Land goes 'back to basics' during NOBTS chapel address
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS) -- "I'm going back to basics this morning," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "When you're going back to basics, it's usually best to go to the Apostle Paul."
To that end, Land, speaking to students, faculty and staff at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary during a recent chapel service, preached from Ephesians 2 and focused attention on the doctrine of salvation. The doctrine of salvation has been at the center of the debate in some Southern Baptist circles of late between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
Land said there are two keys to understanding the doctrine of salvation.
"In order to fully grasp the greatness of God's salvation in Christ, we must understand what we're saved from and what we're saved to," he said.
The first few verses of Ephesians 2 describe how God saves people from spiritual death, Land said. The chapter begins with the words, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world...."
"We are corpses," Land said. "We are existing, but we're not alive. We're dead in trespasses and sin until the Holy Spirit convicts us ... and seeks to draw us to the cross."
Verse 2 then speaks about how people walk in their sin, "following the prince of the power of the air." This part of verse 2, Land said, dispels a common misperception people have regarding personal obedience. Many people believe they either live according to God's will or their own will, Land said.
"That's a false choice," he said. "We don't do it our way. We do it the Devil's way or we do it God's way."
Land compared that misperception to New Year's resolutions.
"How many of us do New Year's resolutions? How many of us manage to keep them through the bowl games?" he asked. "You try to do what you think is right and stick to it in the power of the flesh, and see how long you succeed."
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, people have no capacity for following God or doing right by him. That inability, though, is met with a powerful declaration in verse 4 - "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses."
God is the one who acts to save his people from their sin, Land said.
"The only thing of our very own that we bring to our salvation is the sin from which we need to be saved," he said.
And why does God save his people from their sins? Land asked. It's all about love.
"It doesn't say here that God saved us for his glory," Land said, referencing Reformed or Calvinistic theology's emphasis on the glory of God.
He added, "If he saves us just for his glory, then the story of the lost son and the story of the lost sheep make no sense. He saves us because, for some unfathomable reason, he loves us."
Land also reminded those present that it is God who "made us alive."
"That's why we can't lose our salvation," Land said. "It's his."
It's that view of salvation that separates Baptists from Arminian and Pentecostal groups, who believe people can lose their faith.
"I'm saved by my God-completed faith, my God-enhanced faith, my God-imparted faith," Land said. "And so are you."
But just as the believer is saved from spiritual death, Land said Christians are saved for something as well. As verse 10 reads, "For we are his creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them."
"God never created a nobody. You might have been a surprise to your parents, but you were not a surprise to God," Land said. "God has a different set of footprints for each one of us. They've been preordained, and no one will do as good a job of walking that pathway as you can."
NOBTS celebrates Founders Day Oct. 4
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS) -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated Founders Day Oct. 4, marking 93 years since the first class was held and 94 years since Southern Baptists voted to start a seminary in New Orleans.
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley offered a snapshot of the seminary's founding to those gathered for a special Founders Day chapel, from the historic vote to start the seminary to the yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans that delayed its first semester.
But it was a regretful and sinful detail of the seminary's early days to which Kelley gave special attention.
Reflective of the racially-divided culture and Convention into which the seminary was born, NOBTS for many years did not admit African Americans into its student body - a policy that changed in the mid-1950s. And for that regrettable chapter in New Orleans Seminary's history, Kelley publicly apologized to Founders Day chapel guest speaker Robert Turner, president of Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary in New Orleans, a National Baptist institution.
"As president of Union, Dr. Turner is the embodiment of his institution. As president of New Orleans Seminary, I'm the embodiment of my institution," Kelley said. "I need to say something on behalf of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to Dr. Turner and the wonderful people of Union.
"Union was created as a school to train African American pastors, ministers and missionaries because New Orleans Baptist Seminary would not admit African American students into our student body because of the color of their skin," he said. "That was a bad, a wrong and an immoral decision. Dr. Turner, I want to apologize for us making a very serious and tragic mistake. As a representative of New Orleans Seminary, I want to apologize to you, I want to apologize to Union, and say we are sorry for what we did."
Union was founded in 1935, with cooperation and partnership between African American Baptists in New Orleans and representatives from NOBTS. For close to 50 years following, master's- and doctoral-level students and professors from NOBTS served as adjunct teachers at Union, which is associated with the National Baptist Convention.
