EDITOR’S NOTE: “From the Seminaries” includes news releases of interest from Southern Baptist seminaries.
Southeastern collegiate conference: “Go for the glory of God”
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (SEBTS) — The call to “Go for the glory of God” was sounded at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual collegiate conference at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
In addition to SEBTS President Daniel Akin, featured speakers included J.D. Greear, Russell Moore, H.B. Charles Jr. and Tony Merida.
Smaller breakout sessions gave the 600-plus attendees an opportunity to hear other SEBTS professors and local leaders speak on the glory of God in such areas as spiritual formation, suffering, seeking justice and work.
Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., challenged the collegians to work in a strategic place in America or around the world for the glory of God and His mission.
From Acts 8, Greear reminded that the Holy Spirit is the source of a Christian’s strength and power. “The Gospel goes forward faster through laypeople than apostles,” he said. “Jesus has a prime spot for you in the starting lineup regardless of what your gifting is.” The Gospel will reach the ends of the earth through “ordinary people making disciples everywhere they go.”
Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, preached from 1 Peter 2:6-17, challenging the collegians to realize that “every Christian is embedded in the public square” and to use that arena to manifest the glory of God.
“The Gospel is a rock of offense, you cannot get around it,” Moore said. “You are going to find many times that simply acknowledging Jesus Christ becomes scandalous.”
A panel featuring several of the speakers shared personal insights during the opening night of the Feb. 6-7 conference into what it means to live faithfully for Christ in dating and marriage relationships.
Akin, who spoke on the glory of God in marriage, has been married to his wife Charlotte for nearly 37 years; they have four sons and 11 grandchildren.
Speaking from Ephesians 5:21-33, Akin called for a biblical view of marriage between one man and one woman “equal in essence and made in the image of God.”
“Marriage is a great gift from a glorious God that should point the world to Christ and the Gospel,” Akin said. “There is nothing like being married and having a godly wife.”
Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., highlighted the glory of God in diversity, drawing from Ephesians 2:14-18.
“Christ didn’t Christianize the Jews, or Judaize the Gentiles. He instead created an entirely new race,” Charles said.
He called the collegians to replace hate with kindness — and not follow a plan for racial reconciliation but to follow the person of Jesus Christ. “The unity of the church is rooted in the unity of the Godhead,” he said.
“Jesus Christ is the only One who can bring peace with God, with self and with others,” Charles said. “To find peace, you must run to the cross and repent of your sins. The real issue that separates us is sin.”
Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., and an associate professor of preaching at SEBTS, preached on the glory of God in ordinary people, with a focus on Acts 1-2.
“The ordinary people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, armed with the Word of God, can accomplish the mission of God,” Merida said. “The only thing that separates Christians from non-Christians is God’s grace.”
Merida encouraged the collegians to learn and love the Bible to be effective disciple-makers. “God saves people by sharing the Gospel through ordinary people. Do you believe this?” Merida asked. “You might be surprised who says yes when you preach the Gospel.”
Adapt evangelism to a hostile culture, seminary presidents say
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — An increasingly secularized American culture sees evangelism based on the Gospel’s exclusivity as a threat, two seminary presidents commented in panel discussion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, spoke as part of Southern’s weeklong Great Commission Focus in February.
“In the eyes of many, a belief in the particularity of the Gospel is a threat to world peace,” Mohler said.
Mohler specifically referenced the National Prayer Breakfast several days earlier, when President Obama said religions that claim to be the only way to God are dangerous. Mohler mentioned that Slate.com national correspondent, agreeing with Obama, wrote that Islamic terrorists and exclusivist evangelicals are in the same category.
In this changing culture, Mohler noted two questions he previously found useful in starting Gospel conversations. Drawing from Evangelism Explosion, a ministry that teaches people to share their faith, he had asked: “Do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in heaven?” and “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”
Such questions, however, no longer work because people no longer fear hell, Mohler said. Now he asks, “What are you living for?” and “How is that working for you?” People usually give an answer, whereas they often reject someone who tries to talk directly about spiritual things.
Akin, who formerly served as Southern’s dean of the school of theology and vice president of academic administration, said the Gospel has always been scandalous but “in this day and age, it’s becoming a hostile scandal.”
Christians should expect opposition not only on gender issues but also to the Gospel itself, Akin said, but they must not let fear of rejection stop their evangelism. After all, he said, Christians are not ultimately the ones being rejected.
Mohler concurred with Akin’s assessment and said, “If we present Christ, then it’s Christ who is either seized upon as the Savior or who is rejected.”
