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Prof reminds: Missions is ‘normative;’ Southern’s new &#8

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A view of the pastoral ministry that is too narrow to include missions is not biblical, said Ed Stetzer at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Change your mind and reconsider a call to missions, a call to evangelism, a call to church planting,” he challenged, preaching from Acts 16:6-10 about the Macedonian call.
“The normative expression of New Testament Christianity is missional,” said Stetzer, assistant professor of church planting and Christian missions and the director of Southern’s Center for Church Planting.
“The New Testament is a book about missions and church planting,” he said in a May 6 chapel message at the Louisville, Ky., seminary. While it is the “inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God, it was written to a series of brand-new churches, filled with brand-new believers, who needed guidance and direction. It was written to a missional people.”
Stetzer said there is a “safe way” to avoid the obligation Christians have to carry out the missional nature of the New Testament. “We see it in our churches,” he said, citing a distinction between “clergy and laity.” The distinction is one that relegates all evangelistic efforts and other ministries solely to the church pastor.
“What [church members] have done is separate themselves from the responsibility of the ministry.” Many pastors wonder how laypeople can do that, but then are guilty of the same error when pastors determine they are called only to pastoral ministry to the exclusion of missions, he said.
“Many of us have compartmentalized our call by saying, ‘Well, I’m called to the ministry; I’m not called to missions.’ In so doing, we’ve created a distinction without a difference, and in the process we’ve cheated ourselves out of the privilege of participating in the task of world evangelization,” he said.
The problem may be even worse, as Stetzer recalled a conversation he had with a director of missions in Florida. The DOM showed Stetzer a file eight inches thick and said, “‘This is a two-month supply of resumes from people just trying to get back to the Bible Belt,’” he recalled.
The Southern Baptist International Mission Board has more than 200 slots available in a program for student/missionaries “yet there’s an eight-inch thick file in Florida,” Stetzer said.
“When I look in the New Testament, I don’t see everyone trying to stay in Jerusalem. I see everyone trying to go to Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the earth.
“God has already begun to prepare a people in Seattle or New York or Indonesia or Senegal — that they are ready and God is working on their hearts and the fields are white unto harvest — yet we’ve got our fingers dug so deeply into our desks that we won’t let go,” Stetzer said.
Some students at Southern Seminary are indeed letting go and answering the missionary call of God and the New Testament through Southern’s Billy Graham School for Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and its Center for Church Planting.
Southern — the SBC’s first seminary to establish a church-planting center and to commission students to do church planting through the North American Mission Board’s Nehemiah Project — recently commissioned 35 students to do church planting in Philadelphia, Indianapolis and other areas of the States.
Stetzer noted 15 new candidates are being assessed for other new church plants.
Following Stetzer’s sermon, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. recognized about 30 students who will participate in the evangelistic Crossover Metro Atlanta project just prior to the SBC’s annual meeting there.
Mohler also cited the 150-plus students who will be involved as spiritual counselors at the June Billy Graham Crusade in Indianapolis. In the weeks after the crusade, the students will help with follow-up ministries to those who become Christians at the crusade.
“This is a Southern Seminary tradition,” Mohler said. “When D.L. Moody’s crusade came to Louisville, Ky., in the 1880s, Dr. Boyce sent Southern students to be counselors in the ‘inquiry rooms.’”
Mohler then introduced four students who will begin the international field work portion of their master of divinity with church-planting degrees.
“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know these are our pioneers in this generation,” he said. They will be the “landing party for a massive invasion force.”
“They are leaving their families … homes … security of a North American context … everything they know and is familiar to them but one thing, and that is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mohler noted.
Mohler recognized Keith and Beth Emory of Greenville, S.C., and Kenneth and Katrise Murphy of Brunswick, Ga., who will go to Indonesia, and Michael and Lynn Packard of Columbus, Miss., and Cal and Patty McIntire of Taylorsville, Ky., who will serve in Senegal.
“God bless you for prizing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ above all and leaving everything in order to go and be pioneers,” Mohler told the couples.
Mark Terry — Southern’s associate professor of Christian missions and evangelism — prayed the families “would be the first fruits of many more who will follow after.”

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  • Frank Gantz