That relationship cooled in the 1980s but was rekindled over the past couple of years. About 18 months ago, Turner, who has served as president of Union since after Hurricane Katrina but has been associated with the school since 1960, approached NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke about partnering with NOBTS to teach Hebrew at Union.
NOBTS Associate Vice President of Facilities Jim Parker stepped up to fill that need. He taught Hebrew at Union last fall and spring and is currently teaching Greek at the school.
"Dr. Turner had a desire to turn this around," Parker said.
After making the public apology, Kelley prayed for Turner and Union Baptist College and Seminary. His prayer thanks God that, though the decision by NOBTS to not admit African American students was a sad and sinful day for the seminary, He took that sin and used it for good.
"I thank you for redeeming our bad decision with such a wonderful and positive and powerful ministry ," Kelley prayed. "It is in the blessed name of Jesus who covers all of our sinfulness, who mends all of our brokenness, who restores all that we tear apart, that we pray. Amen and amen."
Turner preached from Luke 4:16-21, calling the passage "Jesus' inaugural address." He first pointed out the location of Jesus' message, "Nazareth, where he had been brought up" (verse 16).
"Nazareth was home to Jesus," Turner said. "There's a cliché we sometimes say - 'There's no place like home.'"
Turner described the sweetness of "home" by telling the story of his returning to New Orleans after Katrina.
"My brother and his wife put out the red carpet for us (after Katrina). He wanted to make me feel at home," Turner said. "We left there and came back to Mississippi to my wife's sister's home. She did likewise. But later on I found an apartment in Metairie (a New Orleans suburb). My wife and I moved into the apartment with no furniture. We couldn't find any furniture. It seemed like it was sold out. We got a mattress and slept on the floor.
"But I tell you, we were home and that meant so much to us," he said. "We appreciated what others had done for us, but just to be home made a difference. There's no place like home."
That comparison only heightened the poignancy of Jesus' rejection in Nazareth, reported later in Luke 4.
Turner also highlighted that, "as was His custom," Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. That's a custom parents ought to pass to their children, Turner said. And then in verse 17, Jesus "unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.'"
The application was clear: "You're not going to have a problem finding a passage of Scripture when you're accustomed to reading the Bible," Turner said.
Turner finally emphasized the fact that, as the quoted passage in Isaiah states, Jesus was "anointed" to preach the "good news." Turner told those present to be careful to tell people what kind of "good news" Christians carry.
"When my son was born, that was good news, but it wasn't the Gospel," Turner said. "The Gospel is good news that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God did not send anyone to save us. He came Himself."
Besides serving as president of Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary, Turner also is pastor at St. Mark's Fourth Baptist Church in New Orleans.
In the summer of 1917, messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans, La., did something they had never done before. They voted to start a seminary from scratch and locate it in New Orleans.
Classes at the newly-formed "Baptist Bible Institute," later named "New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary," began the following year in the fall of 1918.
At the time of the 1917 vote, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, were already in existence, but they had been created independently and later adopted into the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists had never before, by a direct vote of messengers, founded a seminary.
"I cannot tell you how many times I've wondered, 'What were they thinking?'" NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said at the school's Founders Day chapel. "If ever there is a non-Baptist place that has never been known as a bastion of Baptists, it is the City of New Orleans."
Kelley said New Orleans' eclecticism, culture and role as a regional and international shipping hub made it a strategic choice for focused Southern Baptist work.
"Those wonderful Baptist visionaries knew that the future of the world and of our nation was going to look a lot more like New Orleans than the small communities where Baptists were strong," Kelley said. "So they put this seminary here for the sake of the future, recognizing what a fabulous place it would be for the training of ministers."
The school met in a Garden District church in the beginning and later moved to its longtime home on Washington Avenue, between historic St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River.
In the early 1950s, NOBTS relocated to the Gentilly neighborhood, a "suburb" at the time, located on the east side of the city along historic U.S. Highway 90. Now, close to 60 years later, NOBTS is an anchor of that neighborhood.
Brad Whitt, pastor and blogger, speaks at NOBTS chapel
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS) -- Brad Whitt, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., delivered the chapel message at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 25, calling those present to a renewed pursuit of personal revival.
