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FROM THE SEMINARIES: Longtime pastors impart wisdom at SWBTS; lecturer at SEBTS emphasizes Christ & the Spirit in preaching

In today’s From the Seminaries:
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Ministry veterans relate wisdom for long-term service

By Alex Sibley

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Nearly 200 years of ministry experience were represented during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first Grindstone panel discussion of the spring semester, Feb. 7.

Featured participants were Tommy French, founder and pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., and John Morgan, founder and pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston. The discussion was moderated by Southwestern President Paige Patterson.

French founded Jefferson Baptist Church as a mission of First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge in 1959 serving as senior pastor for the next 50 years. Similarly, Sagemont Church was planted by First Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas, with Morgan serving as pastor there since its first service in 1966. These two men — both graduates of Southwestern — were thus invited to the seminary campus to share with students and aspiring church leaders how to persevere in long-term ministry.

“Stick with the job,” French said, noting that Jefferson’s difficult early years eventually gave way to blessed years of fruitful, thriving ministry. “It doesn’t matter how discouraging it might be. You stay with it until the Lord’s time, and He always opens the doors and helps you along the way.”

Morgan, noting the importance of being called by God to vocational ministry, related advice he received from his father, who also was a pastor.

“Son,” his father told him, “you better make sure God’s called you into this because the day will come where that’s the only thing that will keep you in the ministry.” While affirming the truth of this statement, Morgan nevertheless declared, “Whenever you just do what the Lord tells you to do, it’s not really that hard. If God says it, that settles it; you don’t even have to pray about it.”

Both Morgan and French agreed that one of Satan’s main tactics to keep people from doing long-term ministry is criticism from members of the congregation. But Morgan said his source of comfort in the face of criticism is this: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He continued, “If you’re following the Lord, don’t look back…. Just be glad that the Lord invited you to follow Him.”

French shared a story in which one of his church members constantly criticized him to the point that French eventually confided in a friend that he was “going to do something about this man.” The friend, however, quickly told him not to do anything.

“This man thinks you’re the greatest fellow that ever walked the face of the earth,” the friend said, much to French’s surprise. “He thinks you’re the greatest preacher in the world.” French then realized that though the man was a harsh critic, he did indeed love him as his pastor.

“Don’t ever consider the criticism means they don’t like you,” French told the audience in light of this experience. “And don’t isolate anybody.”

Fielding questions from both Patterson and members of the audience, French and Morgan discussed such topics as calling out the called in their congregations, giving invitations and helping their churches become debt-free. Methods of outreach also were addressed with both emphasizing the need to quickly make contact with people who visit the church.

Morgan said Sagemont’s outreach methods include meeting people at restaurants, high school football games and little league baseball games. Another avenue is inviting lost people on hunting or fishing trips and using that time to share the Gospel through both word and deed.

French reminded the audience that ministry should not consist of simply hoping people show up to church so the pastor can minister to them there. Rather, ministers must go to the people and thus reflect Jesus’ ministry of seeking and saving the lost.

“Don’t assume that because they go to church every week, they’re saved,” French said. “Make sure that you deal with them on a personal, individual basis. And get in the home…. It’s not, ‘Y’all come’; Jesus said, ‘Y’all go.'”

To view a recording of the entire Grindstone discussion, visit swbts.edu/grindstone.


SEBTS lecturer: Be Christ-centered and Spirit-filled

By Harper McKay

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — Arturo Azurdia III was the featured speaker in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Feb. 7-9 Adams Lecture Series.

Azurdia is the senior minister of word and worship at Trinity Church and associate professor of pastoral theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., as well as director of the doctor of ministry program.

In his visit to the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, Azurdia gave two lectures, spoke at a colloquium for Ph.D. students and participated in a Facebook live Q&A session with members of the SEBTS preaching faculty.

During his first lecture on “Christ-centered exposition,” Azurdia encouraged students to have the same goal in their preaching and teaching as the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2. “This is what it means to preach Christianly. Every message needs to be connected to Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” he said.

Azurdia warned against catering to the desires of a crowd instead of focusing on the Gospel. “We are living in a day now when people from our own subculture are telling us if you want to have a really successful church then find out what the people want and give that to them,” he said. “This is why we must never allow the pew to dictate to the pulpit because the pew will never demand the Gospel.”

Although the world sees the message of the cross as foolish, Azurdia urged students to stick to the clear Gospel. “You are to preach a crucified Christ in a crucified style,” he said. “Don’t attempt to make the Gospel glorious. It is glorious enough without any of us.”

Azurdia’s second lecture focused on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, specifically in preaching and teaching. “All believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “But there is another work of the Spirit we must never forget — a unique filling that is directly related to the proclamation of the Word of God.”

He cautioned against relying on any power of one’s own to bring about faith in others, reminding students that true faith is only drawn out by the power of God. “Such a faith, though assaulted, attacked or assailed, will never be overthrown,” he said.

“And this, my dear friends, is our aim — that the faith of sinners be a real and saving faith resting entirely upon the work of Jesus,” Azurdia said.

The Adams Lectures at Southeastern honors Theodore F. Adams, who taught at the seminary for more than 10 years. This year’s lecturer, Azurdia, is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area who holds a bachelor of arts in music performance from California State University, a master of divinity from The American Baptist Seminary in Berkeley and a doctor of ministry from Westminster Seminary in Escondido, Calif. He is the author of “Spirit Empowered Preaching” and “Connected Christianity.”

The Adams Lectures is an annual event that brings theologians to campus each spring to deliver lectures on a topic of interest to the Christian community.

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  • SBC Seminary Staff