EDITOR’S NOTE: “From the Seminaries” includes news releases of interest from Southern Baptist seminaries.
Today’s From the Seminaries includes two items from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:
— IMB President David Platt amplifies “blank check” commitment to God during Global Missions Week
— “Not On Our Watch” T-shirts proclaim NOBTS students’ resolve to support IMB missionaries
‘Blank check’ is ‘elementary’ commitment to God, Platt says
By Marilyn Stewart
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Giving one’s life as a “blank check” to God may seem like extraordinary devotion, IMB President David Platt said, but a commitment to go wherever God leads is the “elementary essence of what it means to follow Christ.”
Platt spoke in the opening chapel service of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Global Missions Week Nov. 2-5, which coincided with an IMB trustee meeting in New Orleans and a missionary commissioning service.
Before Platt spoke, NOBTS students, faculty and staff gave more than $10,000 in special offerings collected in light of recent IMB financial/personnel cutbacks. During the seminary’s missions emphasis, IMB personnel spoke in chapel, classes and breakout sessions and met with students over coffee or lunch.
Underscoring his meaning of a “blank check,” Platt cited flooding in Yemen, fighting in Iraq and persecution of Christians in Pakistan from the day’s headlines.
“To be clear,” he said, “when you say ‘wherever’ to God, you’re saying I’ll go and take my family to Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan. I’ll go into the heart of ISIS. I’ll go into Boko Haram territory of West Africa. I’ll go wherever You want me to go.'”
Platt said calling believers to give God a “blank check” is not a responsibility he takes lightly.
“My perspective on these things totally changed a year ago when I stepped into this role and I realized that whenever I see news headlines like these on a daily basis, people I’m responsible for are living in or near most all these places,” Platt said.
Platt described the moment years ago as an NOBTS student when the weight of his theological studies and a world without Christ came together in a “massive collision” that shook him to the core.
“Casual, nominal, cultural Christianity makes no sense if this Word is true and this is the world I live in,” he said.
Recognizing that a blank check commitment can be frightening, Platt urged the chapel audience to understand who the “Me” is in Jesus’ “follow Me” commandment. Drawing the initial chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, Platt said Jesus is Savior; Messiah; Son of David; Son of Abraham; the center of all history; fully human; fully divine; light of the World; and a dozen other descriptors of His divinity.
“When you realize who He is, you realize the utter foolishness of putting any conditions on obedience to this King…. Followers of Jesus don’t always know where they’re going, but they always know who they’re with,” Platt said.
Pray like it matters
Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for prayer mobilization and training, urged listeners in chapel Nov. 8 to “pray like it matters.”
Fort told of his ache for America and his observation that the church has become people of God without the power and the presence of God.
“Brothers and sisters, the world in which we live doesn’t need a mediocre Christianity,” Fort said. “They are desperate to know that you have a faith that works. They are desperate to know that you have a belief that makes a difference.”
Fort showed a photograph of a baptism in a frozen lake in western Siberia and told of the pastor who left home with his family to share the Gospel in the barren land. Fort said he once shared the photograph at a speaking engagement and a woman came up to him, crying. The woman, a retired state WMU executive, told Fort she had once prayerwalked in western Siberia and had developed a deep burden for the region.
“She said she’d been praying for 15 years that God would send someone to take the Gospel into that area and then said, ‘Until you shared your report, I had no idea how God had answered that prayer,'” Fort said, relating the woman’s story.
“Friends, when you make a petition, an entreaty of God, when you care about the soul of a lost person to the extent that you will pray for 15 years without an answer, then you are praying like it matters.”
Prayer unleashes the power of the Gospel to break the shackles of sin so the Gospel can be effective, Fort said. “So, if you’re going to pray, pray like it matters.”
‘Jesus for the hard places’
Another speaker, Nik Ripken, author of two books on the persecuted church, “The Insanity of God” and “The Insanity of Obedience,” recounted that personal sorrow while serving in Somalia put him on a journey to find out if “Jesus was for the hard places” of life.
Ripken said he decided that the way to find out was to go to Christians suffering persecution.
After hundreds of interviews, Ripken said he learned what those who are persecuted know: Jesus; the power of prayer and fasting; Scripture; songs of faith committed to memory; that others are praying for them; that they are suffering for Jesus; and that persecution is normal.
“What they taught me is that persecution is like the sun coming up in the east; it’s normal,” Ripken said. Interviewing persecuted Christians, he said, was like “walking with Simon Peter or Lydia.”
“You should hear them talk about Jesus. You should hear them pray.”
T-shirt sales at NOBTS raise funds for IMB
By Marc Ira Hooks
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — “When I first heard the news I felt bad, but my heart did not break,” Keith Taylor, a Ph.D. student in preaching, said of the 600-800 International Mission Board missionaries preparing to leave their place of service due to budget shortfalls.
“I was not broken for these folks who had given their lives for the work of spreading the Gospel around the world. And now their part of that work was coming to an end.”
Taylor’s attitude changed, however, after a chapel message by NOBTS professor Blake Newsom several weeks ago.
“It was not even a missions message,” Taylor said. “It was about stewardship.” Taylor and others challenged by Newsom’s message created a T-shirt emblazoned with “Not On Our Watch -– Support The International Mission Board” to be sold on campus. After only four days of sales, more than $1,200 was raised for the IMB’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
The T-shirts reflect a rhetorical answer to the question: “Are we okay with the fact that Jesus told us we are to pray for workers to be sent into the harvest field, and on our watch we are bringing workers in from the fields?”
IMB President Platt expressed his appreciation for the Not On Our Watch theme during his visit to campus for Global Missions Week.
There is a growing sense of ownership among the SBC family, Platt said. “This is not just an IMB thing, it is I something that we can all be a part of.”
Students and faculty are being encouraged to wear the Not On Our Watch shirts as they serve in their churches across the region.
“We have perhaps the best missions-sending organization that has been created in the history of the world and we have the means to support that through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program,” Taylor said of the yearly offering and the year-round CP gifts from churches to support Southern Baptist missions and ministry. “Our goal is to embrace those and give in a way that maybe we haven’t done before.”
One master’s degree student in counseling was sporting his new shirt as he looked through the various IMB displays in the student center during the missions emphasis. “I may not be able to write a check for $21 million, but I can buy a T-shirt,” he said. “I want to do my part in supporting the IMB and international missions.”
Many of the IMB personnel on campus stopped by the Not On Our Watch table to give encouragement. One IMB worker in the office of global engagement said, “This is the first, I hope, of many creative grassroots efforts to really stir the hearts of God’s people.
“They are not outsourcing the missions problem to someone else. They are taking an active part in trying to find solutions together.”
Taylor said he has received numerous requests from churches and other individuals about getting behind the effort and ordering shirts. While no formal mechanism for sales has been established, people interested in supporting the Not On Our Watch initiative can send an email to Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.