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Spiritual leadership necessary in a weary time, pastor says

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Lord, God! Raise up a new generation of men and women that will be absolutely extraordinary for you!” Dean Register prayed as he led a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary culmination of a seminary-wide day of prayer and fasting for spiritual awakening.

“It is a wonderful day in the life of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, a time for us to remember how important it is to be touched and stirred by God,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said in his introductory remarks for the Oct. 9 chapel service. “It is always a good thing for a community of believers to set aside a special time of prayer and a special longing for spiritual awakening, and that’s why we’re here.”

Register, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., said as he thought of the Sept. 11 terrorist tragedy, God impressed on him the great need for true spiritual leadership at this time.

“Biblical leadership is dispensed by the Spirit of God, directed by the authority of God and devoted to the glory of God,” Register said. “We are called upon by God to be the spiritual leaders and to make a difference in a nation that is very weary right now.”

While the need for spiritual leaders in American is great, God’s expectations of those leaders is even greater, Register said. Drawing from 1 Peter 5:1-7 which use the image of a shepherd and his sheep as an illustration, he pointed out what God expects from those he has called to service.

God expects spiritual leaders to care for the heart of the fellowship, just as the shepherd cares for his flock, Register said. God wants the church to be a place where people can receive healing, rather than the “hurting place” many churches have become.

“God wants us to lift up, God wants us to hold up and God wants to encourage,” Register said. “God wants to use an institution like New Orleans Baptist Seminary to send out men and women who have been healed by the grace of God to bring healing to others.”

Just as the shepherd keeps his flock from danger, God expects spiritual leaders to guard the health of their congregation, Register continued, noting that spiritual leaders are to guard what comes into their flock.

A loss of focus is one of the dangers facing the church today, he said. The focus should always be on Jesus, but too often that is not the case, he observed.

Another subtle danger is the loss of fire, Register said, because churches sometimes fall in love with ritual and methodology instead of the Savior, which in turn robs the church of its joy. Register related the story of how the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzche rejected Christianity because he never saw the members of his father’s church enjoy themselves.

“Have we come to that?” Register asked. Is there “no inexpressible joy on our faces” and “no delight that we are in his presence?”

God also expects spiritual leaders to serve his holiness, Register said. Spiritual leaders belong to God, not the churches they serve, he said, describing serving God’s holiness as worship, obedience and brokenness as exhibited by Moses, Joshua, Caleb and Deborah.

Register also said spiritual leaders are to build up the house of God by setting an example and living a life of integrity. “The world is not looking for perfection,” he said. “They are looking for authenticity.”

Finally, God expects leaders to trust humbly in his will, Register said. They are called to obedience rather than comfort and to submit to the leadership of God, he said.

The service concluded with a time of prayer led by members of the NOBTS board of trustees. Participants bowed on their knees as prayers were voiced for the lost, the seminary community and the nation.

The annual day of prayer and fasting began in 1999 when the Kelley and the board of trustees were facing an important decision about the campus. Sensing the need to close a trailer park operated by the seminary in order to make space for new student housing and realizing the impact this would have on many students led the trustees and the president to call for a day of prayer and fasting to seek God’s will.

The trailer park was closed, but Kelley said, “God did a mighty work.” God provided for the needs of the students affected by the decision. Since then the trustees and president decided to observe a day of prayer and fasting annually during the October NOBTS trustees’ meeting, followed by a free luncheon that breaks the fast.
Myers is a master of divinity student at NOBTS.