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SBC DIGEST: Mohler on cover of CT; 3rd missions novel from WMU; ‘Fire in the Choir’; implosion scheduled

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. has landed on the cover of the October issue of Christianity Today, which in a 5,000-word story tells how he changed from being a theological moderate to a conservative and then helped return the school’s faculty to a belief in biblical inerrancy.

The cover story calls Mohler “the reformer” and says he “transformed a seminary, helped change a denomination, and challenges a culture.”

“Despite his modest media empire and efforts to engage a broad audience, Mohler’s parachurch enterprises come second to his duties as a denominational man, his aim to unify the SBC and reverse falling baptism rates,” the story reads.

In 1979 when the conservative resurgence officially began with the election of Adrian Rogers as Southern Baptist Convention president, Mohler was a senior at Birmingham’s Samford University, a school that CT says was full of moderate faculty and that, in the words of Mohler, told students “there were good guys and bad guys in this denominational conflict, and the good guys were forces of scholarship, academic respectability, and serious theological thought, and the bad guys were recidivist fundamentalists who were seeking to topple the integrity of the Southern Baptist system.”

Mohler took his moderate beliefs to Southern Seminary, where he served as an assistant to then-seminary President Roy Honeycutt and one day had a life-changing encounter with the late theologian Carl F.H. Henry, who had been invited to campus by a conservative student group. Prior to meeting Henry, Mohler had supported women’s ordination and had an egalitarian position on gender roles. Henry was a complementarian.

“Strolling the campus grounds, Henry asked Mohler how he justified women’s ordination. After Mohler rehearsed the argument he had learned in class, ‘Dr. Henry looked at me with a look of intellectual shock and asked me how, if I held to the inerrancy of Scripture, I could possibly hold to the egalitarian position. I tried to defend it and discovered that I didn’t have much ammunition,’ Mohler says. ‘He looked at me … and he said, ‘You will, one day, be embarrassed by this conversation.’ Well, I was embarrassed by the conversation right then! … In 24 hours, I came to the chilling conclusion that the hermeneutic required for an egalitarian position was incompatible with the inerrancy of Scripture.'”

The article ads, “Mohler found that Henry’s critique of post-war northern evangelicalism helped explain the confusion he detected among Baptists in the South two generations later.”

Mohler began examining his beliefs and came to a conviction that “mediating between modernity and Christian orthodoxy doesn’t work.”

After a stint as editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newspaper, Mohler was elected president of the seminary and, within three years, the seminary’s “faculty and administration had turned over almost completely.”

NEW HOPE/WMU RELEASES 3RD MISSIONS NOVEL — “Red Ink,” the third in a missional fiction series from New Hope Publishers of WMU, has been released.

The novel, by Kathi Macias, tells the story of the witness of a Chinese woman who is forced to undergo an abortion under China’s one-child policy.

As recapped by New Hope, the fictional character, Yang Zhen-Li, is an only child who was raised by party-faithful parents who were devastated when she became a Christian and married a poor Christian farmer.

“When she becomes pregnant for a second time and refuses to follow the one-child-per-family mandate of the state, Zhen-Li’s parents have her kidnapped and the baby forcibly aborted,” according to a news release from the trade books division of Woman’s Missionary Union. “Their actions only serve to reinforce Zhen-Li’s determination to spread the good news of Yesu (Jesus), and she is soon arrested for evangelizing children.

“Given a ten-year sentence, Zhen-Li’s faith is tested beyond anything she could have imagined. And yet, in the midst of the darkest circumstances, the light of the Gospel continues to shine victoriously. Zhen-Li … has no idea that in addition to her own prayers, a former missionary to China, now living on the other side of the world, is praying for her diligently — even as she prays for an acquaintance’s granddaughter who is in danger of being caught up in human trafficking. Through it all and binding them all together is the thread of a distant memory of the song ‘Silent Night,’ wooing the most unlikely with the promise of Christmas.”

Macias, who is penning New Hope’s “Extreme Devotion” series, is an award-winning author who has written nearly 30 books, including mystery novels and a devotional.

The fourth novel in the series, “People of the Book,” will be set in Saudi Arabia.

The first release, “No Greater Love,” is set in Pretoria, South Africa, focusing on two teenagers whose parents were killed amid the nation’s struggle over apartheid. The second release, “More than Conquerors,” is set in Tijuana, Mexico, focusing on a pastor’s witness amid Mayan beliefs about the year 2012.

