From the seminaries: items from SWBTS, NOBTS, GGBTS, SEBTS
EDITOR'S NOTE: "From the Seminaries" includes news releases of interest as written and edited from Southern Baptist seminaries.
Today's From the Seminary includes:
Southwestern Seminary (3 items)
New Orleans Seminary (1 item)
Golden Gate Seminary (1 item)
Southeastern Seminary (1 item)
SWBTS workshop provides training,
demonstration of expository preaching
By Keith Collier
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)--Participants in Southwestern's seventh annual Expository Preaching Workshop learned techniques for text-driven preaching and listened to some of Southern Baptists' best expositors, Feb. 28 - March 1. Guest speakers Jerry Vines, Stephen Rummage and Adam Dooley joined Southwestern preaching faculty to give plenary and breakout sessions during the two-day workshop.
Adam Dooley, pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., opened the workshop with an exposition of Jonah 3. Obedience to the word of God serves as a catalyst for revival, he said.
Dooley co-wrote a chapter in Text-Driven Preaching with Jerry Vines on sermon delivery. In a breakout session, he discussed effective application in a sermon, noting that applying the text includes using the emotive structure of the biblical text to motivate obedience to God.
"Our pathos when we preach should correspond to the emotive mood and design of the author. Just as you try to discern what the text says, you should also try to discern the way in which the text says it, and then you should try to say it in the same way."
Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., gave an exposition of Mark 14:32-42 on Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He emphasized Christ's example of praying through pain.
"When we pray, we are looking for answers, but God is looking for surrender," Rummage said.
Rummage, author of Planning Your Preaching and Praying with Purpose, also led a breakout session on organizing a preaching plan. He gave pastors practical advice on filing sermons and setting up a preaching calendar.
First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., outlined how he preached through the book of Judges in one session and then demonstrated one of the sermons in chapel, preaching on Judges 17:6-13.
Along with these guest preachers, Southwestern president Paige Patterson and dean of theology David Allen led plenary sessions. Patterson preached on Matthew 14:22-33, and Allen walked through John 2:15-17, explaining how the grammatical structure of the text dictates how one should preach it. Professors Matthew McKellar and Steven Smith led breakout sessions on using illustrations in sermons and preaching to students, respectively.
This year's workshop also included an added late-night feature. First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, sponsored a Q-and-A panel discussion Monday evening with Rummage, Dooley, Smith, and First Euless pastor John Meador. The four answered questions from the audience regarding preaching and pastoral concerns.
To listen to audio from past Expository Preaching Workshops, visit www.swbts.edu/conferenceaudio.
Yarnell: Christians called
to salvation, service
By Benjamin Hawkins
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)--God calls the farmer, the businessman and even the hangman to his vocation. In fact, God calls every Christian not only to salvation but to service, Malcolm Yarnell said during the fourth of the Land Center Lectures on the Theology of Work and Economics, March 4.
"Every Christian has a vocation," said Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern. But this truth remained hidden to many during the late Middle Ages. At this time, the papacy charged people for indulgences, promising them that they would escape purgatory. The church also degraded lay workers by exalting monks and nuns alone to a holy vocation. The reformer Martin Luther, however, razed this "medieval economy of salvation" in the 16th century.
"I use that terminology on purpose," Yarnell said. "It was cash not for clunkers. It was cash for souls."
According to Luther, this "medieval economy" promoted "a works-based salvation" and "wickedness among the clergy and the laity." He responded to it by proclaiming not only that sinners are justified through faith alone but also that Christians form a priesthood of all believers. Although every person fills a "station" in this world, God grants a vocation only to those who have been justified by faith.
"First and foremost, you must be called to salvation through the Word of God," Yarnell said. "You don't have a vocation unless you have salvation, which entails, by the way, that when God's Word calls you, you call back to him in faith."
After calling a person to salvation through faith, God also calls him to service. In fact, God calls Christians to fill a vocation in every sector of life—in what Luther called the three stations of church, family and government.
"The idea of vocation has to do with all of our lives," Yarnell said. As a result, God calls one Christian, for example, not only to his daily work but also to church membership, to fatherhood and to citizenship within his native country.
