WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Members of Southern Baptist churches need to know that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a dangerous place, Daniel Akin noted.
“Southeastern is a dangerous seminary to send your kids because I will do my best to convince them to go to the nations and fulfill the Great Commission,” said Akin, Southeastern’s president. “So if you want your kids to come back home and minister near you, do not send them here because I will do my dead-level best to talk them out of that with no apology, no hesitation and no guilt.”
In a stirring convocation message Aug. 21 as well as in personal interviews, Akin shared the burden God has given him for the Great Commission above any he has had before, and he promised that this singular passion -– going into all the world to preach the Gospel -– will be the unswerving purpose of Southeastern for as long as he is president.
He shared this passion with the seminary community as he set the stage for the fall semester.
“… [T]oo many of us are staying home, not enough of us are going,” he told the convocation audience.
Mindful of Southeastern’s mission statement — “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission” — Akin chose Matthew 28:16-20 as his text for the message.
“These words in Matthew 28 constitute the last words of Jesus in this Gospel. They were intended to be lasting words for you and for me. They are indeed the final marching orders of Christ to His army of disciples,” Akin said.
Akin noted that he had worked on his convocation sermon off and on for six months, with more than 60 hours of preparation and study. He said God has broken his heart over what he considers to be a melancholy attitude toward the Great Commission by many Southern Baptists.
“If heaven and hell are real and it is for eternity and Jesus really makes all the difference, then that just changes the way you look at everything,” Akin said. “I would want people to know that, at Southeastern, we really do believe that … and that’s a good thing. It means we’re seeing things through God’s eyes and not our own. And that’s what I hope our students gain while they are here, wherever they go and serve.”
In his sermon Akin examined the importance and the application of Jesus’ words to believers today while using the example of William Carey, the father of the modern missions movement. As Akin said, Carey “got” Matthew 28.
Akin’s message began a series of five sermons he will give at chapels during the fall semester, each focusing on the Great Commission and a missionary who took to heart this final command of Christ.
“All summer long, I’ve been reading missionary biographies,” Akin said. “And all semester I’m going to preach messages that will relate to great Christian missionaries because, again, I think that our denomination has been healthiest when it has focused upon getting the Gospel to the nations.
“I think it is also tragic that we have a vanishing memory of great Baptist missionaries like William Carey, Adoniram Judson and Bill Wallace and Lottie Moon,” he continued. “Most of our folks at least know Lottie Moon’s name, but they nothing about her, nothing…. My goal throughout the semester would be to have our students regain not only an appreciation for the Great Commission but also be challenged and inspired by some Great Commission Christians who have gone before us. And it is my prayer that out of all this the Lord might raise up some more such missionaries from our student body. If there’s a William Carey or a Lottie Moon at Southeastern Seminary right now, I’ll be thrilled to see that person go forth and do what God has called them to do.”
Akin encouraged the convocation audience to do three things when contemplating their responsibility as laid out in the Great Commission: acknowledge Jesus has all power, obey His authoritative plan and trust His amazing promise.
Believers acknowledge their Savior’s power when they worship Him and hear Him, Akin said.
“Worship in the midst of doubt? Absolutely,” Akin said. “You and I are going to face doubt. You and I are going to face situations where we’re not really sure what’s going on, what’s happening. Do I understand all that God’s doing in my life? No — then worship. Am I confused, unsure, hesitating about God’s plan for my life? Fine — worship. Am I sorrowful, heartbroken, crushed, discouraged, depressed, in utter despair? Then you worship.”
By obeying Jesus’ authoritative plan, Akin said, Christians must make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching.
“What is clear, then, from this final word of Jesus is that He is trying to move us to act,” Akin said. “Jesus ended His earthly life with these words because He wanted us to respond. He was motivating us to act. And so, I ask again the question, do you, this morning, need a reason to go and take the Gospel to the nations? The answer is no. You need a reason to stay.”
Akin told the students that, like Carey, their ministries in response to the Great Commission will be full of heartaches and tragedies. However, also like the great missionary, they can cling to the promise in Matthew 18:20: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This is a promise Akin can cling to for himself — as well as two of his sons who, along with their wives, will be heading to closed countries as missionaries.
“I’ve got two kids heading to the mission field, and I could not be more proud,” he said. “Am I concerned? Sure. Would I rather them stay here? Absolutely not! No. I am grateful to God that He has called them and proud of them and their wives that they have not hesitated to go.”
Earlier in the convocation service, David Nelson, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the faculty, presented the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award to L. Russ Bush, director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and senior professor of philosophy of religion.
“Through his administrative leadership in this institution, through the writing of numerous books and other publications and through his classroom teaching in master’s courses, in doctoral seminars and in teaching literally around the world, Dr. L. Russ Bush has greatly influenced the learning community at Southeastern,” Nelson said. “He has left his mark upon numerous faculty members who teach here and at sister institutions. And he has invested much in the lives of students who are pastors, denominational leaders and church planters, serving in Kingdom work for the glory of Christ.”
Bush, who has taught a combined 35 years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and at Southeastern, coauthored the well-known and often-referenced “Baptists and the Bible,” a book containing an outline of Baptists’ understanding of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Across his years of teaching, Bush has instructed more than 10,000 men and women.
Joy Rancatore is a staff writer at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.