The presidents also discussed how much people must understand about Christ to be saved. Akin said someone must understand that Jesus lived a sinless life, died in our place and rose from the dead, while Mohler added that a person also must grasp the divinity and lordship of Christ. Though Christ is the heart of the message, both speakers said that failure to understand sin is what prevents most people in this culture from believing the Gospel.
“If sins are the problem, then moralism is the answer. If sin is the problem, then only Christ is the answer,” said Mohler, who said he knew about Jesus growing up but did not feel the weight of his sin condition until he was 10 years old. He realized then that he did not just commit sins but that he was a sinner.
Akin and Mohler said Christians must consider the context of the person they are evangelizing and remember that the Gospel is counterintuitive. As Romans 10 says, people must hear it before they can respond.
Mohler said, “The glad responsibility of every single believer, if faithful, is to share the Gospel because the idea of a non-evangelistic disciple is just not found in Scripture.”
Proclaiming this message takes practice, said both leaders.
Learning a basic outline of the Gospel helped him not forget any of the components, Mohler said, while Akin recalled a man teaching him to use the Romans Road, a method of explaining the Gospel using only verses from the book of Romans. Mohler learned how to start a conversation and steer it to the Gospel by witnessing with a partner.
Finally, Mohler and Akin encouraged believers to evangelize without fear because it is the Christian’s responsibility to be faithful and it is God’s responsibility to save.
“It’s the Word of God that He blesses, not our presentation of it,” Akin said.
In its annual Great Commission Focus, Southern devotes a week to promoting missions and evangelism and sending students to share the Gospel in the city of Louisville.
Patterson exhorts Brazilians to return to Word of God
Paige Patterson, as a guest speaker at the Brazilian Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, preached from the personal Bible of missionary William Buck Bagby, one of the six founders of Brazil’s first Baptist church. This “Bagby Bible” is the same copy of God’s Word that Bagby had in his pocket when he first arrived in Brazil in 1881 and from which he subsequently preached his first sermons in the country.
Brent Ray, director of Southwestern’s Global Theological Innovation, said the Bagby Bible “really connected [with the Brazilian Baptists] because that’s their history. That’s where it began with a Foreign Mission Board missionary and his little family, fresh off the boat, preaching from an English Bible the good news in broken Portuguese.”
Patterson said Brazil is “returning to the faith of Bagby and the early Baptists that spurred the rapid growth of Baptists in that country. Hopefully, our presence and speaking was an encouragement to these noble preachers, missionaries and theologians in their monumental efforts to expand the cause of Christ to all of Brazil and beyond.”
Patterson preached from Isaiah 51:1-3, focusing on the imperative in verse 1 to “look to the rock from which you were hewn.” He held up the Bagby Bible and said, “This is the rock: the Word of God.”
Ray said God used the message in such a way that, at that moment, one could have heard a pin drop. This was followed by a 20-minute invitation in which outgoing convention President Robert Silvado, twice a graduate of Southwestern (master of divinity, 1983; doctor of ministry, 1987), called Brazilian Baptists to do as Patterson had admonished: return to the Word of God, evangelize the lost and plant churches.
“And when he issued a call to prayer,” Ray recounted, “people all over the auditorium — a huge convention center — stood up from their seats, went out into the aisles, and began to kneel and cry out to God to help them in returning to the Word and getting the Word out to Brazil and beyond. It was short of an evangelistic crusade; truly remarkable; one of the most moving services I’ve been a part of in a long time.”
Patterson, who was in Brazil Feb. 4-12, was accompanied on the trip by a team of Southwesterners including his wife Dorothy and Leo Day, dean of the school of church music, who led worship at the convention. In addition to preaching at the plenary session, Patterson spoke at the convention’s pastors’ conference, preached an evangelistic sermon at a local church (with more than a dozen responding to the Gospel) and met with various seminary and denominational leaders, several of whom voiced plans to continue their education at Southwestern. The meetings also led to the formation of partnerships between Southwestern and Brazilian seminaries in Belo Horizonte and Recife.
Combined with its existing relationship with the seminary in Rio, the partnerships mean that Southwestern is now connected to the three largest seminaries in Brazil. Ray said the seminaries can now serve as regional anchors for a Brazilian consortium of Baptist theological education through which Southwestern and the Brazilian convention hope to unite the 87 Baptist Bible institutes, colleges and seminaries in Brazil and, within the next two years, expand beyond Brazil to other Portuguese-speaking nations, such as Portugal, Mozambique and Angola.