Today's From the Seminaries includes:
Stetzer to church leaders: set biblical patterns for ministry
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS -- When Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, spoke at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he did not speak just to today's seminary students. He issued a challenge to tomorrow's church leaders.
"You're now on the journey of ministry preparation, and you're setting and creating patterns for how you're going to minister in the future," Stetzer said, later adding, "Sometimes those patterns are healthy and sometimes they're not."
Stetzer focused on one pattern in particular that involves how vocational ministers and members of the church commonly view the task of ministry.
"Part of the challenge is, we live in a world ... where Christians are more likely to be passive spectators than active participants in the mission of God," Stetzer said.
Stetzer, in a chapel message Feb. 5, described how people just starting out in ministry often will attend seminary and gain tools not just for preaching and teaching but also for leading others to participate in the mission of God both at home and abroad.
"But then we go out ... into a Christian world that's desire is for you to minister to them and to be the objects of the ministry rather than the partners of the ministry," Stetzer said. "Here's the thing: People love to be passive spectators rather than active participants in the mission of God. And you have to decide whether you're going to be a part of that system or whether you're going to break from that system."
That system, he said, in no way reflects God's desire for the church. Stetzer pointed to 1 Peter 4:10-11 to address who in the church is gifted for ministry and how that ministry should be carried out.
Stetzer first emphasized that all Christians have gifts. As verse 10 begins, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another."
"This is written to believers who have been born again by the power of Gospel, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And therefore based on the gift -- singular, of the Holy Spirit -- they have received, use it to serve one another," he said.
To compliment the 1 Peter 4 passage, Stetzer also pointed to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, which gives a partial list of gifts from the Spirit those within the church may have.
"Every person in your church and my church, if they're a follower of Jesus, is gifted with and by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's agenda in the world, to share the love of Christ, to show the love of Christ, to live as agents of God's mission," Stetzer said.
Secondly, Stetzer said not only are all gifted with and by the Holy Spirit, all are expected to put that giftedness to work. As 1 Peter 4:10 concludes, "as good managers of the varied grace of God."
"God has filled your church with redeemed and spiritually gifted people to accomplish His agenda in the community, to see His Gospel preached, and to see people shown the love of Christ," he said. "The problem is the system teaches them their job is to pay, pray and stay out of our way. I think you have to make the decision to break that system."
Stetzer then highlighted the two broad categories of gifting in 1 Peter 4:11 -- speaking and serving -- and God as the source of that gifting.
"When pastors and staff do for people what God has called the people to do, everyone gets hurt and the mission of God is hindered," Stetzer said.
Stetzer concluded by reminded seminarians why people are empowered to be ministers: to bring God glory (1 Peter 4:11), noting: "If you will step into this situation and say ... 'I'm not going to be satisfied with the status quo of church as store; instead, I'm going to see church as equipping center,' the end result is some people won't like it but God will get His due glory in the church," Stetzer said.
Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Missions gets spotlight for seminarians, collegians
By Craig Sanders
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- "If you're not committed to missions, you're not serious about the Gospel," Zane Pratt, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, said in a chapel service during Global Evangelism Week at the Louisville, Ky., campus.
Pratt, in his message "The Missionary Logic of the Gospel," drew from Romans 10:5-17 to remind students that missions is the central focus of the Gospel message. Pratt served as a missionary in Central Asia for 20 years prior to coming to Southern Seminary.
Representaatives of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board were on campus during the Feb. 11-15 missions emphasis to provide resources to seminary students interested in pursuing missions or mobilizing their churches for evangelism.
Students had the opportunity each day to attend lectures, panel discussions, information sessions and prayer vigils to emphasize the need to advance the Gospel around the globe.
The seminary community also gathered for the week's biggest event, a Valentine's Day chapel service with John Piper, associate pastor for preaching and vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
Students and faculty began streaming into Alumni Chapel earlier than an hour before the service, with some attendees later standing or moving to an overflow room.
Piper, in his sermon "The Sadness and Beauty of Paul's Final Words," examined 2 Timothy 4:9-22 and offered observations regarding the difficulties of ministry.
