SBC Life Articles


We are intrigued by the future, particularly in times of great change. "What will the future be?," "Will it be positive or negative?," and "Who are the people who will cause it to be as it will be?" Questions about the outlook for evangelicalism in the next century simulated a well-known evangelical journal to attempt to identify those young men and women most likely to impact it, and most expected to assure its positive future.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., R.-Okla., are among five Southern Baptists named by Christianity Today as "Up & Comers, 50 Emerging Christian Leaders, 40 and Younger."

Other Southern Baptists named to the list are Daniel L. Akin, Southern Seminary's vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology; David P. Gushee, ethics professor at Union University a Baptist-related college in Jackson, Tenn.; and contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James.

The evangelical magazine, which carried the article Nov. 11, said in a news release it solicited nominations from 1,000 Christian leaders nationwide, then made its final selections.

Of Mohler, 37, and Akin, 39, the magazine wrote: "On August 1, 1993, 33- year-old Al Mohler stepped to the helm of his denomination's flagship seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.), took the wheel, and made a strong turn to the right. The speed and velocity of that turn threw some faculty, staff, and students off-balance — a few were thrown overboard. Mohler, foot on the gas, never looked back. His goal, he says, is `nothing less than a recovery of the tradition and conviction upon which the institution was established.'

"Mohler recently asked Daniel Akin to become his right-hand man. Akin is the protégé of Paige Patterson, one of the original architects of the SBC conservative resurgence. `Al's so serious, he sleeps in three-piece pajamas,' says James Merritt, a Baptist pastor and friend of both Mohler's and Akin's. 'Danny is the perfect foil to Al. He's got the people skills and warmth to administer the president's marching orders.' Akin interprets those marching orders as 'the development of apostle Pauls, men with keen minds and warm evangelistic hearts. Theological education without evangelistic zeal ushers in pride. Zeal without theological will gives way to fanaticism. Both are essential at Southern."

Mohler, before assuming Southern's presidency, was editor of The Christian Index, Georgia Baptists' newsjoumal. Akin, who also is associate professor of Christian theology at Southern, formerly was vice president of student services, dean of students and assistant professor of Christian theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.

Watts, 38, an African-American and ordained Southern Baptist minister, was first elected in Oklahoma's 4th congressional District in 1994 — "the first black Republican since Reconstruction elected to Congress from south of the Mason-Dixon Line," according to Christianity Today. Watts was re-elected Nov. 6 with 38 percent of the vote. The magazine noted Watts' district is 88 percent white and 70 percent Democratic. Watts, who formerly was a youth minister, is a member of Sunnylane Baptist Church, Del City, in suburban Oklahoma City.

Christianity Today noted Watts has squarely identified himself as pan of the Christian Right, although he "has begged the GOP to `go slow' on affirmative action, while promoting the philosophy behind his Community Renewal Project: 'The answer for the poor community is to use the tax code to encourage investment in poor communities, to encourage home ownership in those communities, and — the most important thing — to remove the red tape from the government resources available for the task,' he says. 'Let's allow the neighborhood and faith-based organizations, the people who have the same zip code as those who need the help, to help solve some of the problems. The faith-based organizations are the ones really getting results."

The magazine added that Watts has kept a campaign vow to commute home every weekend to be with his wife and their five children.

Gushee, 34, who left Southern Seminary's faculty for Union University earlier this year, became interested in ethics when he saw a film on the Holocaust as a high school student and "was shattered to know I lived in a world where people could do this to other people," Christianity Today quotes him as saying. "So when I became a Christian, I was very practically and ethically oriented. I believed that if Christianity was true, it must hold the answers to human suffering. Gushee, a former staff member of Evangelicals for Social Action, has written a book, The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, examining why some Christians under Hitler helped Jews but others didn't.

In the pro-life arena, the magazine also recounted: "Two years ago, when David Gushee and his wife learned the baby they were expecting would be stillborn, they chose to have labor induced rather than 'have the fetus dismembered by an abortion doctor.' The procedure, they felt, 'would have been an offense to the dignity of our child's life."

Of St. James, 19, a member of First Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn., Christianity Today writes: "Contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James has been described as part Amy Grant, part Mother Teresa, and part Billy Graham — with some smoke and lasers thrown in. After cutting her first album at age 16, she became a Dove Awards nominee for Best New Artist. More recently her second album, GOD, along with her advocacy for Compassion International and her mission to summon teenagers to 'be sold out for God,' has established her as a rising force in Christian music and ministry."

The magazine recounted, "Born in Australia, she moved with her family to America in 1991. When her father's business venture fell through, the family members found themselves cleaning homes for grocery money and stuffing their clothes into bed sheets to sleep on. The experience of seeing God provide during that time energized Rebecca to reach her generation for Christ. 'Can you picture this?' she asks at her concerts. Then she relays a vision reminiscent of Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego face the furnace unless they bow before idols: 'Our generation has its faces in the dirt, bowing down to the idols of materialism and selfishness. But you and I are like this' — she clenches her eyes, throws her head back, and reaches heavenward with outstretched arms and open palms. 'We will not bow.'"

Among other key evangelicals on the Christianity Today list are Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition; Lisa C. Barnes, founder of Neighbors Who Care, a ministry to assist crime victims affiliated with Prison Fellowship; dc Talk members Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait and Kevin Smith; A.C. Green Jr., forward for the Phoenix Suns; Reggie White, defensive end for the Green Bay Packers and a lay minister in Knoxville, Tenn.; race relations leader Derek Perkins of Pasadena, Calif.; Danny Cortes, program officer for Pew Charitable Trusts; and Lee Grady, executive editor of Charisma magazine who grew up a Southern Baptist in Montgomery, Ala.

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