Whitt, an avid blogger who makes innovative use of his personal website in his pastoral ministry, gained some notoriety within Southern Baptist Convention circles this past spring with the publication of his column titled "Young, Southern Baptist ... and Irrelevant?" The title references several articles over the past few years that focus on "Young, Restless and Reformed" leaders coming of age in several organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention.
The column, first published in South Carolina's Baptist Courier newspaper in February, offered an alternative perspective to "young leaders" in the Convention who are Reformed in their theology and who "have determined that we've got to do things "radically different" in worship, missions emphasis and denominational funding, Whitt wrote.
Whitt's views struck a chord with many within the Convention, garnering several reprints and responses.
Whitt admitted to New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley that he most likely owed the opportunity to speak at NOBTS to his blogging. And yet, both Whitt and Kelley focused attention on how blogging can serve as an innovative tool for reaching people with the gospel.
"It allows me to have a ministry, more than just from the pulpit on Sunday morning, but also during the days of the week. It gives me an opportunity to touch on different subjects than maybe I do on Sunday mornings, like 'Fridays are for Families,'" Whitt said, referring to a reoccurring blog theme.
Kelley praised the impact that new technologies like blogs can have: "What an era! What an era in human history God has chosen to call you out to serve him. ... In one week, you can take the things God is teaching you in your life and ministry and share them with more people than Paul the Apostle ever saw face to face."
Whitt calls students to simple obedience, personal revival
In his sermon, though, based in 2 Samuel 6, Whitt cautioned against too much innovation and pomp in the church and in ministry and not enough focus on simple things like godly devotion and attention to biblical principles.
He first described the "sad reality" found in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Samuel 4 and following. In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines soundly defeat the Israelites and capture the Ark of the Covenant. Leading up to that battle, the Israelites had begun to "consider the Ark of God as nothing more than a good luck charm," Whitt said, which led to its capture by the Philistine. But the Ark brought painful plagues upon the Philistines, who returned it to the Israelites soon after its capture. The Ark was then placed in the house of Abinadab, where it remained for some 20 years, Whitt said.
The longtime seclusion of the Ark demonstrated that the Israelites generally didn't care about worshiping and living in the presence of God, since God was understood to dwell between the Ark's cherubim.
"For 20 years, they gathered together to worship. For 20 years, they had sung their songs and their praises. For 20 years, they'd prayed and offered their sacrifices. For 20 years, they had gathered together in the name of their God, and God hadn't been within a country mile," Whitt said.
Whitt quoted longtime Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers to connect the Israelites' behavior to the present day church: "Adrian Rogers told us the modern day church becomes so programmed, so organized, that we can gather together, we can have our classes, we can sing our songs, and we can preach our sermons ... and if the Holy Spirit of God doesn't show up, no one would be able to tell a difference."
Whitt also said the Israelites at the time of the Ark's return were disobedient to the proclamation of God. Instead of transporting the Ark in the way laid out in the Bible (carrying it via poles threaded through rings on either side), they loaded it up on a Philistine-style oxcart.
Compromising message for methods, styles and innovations, Whitt said, is all too familiar in the modern church.
"We're living in a time when the church is so worldly and the world is so churchly, and it's hard to tell them apart," he said, later adding, "There comes a point where our worldly methods contradict our heavenly message. We are to be in the world, but we're not to be of the world. Let me put it another way. You can't sanctify a Philistine oxcart by slapping an 'I love Jesus' bumper sticker on the back of it."
As a result of that disobedience, the people - namely Abinadab's son Uzzah - were disciplined. When the cart carrying the Ark hit a rut and began to overturn, Abinadab's son Uzzah reached out to catch the Ark. He was immediately killed by God because he'd touched that which was holy. Having grown up around the Ark, Uzzah undoubtedly knew better, Whitt said, and so should the modern church.
"You can't do a good thing in an ungodly way and expect God to bless it," Whitt said.
So what was David's response? And how should the modern church respond? Whitt said that verses 12 and following describe a "simple remedy."
First, "you must decide to seek God's presence," Whitt said. Verse 12 says that David saw that Obed-edom and his family were blessed when the Ark resided there, so he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem to receive a blessing as well.