Drawing from Paul's last words to Timothy, Piper noted that pastoral ministry inevitably involves difficult but necessary friendships. He offered encouragement that "the Lord will stand by you as a never-failing friend."
At the end of the missions week, Southern welcomed college students from across the country for the collegiate Resolute conference, which SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. hoped would be the "genesis of a great deployment" for world missions.
The conference featured Piper, Mohler and Russell D. Moore, vice president of academic administration and dean of the seminary's school of theology. Charlie Hall, a songwriter and worship pastor with Passion conferences, led worship for the weekend event.
Piper preached messages for two of the four general sessions of the conference, aiming to place students on "a trajectory for world missions" and provide lasting support for their journey.
That support came from a reminder that God does everything for "magnifying His glory" and displays His glory by saving sinners through the cross of Christ. "The removal of God's wrath," he said, "is a universally relevant message."
Piper also urged students to serve in world missions either by going themselves or sending others. He distinguished the roles of missionaries, those who plant churches in unreached areas, and pastors, those who mobilize churches for missions efforts.
The most important factor in one's call to missions, Piper said, is holy ambition.
"How do you gain a holy ambition? Immerse yourself in the Bible and ask God to make something burn in your heart," Piper said.
Mohler proclaimed the universal purpose of God's salvation in his message "Finding Your Place in God's Story." He reminded students, though, that their personal stories do not matter much beyond their role in illustrating God's regenerative power.
"Our purpose is to find our story and then lose it in God's story," Mohler said.
Moore closed the conference with a message from John 12:16-43 when Jesus foretells of His death. Moore pointed to verse 31 as an illustration to show the relationship between the cross and the Great Commission, that "Jesus drew all people to Himself."
"The desire to take the Gospel to the nations," Moore noted, "means you must crucify the desire for your own glory."
To open Global Evangelism Week, Southern Seminary hosted the Embrace IMB Conference with Gordon Fort, the IMB vice president for global strategy. Fort spoke at chapel, Feb. 7, and headlined the weekend conference, Feb. 8-9.
More information about missions training and efforts at Southern Seminary is available at www.sbts.edu/missions
Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Build a church not an assembly hall, Osborne says
By Keith Collier
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Standing in front of an auditorium filled with future ministers, veteran pastor Chris Osborne issued one challenge from his years of ministry to a chapel audience at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Feb. 27.
"When you leave this school and become a pastor, you're going to face one decision that will decide whether or not you die successful in the eyes of Jesus Christ," Osborne said. "You're not going to face it now. You're not even going to understand it now, but it is going to be a pressure-driving decision. And you are going to have to decide, and you can't imagine the intensity of the pressure.
"Are you going to build an assembly hall or are you going to build a church?" Osborne asked. "The pressure is enormous to build an assembly hall and not a church."
Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, Texas, for more than 25 years and a Ph.D. candidate in preaching at Southwestern, challenged students from John 6:53-69 to understand what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Osborne explained that Jesus' teaching in the John 6 passage on eating His flesh and drinking His blood was given to distinguish between true and false disciples. Bringing it to a present-day context, Osborne said, "Let me be clear about something. You are not a disciple because you tithe. You are not a disciple because you go to church … because you clap after a song … because you hold your hand up when you worship … because you weep.
"You're a disciple when you understand absolutely who Jesus Christ is … you surrender to it. And it doesn't matter what He says, it doesn't matter how He says it, it doesn't matter where He tells you to go, it doesn't matter how He tells you to go -- you are all in. That is a disciple. That is what He's looking for.
"What Jesus did is, He ran off the assembly hall and He gathered His church."
Osborne noted the tug-of-war pastors face between man's recognition and God's calling.
"Let's be honest today. Your stature as a pastor will be exclusively based on the size of your church," Osborne said. "Your value in the convention is tied to how many people come to hear you preach. But it's not about assembly halls. It's about gathering people who really get it as to who Jesus Christ really is. It's easy to say in here that we're going to preach the truth when we get out there, but it's difficult to live."