SOUTHERN GOSPEL FUELS ‘FIRE IN CHOIR’ — Southern gospel music is theologically rich, emotionally powerful and suited for worshippers in all age groups, according to leaders at LifeWay Worship who demonstrated how to use it in local congregations at the “Fire in the Choir” conference Sept. 15-17 at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center in Louisville.

Held in conjunction with the National Quartet Convention, Fire in the Choir introduced church musicians to choir arrangements of popular Southern gospel songs. Co-sponsored by Daywind Music and the National Quartet Convention, Fire in the Choir was included presentations by Praise Gathering Music Group, a publishing partner of LifeWay Worship.

The conference drew approximately 100 church musicians from as far south as Texas and as far north as Canada. They attended private music reading sessions led by Adams and Brian Brown, LifeWay Worship’s manager of sales, marketing and events, where they listened to CDs of choral arrangements then sang them with Adams or Brown conducting.

Larger sessions, open to the thousands of National Quartet Convention registrants, featured top Southern gospel artists singing LifeWay music accompanied by a hundred-voice choir. Among the featured artists were Greater Vision, Gold City, the Booth Brothers and Legacy Five. One session debuted the choral collection “Statement of Faith,” including the title song which sets to music a confession of Christianity’s basic beliefs.

Another conference highlight was the debut of “Never Walk Alone,” a song co-published by LifeWay and Daywind and recorded by Brian Free and Assurance as the title track of their latest album.

Fire in the Choir provided “an opportunity for ministers of music to come to the quartet convention, but while they’re here get some additional training and resources that they can take back to their churches and church choirs,” Brown said.

For John Riley, associate pastor and minister of music at First Baptist Church in Hildebran, N.C., the conference introduced music that he knew his choir would be enthusiastic to sing.

“A lot of times I’ve picked out choral music and found out when I introduced it that choir members knew the groups who sang it,” Riley said. “So this is an opportunity for me to first hear the groups sing and then get the choral music. It’s been a great benefit.”

Rodney Cheek, gospel celebration worship leader at Jersey Baptist Church near Columbus, Ohio, said Fire in the Choir helped his effort to start a Southern gospel choir.

“I’m going to be able hear some of the new music, new choral pieces that are out there in a general setting with other music ministers and really get a feel how quick it can be picked up,” Cheek said.

Ed Leonard, president of the Gospel Music Association and Daywind, described Fire in the Choir as “the Southern gospel community’s effort to take our music into the church. Daywind has partnered with LifeWay to do just that. Our music speaks biblical truth and is just absolutely amazing when inserted into a program in church. It’s music that people can sing along to. It’s music that they can feel in their soul.”

Brown and Adams hoped the conference would help dispel the myth that Southern gospel does not resonate with younger worshippers.

“I think you’re going to find that your perceptions can be altered if you take a fresh look at Southern gospel,” Brown said. “And that’s really what we’re hoping people will do.”

LifeWay Worship’s Southern gospel resources are downloadable online at LifeWayWorship.com and LifeWay.com/Worship.

FIRST BAPTIST IMPLOSION SCHEDULED — Five buildings of First Baptist Church in Dallas will be imploded Oct. 30 to make way for a $115 million campus plan to recreate the downtown church’s facilities.

The church’s Burt, Christian Education, Ruth Ray Hunt and Veal buildings will be imploded in an area bounded by San Jacinto, St. Paul, Federal and Ervay streets, according to a news release from the A. Larry Ross Communications firm in Dallas.

Robert Jeffress, the church’s senior pastor, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and other officials will be available to the media discuss the implosion and future construction, according to the news release. Dallas Demolition is in charge of the implosion, scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

The 143-year-old church raised more than $115 million in a six-month capital campaign in what consultants said is the largest ever pledged for a Protestant church building program in the United States.

The campaign was launched last fall with a $130 million goal, but plans for the complex were pared down to limit cost. Highlights of the new campus will include a 3,000-seat worship center, a new education building, a fountain plaza with a water tower topped by a cross, hundreds more parking spaces and a sky bridge that will tie together different parts of the new campus.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Michael Foust and editor Art Toalston from reporting by Ashley Stephens of New Hope Publishers and the communications department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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