Second, "you must decide to submit to God's plan," Whitt said. Verses 8 and 9 recount that David was angry at God for the death of Uzzah and even fearful of having the Ark in his possession. Yet when he saw how the Ark blessed Obed-edom, he brought the Ark to the City of David. As the Ark entered the city, he offered sacrifices and danced before it. His dance, Whitt said, represents David's submission to God's will.
Finally, Whitt said verses 14 and 15 describe David declaring and sharing his praises with the rest of the community. Similarly, when people today genuinely experience God's presence, they desire to tell others about it.
New Korean-English Bilingual Programs Launched at GGBTS
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (GGBTS) -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has announced the launching of two Korean-English bilingual tracks of two existing programs - the Master of Divinity and the Master of Theological Studies. Both of these programs will initially be offered at the Seminary's Southern California campus beginning in fall 2012.
"The Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and the Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) are the same programs we are already delivering at each of our five campuses," said Dr. Michael Martin, Vice President of Academic Affairs. "The professors of these Korean-English courses will be fluent in the Korean and English languages. Class lectures will be presented in the Korean language and students will submit work in Korean. However, participating students must be bilingual in order to participate fully in the academic experience."
The Korean-English bilingual program is in response to the need of many Korean students who are very capable academically, but struggle to explain what they have learned in the English language. This new program will allow them to adequately express what they have learned and give nuance to their understanding of the material. "It will allow students the opportunity to learn and engage in student/faculty interaction and peer interaction to their full capability," explained Martin.
Students in the program will be required to take theological reading seminars in which they will read theological texts written in English. Students will then discuss their studies in an English language conversation, enhancing their English skills.
Martin anticipates that the two types of students most likely to enroll will be first generation Korean-Americans already serving in Korean churches in the United States and international students who come directly from Korea.
"The Korean community has provided incredible encouragement for launching this effort to our Korean program. Their financial and cooperative support was a significant issue in gaining authorization from our accrediting agencies," said Dr. Jeff Iorg, Golden Gate Seminary's president.
Dr. David Gill, a well-known Korean leader among Southern Baptists, has been named the Director of Golden Gate Seminary's Korean Bilingual Masters Programs. Dr. Gill is a graduate of Golden Gate Seminary holding a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Gill will recruit, promote, consult, teach, and raise funds related to the Korean programs.
IMB President challenges Seminary "to have a heart for missions"
By D.J. Castilleja
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MBTS) -- The International's Mission Board's top executive challenged the Midwestern Seminary family "to have a heart for missions," and also laid out the organization's plan for reaching people around the world with the Gospel during a chapel service on Oct. 18.
Dr. Tom Elliff, the IMB's president, shared with the capacity audience that it was a misconception that everyone in the world has access to the Gospel. "The truth is that about 1.7 billion people of our 6.9 billion world population will in all likelihood die without hearing the name of Jesus unless something happens," Elliff said, emphasizing the importance of missions. "There are approximately 3,600 people groups among whom there are no entities with 'boots on the ground' to evangelize them and to disciple them with the view to create churches."
According to the IMB's website, a people group is the largest group of people through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance. Out of the 11,571 known people groups, 6,685 are defined as "unreached." An unreached people group is where Evangelical Christians comprise less than 2 percent of the total population. Of these 6,000-plus unreached people groups, 3,607 are defined as "unengaged." A people group is considered engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with Evangelical faith and practice is underway.
In explaining the difficulties of reaching these unreached people groups, Elliff said, "It is a shame that we can literally see these people groups - they are on top of very high mountains that people are unwilling to scale, and they are in deep valleys where people are unwilling to travel. And many of them are in closed countries."
As a result the IMB sees its purpose as a facilitator that sends missionaries out into the field from the SBC churches. "The IMB doesn't send missionaries - churches send missionaries," he said. "The church has the capacity to seek God and to find out how to penetrate the darkness of this world with the Gospel of Christ. We don't want you to partner with us - we want to partner with you."
Transitioning to the main content of his message, Elliff asked, "Do you have a heart for missions?" He then explained the difference between having a "heart for missions" versus simply being "for missions." By looking to Romans 1, he explained what he called the "I am" heartbeats of a heart that is for missions.