Osborne, referencing Ephesians 2, warned pastors against accommodating the church to the preferences of the people over against God's desire through Christ's death on the cross to bring individuals from opposite ends of the spectrum together in the church.
"It is not about the flavor of worship, it is about the Savior of worship," Osborne said. "We've got way too many churches that are concerned about the flavor, not the Savior."
"Build a worship that if they don't like worship they don't come," Osborne counseled. "You have no right to be offensive; Jesus was not at all offensive. But build a worship that people who don't worship Jesus Christ, it's not good for them. I think the real distinction in worship isn't so much hymns versus choruses; it's that there's a generation of people who wanted to watch worship and now there's a generation of people who want to do worship.
"If they don't want to worship your Savior, you love them, but they're not the church. If you understand who He is, you can't help but worship who He is."
Osborne also advocated preaching the Bible verse-by-verse, book-by-book because it requires a preacher to stay within the biblical context and to preach passages he would likely never preach otherwise.
"What you'll discover is that people who don't want , because they don't really want Jesus, won't come to your church. The people who really want , who hunger for it because they know who Jesus is, will come to your church."
Focusing on authentic worship and biblical preaching may result in less church attenders and more grumbling, Osborne said, "but you build a church and not an assembly hall."
To watch, listen or download Osborne's message, visit www.swbts.edu/chapelarchives.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).
20/20 conference urges Gospel proclamation & missional living
WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference featured speakers Daniel Akin, Bruce Ashford, C.J. Mahaney and Darrin Patrick. This year's theme, "Gospel and Mission," examined the centrality of the Gospel in the church's mission to the broken world.
Approximately 700 people attended the Feb. 1-2 sessions on Southeastern's Wake Forest, N.C., campus. Tony Merida, Southeastern's Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching and associate professor of preaching, was the conference's host.
In Friday night's session, Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, preached from Galatians 5:16-24 on how God wants to first work in Christians so that He can then work through them.
Patrick noted how the Gospel grows the church painfully, holistically, internally, gradually and communally. Referencing Galatians 6:22-16, Patrick said, "Spiritual fruit equals spiritual freedom and spiritual fruit equals Gospel transformation. When God is working in you, you cannot not tell people about Him."
"The word 'called' is why you are a Christian," said C.J. Mahaney, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Ky. Mahaney preached from Jude 1 on those who are called and kept for Christ's purposes.
"… ou were graciously, personally called by God," Mahaney said. "The call Jude is referencing is a summons and it is an affectionate call. It is God's determination to save. This call reveals and accents the mission of God. This divine action precedes human decision. Before you came to God, God came to you."
On Saturday morning, Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin spoke from Romans 15:14-24 on how the Great Commission should orient the people of faith toward the nations.
"The Gospel should be sinners standing in front of sinners telling them that they are sinners," Akin said. "God in great mercy and love poured out His wrath on His only Son. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 is not an option to be considered but a command to be obeyed. My prayer is that we would be obedient to King Jesus and see that the Gospel is extended to all the nations."
Following Akin, Bruce Ashford, Southeastern's provost, preached from Revelation 5 on Christ the King and Savior of the nations. Christ is the creator and king over everything, he said, noting, "All things exist to glorify Christ because He created everything.
"Christ is not some tribal deity for some exclusive group of people," Ashford said. "He is the Lord and Savior of the nations. Christ's death destroys racial pride. The ingathering of the nations in the church's mission isn't primarily a political or social issue; it is a blood-of-Christ issue. God is global, multi-national and multi-ethnic."
Closing the 20/20 Conference, Mahaney taught from 1 Thessalonians 2 on the profile of a church planter. Like Paul, Mahaney said, the pastor is to have a heart for the Gospel and a heart for people.
"Paul was not preoccupied with the Gospel as an abstract message," Mahaney said. "Paul cared about people. He was entrusted with the Gospel for people. Every pastor and church planter must have a heart for the Gospel and for people. As Paul was the gentle, affectionate pastor, you are to imitate him, pastor."
To watch the messages from the 20/20 weekend, go to http://apps.sebts.edu/multimedia/?cat=56.
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