FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The Christianity of today will determine the Christian ethics of the twenty-first century, which means Christians need to focus less on politics and more on living as the salt of the earth, a professor said during the Pastors Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 5-6.
Christian ethics of the new century “will have to come out of the discipleship, worship and Christian education of our times,” said Alan Johnson, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
Johnson set forth several characteristics that postmodern people should see in the church.
“Self sacrifice, love and service should mark the church in the world’s view,” Johnson continued. “We should engage the world as salt and avoid political leanings relating to environment, education and welfare.”
Johnson made his comments during the Drumwright Lectures, which are part of the Pastors Conference.
During his lectures, he responded to a popular stance taken by many non-Christian groups that Christians should be more tolerant of other beliefs and lifestyles.
“The Christian’s view of tolerance should be treating others with respect, not treating all positions as equally true,” Johnson said.
Johnson also addressed what has come to be called the “sanctification gap” between modern Christians and non-believers. He pointed out that divorce among Christians has almost increased to the level of the general population and that there has also been a “slide” within some Christian circles toward greed, envy and gossip.
“Lies and other various forms of untruthfulness seem not only to be tolerated but even advocated by some Christians as a necessary means to higher goods,” he said.
In addition to Johnson’s lectures on Christian ethics in a postmodern world, the conference featured teachings from the Book of James.
Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, and Jack MacGorman, distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament at Southwestern, led conference seminars on preaching and teaching from James, the focus of the Southern Baptist January Bible Study.
Thomas said the book is a great source for pastors to get illustrations and stories “because James was a pastor himself.”
“I believe there is great value in storytelling,” Thomas said. “James gives us great opportunity for storytelling. It’s almost like he takes a real-life situation and says, ‘Look at this … here’s how it works.'”
Thomas also said pastors should remember the main reason for their application of Scripture.
“Applications need to communicate not only an idea, but also a truth,” he said.
Speaking specifically of the second chapter of James, where equal treatment of different groups of people is discussed, Thomas told the group that pastors themselves could learn a few lessons from this passage of Scripture.
“I understand marketing … but a church should reflect the people who live where it is,” Thomas stated. “If it’s young and old people, then the church should be a mixture of young and old.”
Thomas also presented several sermon outlines from the third chapter of James on taming the tongue and using the right words. He cautioned pastors about being careful with the words they say to their congregations, because they will be held accountable.
“Don’t go falling into the habit of making disclaimers,” Thomas said. “Don’t say, ‘This is not about money,’ at the beginning of a building campaign and then later end up asking them for money. Suddenly you’ve given them the hangman’s rope and tied the knot.”