"As your president, I have often challenged you in these aspects of the Great Commission: going, discipling, and baptizing," Iorg said. "Today I want to remind you that Jesus said in that same commission: 'Teaching them to observe all things.' I'd like to challenge you to rise up and reclaim the responsibility to be the teaching church."
As churches have abandoned their teaching role over the past 20 years, knowledge of the Gospel has dimmed in Southern Baptist churches, the president said, encouraging the Golden Gate community to remedy the error.
"We can turn the tide in the churches where we are participating, on the importance of teaching the Gospel and its implications. Our failure to have done this effectively has caused an erosion of doctrinal stability in the churches that is alarming," Iorg said. "The reversal will take time and will only be accomplished by leaders who are resolutely determined to fulfill all of the Great Commission, not just the going and the baptizing, but also the teaching the Gospel and its implications. I challenge us today to make a fresh commitment to be the teaching church."
Iorg noted an elimination of programs like discipleship training, missions education and music training, changes he said are often taken to streamline and sharpen ministry's focus.
"But the long-term result, which we're already reaping," he said, "is an absence of doctrinal conviction among Christians, particularly among Baptists. We have substituted thematic preaching, short courses and conferences for the core responsibility to teach the Gospel and its implications in a systematic fashion."
He challenged the seminarians to be the teaching church and emulate the model of Antioch in the New Testament.
"Antioch was the first time the Gospel was intentionally preached broadly in the Gentile community," he said. "The city of Antioch had no prior Christian community. It was a pagan city devoid of the Gospel. When the Gospel was preached, however, large numbers of people came to faith.
Those who started the Antioch church had no teaching or foundation in the Gospel, yet realized a teaching ministry was foundational to the church, Iorg said.
"Barnabas realized this movement had to be stabilized, had to turn from a movement into a functioning church. He and Saul/Paul did that by starting a teaching ministry. The text doesn't tell us what the curriculum was," Iorg said, "but if we look at the outcomes of this teaching ministry, we can determine what these men were teaching."
Clues are found in the first stories about Antioch, which show the church learned how to worship, give money to those in need and send missionaries on trips. The church also sent a delegation to Jerusalem to settle the issue of salvation by grace through faith, all in little more than a year after the church was founded.
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a Cooperative Program Ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and operates five, fully-accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona, and Colorado. Get more information:
Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
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