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‘Task number one: walking with God,’ Kelley says at NOBTS convocation

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Obedience to God doesn’t guarantee the blessings of God, said New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley.

“I want you to understand, there’s nothing in the Bible that says faithful obedient servants of God will have an easy, rich and prosperous life,” Kelley said during the fall convocation at NOBTS. “He will take people of great faith and great devotion and put them in hard places.”

Said Kelley: “Task one for faculty and for the student body: walking with God.”

Each year, NOBTS focuses its attention on one of its five core values –doctrinal integrity, spiritual vitality, mission focus, characteristic excellence and servant leadership.

Kelley addressed this year’s value, spiritual vitality, not with a sermon, but with a personal testimony about an assumption he found to be completely false years earlier.

“It was obvious to me that if you really love the Lord, if you really dedicate yourself to him, if you really focus on him, then your life is going to be blessed and everything is going to work,” he said. “So I stayed faithful in quiet time, faithful in my Bible study, faithful in witnessing.”

Kelley shared some of the spiritual and vocational high points of his life, recounting that it seemed he was destined to succeed at everything. He was born into a Christian heritage of several generations. He was given so many awards in high school that he asked the principal to give one to someone else. In only his second year of college, he was made a staff member at Baylor University’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry. And in only his first year of seminary, he became a part of an evangelistic ministry headed by an evangelist second only to Billy Graham at the time.

“It seemed everything I did worked very well,” Kelley said.

It was only a matter of months before the bottom fell out of Kelley’s successes.

He had discovered that the evangelist under whom he worked was leading a life contrary to the ways of God. He said he had prayed for some time that someone would confront the evangelist about it, and when no one did, he realized the task had fallen to him.

After accepting the task, Kelley envisioned confronting his mentor, who would then respond as King David responded to Nathan’s rebuke, confessing his sin and entering into repentance. The result, however, wasn’t as he had intended. The evangelist refused to repent and offered Kelley double his salary if he kept it quiet.

What was worse, however, was the fact that this evangelist was Kelley’s father-in-law.

“I would have to tell my wife, only three weeks after she’d quit her job, that I had lost my job, that her father was living in sin and that we’d lost everything,” he said. “Here I was: a golden boy. God blessed everything I had done, but in a moment when I took the hardest step in obedience — doing something God truly wanted done — I lost everything.”

Kelley said it had previously been his habit to skip the chapel hour in order to visit a cafe for pie and coffee. After hitting rock bottom, he said the only thing that would sustain him was the presence of God.

“From that day on, when I’ve been on campus of the seminary, I’ve never missed chapel,” he said. “It has nothing to do with seminary expectations, but has everything to do with the soul that is thirsty for God and longs to be in his presence.”

Kelley challenged students to walk deeper with God, comparing three kinds of Christians to three kinds of plants. First was a silk plant representing Christians who are pretty on the outside, but on the inside “there is no life.” Second, Kelley noted an arrangement of cut flowers, which represented those who were waning from lack of roots. “They’re dead, but they just don’t know it yet,” he said. And third, Kelley took note of a thriving plant — not necessarily a beautiful flower, but one that was deeply rooted and sustained and replenished by water.

“There is something more important than what you will do, or what gifts and talents you have,” Kelley said. “What’s more important is who you are.

“It’s not the accomplishment of goals, but the building of character — the building of a soul.”

The Sept. 5 convocation service also included the signing of the NOBTS Articles of Belief and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message by new faculty members David Meacham, director of the Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and professor of church planting, and Archie England, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, signed the statements of faith.

Kelley identified NOBTS as a confessional seminary, saying it represented an agreement between professors and the Southern Baptist Convention on the things that matter most.

“A confession of faith is not the elimination of diversity, but an agreement on the things that matter most,” Kelley said. “It’s an agreement on the doctrinal things that have characterized Southern Baptists through their history.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CONVOCATION PRAYER and SERMON ILLUSTRATION.

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