, preaching, evangelism and missions…. If we get this right, everything else should follow; if we get this wrong, nothing good can come.”

Steve Gaines

Steve Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., covered the subject, “Why Prayer Matters.” In doing so, he explained that one simply needs to follow Jesus’ example to understand this concept.

Noting points throughout Jesus’ ministry, Gaines said it was evident that Jesus made prayer a priority; He took the time to pray; He prayed in difficult times; He prayed upon the cross and after being resurrected, and He still intercedes for us today.

Concluding, Gaines said, “I just want to encourage you: if Jesus needed to pray, then you and I need to pray. If prayer mattered to Jesus, then prayer needs to matter to you. If you want to know how much you love the Lord, then look at your prayer life.”

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, opened his message on “Why Exclusivity Matters” with the statement, “There are many heretics in this room.”

He said this is not necessarily because people doubt that God says in His word that exclusivity matters, nor that they actually affirm that exclusivity matters. Rather, the difficulty comes in the area of obedience when it comes to exclusivity.

“We affirm; we believe; but we do not go,” Rainer said. “It is in this sense that we act like heretics…. Do we really act like Jesus is the only way? Do we do more than just acknowledge and affirm? Do we really go? It is my plea and passion — that begins with me — that exclusivity will matter so much … that I cannot help but to speak about those things which I have seen and heard.”

Owen Strachan

Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Seminary, covered the day’s fourth talk on “Why Biblical Manhood Matters.”

Strachan noted that today’s cultural climate is not favorable to men. All signs point to a reduction in the role of men in everyday life.

“But we have a response,” Strachan noted. “God has staked the future of the church and the Christian family on men. This could not be more counter-cultural, but it is a massive charge from God.

“What the church needs most today is for men to lead out in global missions, to plant churches in tough places, to pastor well, and to evangelize boldly…. This is our challenge — to act like men.”

Mark Dever

Mark Dever, the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., discussed “Why Baptism Matters” by providing a series of reasons.

He noted that the ordinance matters, most notably, because Jesus was baptized, and that Jesus commanded all who believed in Him to be baptized.

Of this point Dever noted, “Baptism symbolizes the mortification of our old selves by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit through union with Christ in His death and resurrection.”

Baptism is the public confirmation of our status as a member of the body of Christ, Dever said. “Baptism doesn’t cause our transformation, but rather publically displays it in a way which invites us to be welcomed into the Christian community.” He added that baptism is a perquisite to a person’s participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson, director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary and managing editor of the For the Church website, examined the topic, “Why Discipleship Matters.”

Wilson noted that there is a discipleship deficit in our churches, but it doesn’t stem from a lack of passion. Rather, it comes from a lack of understanding what discipleship really is.

Reflecting on the Great Commission, Wilson said Jesus doesn’t say simply to make converts. He said to make disciples.

“If we’re only aiming at getting people to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer,” we’re only partially obeying Jesus. Only partially obeying Jesus is disobeying Jesus.”

After the conversion experience, Wilson said great care needs to be taken to ensure the discipleship process takes place. Otherwise, this can lead to a lack of evangelism, compromised doctrinal stances, and an overall weakening of the church.

Jason Allen

Allen, during the event’s final presentation, explained, “Why Church Membership Matters.” In doing so, he expressed a desire to give those in attendance an urgency toward maintaining a regenerate, meaningful church membership.

Allen noted that church membership is important primarily because “It is biblical,” churches are the testimony of God’s glory to the community; New Testament Christianity is intended to be congregational; the church is Jesus’ bride; and New Testament metaphors for the church imply collectivity.

About this last point Allen said, “Christianity is a corporate endeavor. The beauty of Christianity is that we come together in symphonic harmony. God’s people ministering, evangelizing, worshiping, and praying together. Doing all this as a community is the New Testament picture.”

Allen concluded his talk saying that church membership also provides greater accountability; that its sum is greater than its parts; and that congregational polity necessitates meaningful church membership.

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  • T. Patrick Hudson