IACE holds inaugural meeting this month in Orlando; Greear speaks at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif.
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Leaders representing a wide array of Christian education interests gathered at Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando Feb. 12-14 for the inaugural meeting of the International Alliance for Christian Education (IACE).
The IACE, officially incorporated as a 501(c)3 charitable organization in January, has 53 institutions of higher learning and seven other organizations among its 60 charter members. Ninety-seven representatives of those entities registered for the Orlando event, nearly half of whom are presidents, former presidents or executive directors.
The Orlando meeting featured the IACE’s first face-to-face Board of Directors meeting, six presentations and the adoption of several initiatives the new alliance will pursue later this year.
President David S. Dockery told the group IACE will promote collaboration and cooperation without duplicating the work of other existing organizations.
“We believe that this Alliance will be able to serve all sectors of Christian education, doing so in harmony,” Dockery said. “We want to emphasize unity, cooperation, and collaboration, promoting and modeling these themes at every opportunity.”
The IACE Board of Directors approved two collaborations with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Washington, D.C. One will create a Worldview Academic Center for faculty development. IACE-member institutions will have opportunity to send faculty to training sessions related to faith and learning initiatives. Dockery said lecture series options from this initiative could be done on individual campuses.
The second Colson collaboration invites a campus president or designee of each charter member institution to Wilberforce Weekend 2020 in May. The invitation includes three days of professional development at the event.
Beginning soon, the IACE website will host job listings for member institutions.
Dockery said the board also initiated the study of an IACE tuition exchange program with a report due back in July 2020.
The IACE’s work will cross several boundaries within Christian education, connecting primary and secondary schools, gap year programs, Bible colleges, Christian liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive universities, as well as seminaries and educationally focused parachurch organizations. Campus enrollments within the IACE membership range from 250 to more than 10,000 students.
“Representatives from each one of those sectors are present with us in this room today and they are all committed to the shared work of this alliance,” Dockery said. “As far as I know, this has not taken place before at this scale.”
With that in mind, IACE Board of Reference member Robert C. Andringa said he sees the alliance “filled with audacious hope.”
Dockery presided over a luncheon and dedication session in which he discussed his vision for the organization, with representatives reciting the Nicene Creed and singing the Doxology.
“The fellowship was warm, and the dedication was a holy, uniting moment,” Dockery said.
Presentations in each session addressed key elements of the IACE’s mission: cultural witness; confessional commitment; collaboration, professional development and innovation; and cultural, intercultural and international engagement.
During the cultural witness session, Greg Baylor, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, addressed current and future legal challenges to Christian educators rooted in discussions about human sexuality. He urged institutions to define their policies carefully.
“Start with what you stand for,” Baylor said. “Your religious beliefs are at issue, so you must express those clearly.”
Robert B. Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University, addressed confessional commitments, tracing the development of Christian models of thought such as the Nicene Creed.
“We can’t withdraw from the current cultural struggles,” Sloan said. “The Nicene Creed came out of political hot potatoes within the church and culture at that time. We must pay attention to controversial issues.”
Rob Wassell, executive director of Seeds Global Innovation Lab, talked about the importance of professional development and innovation. He noted that strategic thought about the future never has been so crucial.
“In the past, we’ve spent 95 percent of our time in the present and only 5 percent thinking about the future,” Wassel said. “That won’t work anymore.”
Bruce Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed cultural, intercultural and international engagement in the final session.
Ashford called on the IACE to pursue opportunities to advance a gospel message worldwide that are unique to colleges and universities.
“We should have a humble optimism,” Ashford said. “Jesus lived in the middle of a pagan empire and was able to speak the truth to power. He did so with a humble confidence.
“We can be confident too because Christ will return.”
Ashford quoted recent estimates that indicate 700 million Christians will reside in Africa by 2025, with 650 million Christians in South America in the same time frame. He suggested many Christians in the global South and East have strong commitments to the authority of Scripture, and the IACE can build on that emerging international foundation.
“The global east and south believe the Bible,” Ashford said.
Dockery quoted similar figures during his luncheon address.
“In 1900, 80 percent of the Christians in the world lived in Europe and America,” Dockery said. “But in 2020 more than 60 percent of the Christians in the world are found in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The group already draws members from beyond the United States, and representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea attended the Orlando event.
Several speakers said daunting challenges of the 21st century call for alliances, meaning people who might disagree on some matters must come together to support their primary beliefs.
Those primary beliefs include a commitment to biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy, cultural witness, scholarship, professional excellence, and resourcing of Christian education at all levels.