For the first heartbeat, the IMB leader referred to Romans 1:14 where Paul stated, "I am obligated." Elliff explained that "Paul had a profound personal debt that he could not get away from." He exhorted students saying that the same indebtedness that Paul experienced throughout his life in Christ is the same indebtedness that we should all have. "I am grateful to have God's grace shared with me so now I must share it with others," he said.
The second heartbeat Elliff noted was having an eager passion for the gospel. "The focus of Paul's passion was preaching the Gospel," he said. The prominent SBC leader encouraged students to be as Paul, who said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes."
Elliff concluded his message with an invitation that challenged faculty, staff and students to come to the front stage in a demonstration of commitment in "having a heart for missions."
Following the chapel service, the IMB executive met with area church leaders in an informal gathering to discuss IMB strategy and answer questions. One query posed by a pastor in attendance was "how missionaries would be selected in the future?" Among the priorities Elliff mentioned was the need for missionaries to believe and defend the Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptists' doctrinal statement. He also said they must start raising their own support, going on to make it clear he meant "prayer support"--finding 100 people to spend one-hour weekly in prayer for them. Furthermore, the missionary must visit churches to share about what is taking place with IMB missions, he said.
"Sending involves tight connection between the church and the missionary," Elliff said.
"It is always an encouragement to have Tom Elliff on our campus to encourage and motivate our students about the importance of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He is highly respected as a leader among Southern Baptists, and it is a great honor to have him with us," said Dr. Phil Roberts, Midwestern's president. "Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is committed to playing an instrumental role in the great things that the International Mission Board is doing for the kingdom. Training our students to serve the church with an emphasis on missions and evangelism is key to furthering the Great Commission and reaching the nations with the Gospel within our lifetime."
Additionally, Elliff spoke of the Embrace Seminars that are meant to develop a greater understanding of the IMB's role in reaching the 3,600 unreached people groups in the world for Christ.
Guest speaker of the SEBTS Page Lecture Series
invites students to live into the missional and redemptive story of God
By Michael McEwen
WAKE FOREST (SEBTS) -- Christopher J.H. Wright is the international director of the Langham Partnership International (known in the United States as John Stott Ministries). Langham Partnership provides literature, scholarships and preaching training for pastors in Majority World churches and seminaries. Wright has written several books including commentaries on Deuteronomy and Ezekiel, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, The Mission of God and Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament.
As this year's Page Lecture Series speaker, Wright discussed the topic, The Bible and the Mission of God. Drawing upon his book, The Mission of God: Unlocking The Bible's Grand Narrative, Wright's first lecture was "Reading the Whole Bible for Mission, What Happens When We Do?" and his second examined "God, Israel and the Nations: The OT and Christian Mission."
Wright stated, "The Bible is God's engagement with God's world through God's people for God's purposes." Understanding this underlying theme throughout the Scriptures, Wright said, we begin to live into that same story.
Noting how many evangelicals use the Old Testament as a "check box" for prophetic Messianic foretellings of the coming Christ, Wright contended, "Jesus spoke of himself by referencing the entirety of the Old Testament , and this is something we can never forget when reading the Old and New Testament."
Reading in the Bible that God is intimately engaged with his world, specifically culminated in Jesus of Nazareth, Wright said, "We are to read all of the Bible missionally. Thus, God is with a mission and humanity has been given a mission and that is to live before all peoples as redeemed witnesses of the True God.
"If you read everywhere and anywhere in Scripture," noted Wright, "the purposes of God are redemptive and missional. Many evangelicals miss the holistic purposes of what it means to be God's people." Discussing the importance of behavior, society, ethics, politics and other various arenas in life, Wright acknowledged that God desires for us to promote these spheres well and live them faithfully before him.
"From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God's 'business' is definitively the Nations," said Wright. "Nations, I define, are not to be understood in the modern sense like nation-states, but peoples of common degree of culture, traditions and language."
After walking the chapel attendees through the Old and New Testament, Wright concluded, "Here is this marvelous vista of the Nations in Yahweh's international and sovereign providence. All nations are created by God, under God's governance and all fall short of God's glory and stand under his judgment. Thus, the Scriptures remind us that like Israel, all Nations can experience the redemptive grace and mercy of God."
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