"All vocations are equal in the sight of God," Yarnell added, "even if they receive different evaluations from men. A farmer may serve God just as faithfully, perhaps even more so—Luther would say—in comparison with a magistrate who governs men or a pastor who proclaims God's Word.
"The key to the righteousness of a work is whether the work is done in faith for God's glory. Whatever God has given your hand to do, do it in faith and for His glory, and God blesses through that, whatever that is."
While no good work can justify, a Christian pleases God when he fulfills his vocation, and God uses it to bless others, Yarnell said. Vocation serves as a "conduit of God's grace, of his love, to the people within this creation."
Christians share God's grace and love especially through the proclamation of the Gospel. Thus, the ministry of the Word is a Christian vocation. To ministers-in-training, Yarnell said, "The pastoral office is a vocation, a calling from God with its own responsibilities, authority and blessings. If you are not called into ministry, by the way, don't go into ministry."
When God calls a Christian to his vocation, He calls him to "carry the cross," Yarnell noted. In fulfilling his vocation, a Christian will not always feel good, and he will suffer as he serves God and others in faith and love.
"Your vocation is found in your service to others," Yarnell said, "and you realize that God loves the earth through you. This is Martin Luther's understanding of a theology of work and economics, and to tell you the truth, I don't know of a better one."
SWBTS Youth Ministry
Lab calls for surrender
By Benjamin Hawkins
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Living in a pluralist society, Christians should confess Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, and they should surrender their lives to follow Him, no matter what they may suffer in the process, pastor Tony Merida said during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's 2011 Youth Ministry Lab.
Merida, teaching pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., told youth ministers, volunteers and students that members of the current generation make many positive claims about Jesus. They are simply wrong.
In a sermon based on Peter's confession of Christ in Mark 8, he said that people have called Jesus a "witty teacher like Buddha or Socrates" or an inaccurate "apocalyptic prophet." Muslims call Christ a Muslim, feminists call him a feminist, socialists call him the first socialist, and the Native American Lakota tribe calls him the "buffalo calf of God." In modern pop culture, Jesus is a "homeboy," featured on television shows and in tattoos.
"They want to put Jesus in their own image," Merida said. Yet he warned that one of the most dangerous views of Christ can be found in churches throughout the Bible belt.
"The Bible-belt Jesus is in our churches, where people believe that we have a Jesus who would never call us to deny ourselves. We have a Jesus who is fine with half-hearted devotion, a Jesus who is OK with us not ever doing anything risky. He wants us to avoid everything dangerous, and he will never violate our comforts."
On the contrary, Merida said, Jesus came to suffer for the lost, and he calls his followers to deny themselves and bear their own crosses.
"You know the people that God uses are the people that follow this (lifestyle): They say they are willing to take up the cross, deny themselves and follow Jesus," Merida said. "It is simply people who surrender their lives to him, in total abandonment, in total surrender. They say, 'I will lay down my life for the sake of the Gospel.'"
Such surrender was illustrated before Merida preached his message. Throughout the weekend, youth workers and their students wrote on slips of paper what they needed to surrender. Before Merida preached, YML volunteers dumped these slips of paper before a cross set up on the stage in Truett auditorium.
This display, along with Merida's sermon, highlighted the conference's theme, "Release," which was based on Paul's confession in Philippians 3:8: "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
At GGBTS, Michael Green
examines evangelistic preaching
By Phyllis Evans
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (GGBTS)--"What is evangelistic preaching?" Dr. Michael Green asked his audience of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary students, faculty, and staff at the first of the two lectures he gave in March. Dr. Green, who was the speaker at the Seminary's spring Hester Lecture Series, is a rare combination of academic and evangelist. He is a British theologian, Christian apologist and author of more than fifty Christian books.
"To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ, and make him central," Green explained. "Evangelistic preaching can only be effective in the power of the Spirit. It enables people to put their trust in the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. It leads them to accept Jesus as Savior. It must involve acknowledging his Lordship over life." He noted that it is not a solitary transaction, and added that evangelistic preaching seeks to usher the believer into the fellowship of God's church.