“We will not ask anyone to step back from their personal or institutional convictions,” Dockery said, “but we will ask you to be willing to join with us around commitments to first things, to gospel commonalities.
“We will seek to foster strong relationships between schools, churches, and denominations,” Dockery continued. “We want to see Christian education serve the church and we want to see institutions and organizations with denominational ties strengthen those ties.”
IACE met in collaboration with the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which conducted its 73rd annual meeting at the same Orlando location. The two groups share many common aims, and ABHE is a charter organization in IACE.
Outgoing ABHE president Ralph Enlow is chair of IACE’s Board of Directors and was recognized at the dedicatory luncheon for his 14 years of service to ABHE.
Sponsors for the IACE meeting included Guidestone Financial Resources, Impact 360 Institute, Christian Education Group, Anedot, B & H Publishing, Crossway, Nxt.pg.com, and Seeds Global Innovation Labs.
The next full meeting of the IACE membership is scheduled for February 3-6, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mark Kahler is the IACE Director of Communications.
Greear at Gateway Seminary: All are called to the task of missions
By Gateway Seminary staff
ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — Accepting the call to follow Jesus is accepting the call to missions, said J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, during chapel Feb. 12 at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif.
“I think the Christian community in large part has bought into a dangerous myth about calling … that it is an experience reserved for a sacred few people,” Greear said.
“The calling to leverage your life for the Great Commission was included in the call to follow Jesus.”
In Matthew 4:19, Jesus told the first disciples to follow him and that he will make them fishers of men. “The question is no longer if you are called. The question now is only where and how you are called,” Greear said.
Greear used the account of Stephen in Acts 6-8 to illustrate the convictions that led an ordinary person, called by God, and filled with the Holy Spirit, to be the catalyst for the gospel expanding outside Jerusalem. “The whole plot of Acts develops in chapter six with the story of Stephen,” Greear said.
Stephen was selected as a deacon and his commitment to his work in the church caught the attention of the local community. Many people came to faith in Jesus Christ including a number of Jewish priests. “That of course got the attention of the Sanhedrin who began to try to discredit Stephen,” Greear said. Stephen was taken before the Jewish council where he delivered a sermon detailing the history of Israel and showing how the Old Testament points to Jesus.
After his sermon, Stephen was cast out of the city and martyred. As the stones began to strike Stephen, he saw the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Scholars point out Jesus standing here is odd because everywhere else that Jesus is at the right hand of God we see him sitting,” he said.
“[The book of] Hebrews says that having sat down, he was signifying salvation was done,” he said. “Why is he standing at this moment? I think there is only one possible answer: he is standing to receive home his son.” Stephen had made his choice: Jesus was worth it.
“At some point, if you are really going to follow Jesus, obedience is going to take you 180 degrees opposite of where you think you want to go. In that moment the only thing that will compel you forward is the belief that Jesus is worth it,” Greear said.
Following Stephen’s martyrdom, increased persecution in Jerusalem caused the church, except the apostles, to scatter into Judea and Samaria where the scattered members preached the gospel. Greear pointed out that this was the first time the gospel had left Jerusalem and none of the apostles were involved. “I believe the story of Stephen is given to us as an example of how the gospel is supposed to expand globally,” he said.
Greear asked the listeners to consider if God returning the church to the simple convictions that impelled the early church forward “when a bunch of blue-collar people, without money or power, or any representatives in Congress, or T.V. stations, or podcasts, or organized leadership strategies turned the world upside down.”
“What if everything that is happening now — loss of cultural influence, loss of funding — was designed by God to take us back to the things that propelled this movement in the first century when the church was an unstoppable force?” he said. “It wasn’t mega churches and stadium revivals that grew the church. It was members committed to the Great Commission.
“Historically, ordinary believers have always been the tip of the gospel spear,” Greear said. There are currently around 40,000 evangelical missionaries serving in the 10/40 window, an area between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator in which nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lives. Throughout this predominantly non-Christian area there are two million U.S. citizens working in secular employment Greear said. He estimated that one-tenth of that group could be committed Christians. “If they understood that their primary commission in life was to be a disciple-making disciple, the mission force in the 10/40 window would go from 40,000 to 240,000 and it wouldn’t cost the church another dime,” Greear said.
“The only way people develop the courage to go is the conviction that Jesus is worth it.” Preaching a Savior glorious enough to joyfully die for won’t grow an audience, but it will start a movement he said.
“Every church should multiply. Every person ought to think of themselves as on mission. Everybody is responsible for the gospel. These are the convictions of people who shape the world.”
To watch Greear’s chapel message go to gs.edu/greear.