"It is a challenging and difficult thing to preach for decision," said Green, who described how we are haunted by the fear that nobody will respond. He pointed out that evangelism in today's society is not cool. "Mercifully, though, God has given us some powerful motives to counteract our natural inertia," the 80-year-old Green noted. "If God the Father loved the world so much that he gave us his Son, surely that should constrain us to reach out in love."
"What attracts people to Jesus?" Green asked, before listing a few factors found in the early chapters of the Gospel of John. "There is the sense of discovery, of wonder, of being loved, of need, of God's power. The skilled evangelist is very sensitive to the climate of the day, and presents the aspect of the many-faceted Savior which will best reach his audience's heart."
"How can we prepare the address itself, the message of evangelism?" Green queried his listeners. "A good evangelistic talk is crisp. It wastes no words. It is interesting. It grabs attention from the opening sentence and maintains it throughout. It is biblical: scripture has a power our words do not. It must relate to the needs and concerns of the hearers, and it must challenge people to decide."
"I pray beforehand, and I keep the following points in mind as I prepare," Green said. "Start where your audience is. Of course it is important to have biblical content, but don't start with a text. Tailor your titles to your audience, keep them snappy and intriguing." The wise evangelist will be utterly Christ-centered in what he has to say, Green reminded his listeners. "Preachers need to make clear who Jesus is, what he has done for us, and the fact that he is alive and can be met."
He encouraged the seminarians to refer to their Bibles. "Shape your material -- search the scriptures and see what best relates to your chosen subject. Keep in mind you need a single clear aim which will govern everything you say. In the evangelistic address that aim is obviously to bring people to Christ. Break up and organize the material into three or four clear points. Your structure must be crystal clear, and your illustrations are very important. Your start and your conclusion are both critical. Your language is important, and your manner speaks volumes."
Green stated, "Always be Christ-centered and speak of him often, and particularly his cross. Like the preachers in Acts, we should bear four things in mind as we brood over an evangelistic address: discern the need, proclaim the person and work of Jesus, offer the twin gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, and look for a response in repentance, faith, baptism, and incorporation into the church."
"By far the most important essential in preparation is prayer," said Green. "In prayer you acknowledge that only God can bring about the new birth." Get church members to pray for you during the week when you are preparing a major address, encouraged Green. "Make it a topic at the prayer meetings. Prayer burns the message into you, and prayer will burn it into the souls of some of your hearers."
Green reminded his listeners that "The job of the evangelist is to electrify the fence on which people are sitting." We need to have the courage to preach for a verdict, he said, and noted that people cannot just drift into the Christian life. They need to decide. "When I conclude an evangelistic address, I try to leave plenty of time at the end of the sermon for listeners to make a decision. Though I am not primarily interested in decisions, but in discipleship. This is what Jesus and his apostles called people to do." He advised his listeners to "make sure you have an after-care program in place, gather names and addresses of those who have made a decision, and provide follow-up."
Our manner should be fearless and bold, warm and sensitive, he said. "Pray and trust the word of God. It is powerful. Faith is, after all, trust in the promises of God."
Green concluded by telling his listeners, "Never forget that God is the evangelist. So don't give undue prominence to any human being, yourself included. Trust God to draw people to himself through you. He will."
The Hester Lectureship on Preaching is sponsor by an endowment created in 1969 by the late Dr. H.I. Hester, a long-time professor of bible and head of the department of religion at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.
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. For more information: www.ggbts.edu.
Rainer calls NOBTS family to
'go obediently, humbly and courageously'
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS)--Building on the central theme of his latest book Transformational Church, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, titled his March 31 sermon at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary "Transformational Church, Even to the Gentiles."
Rainer, who preached on the story in Acts of Peter's vision, visit to Cornelius' house and report to the Jerusalem church, said chapters 10 and 11 in Acts recount a critical moment in the life of the early church.
"There was still this understanding that this gospel, this God who sent his Son to die for us, this love was 'for us and not them.' So many of the [early Christians] continued to remain in their holy huddle and not even think 'Are there others with whom we should share this gospel?'" Rainer said.
But Peter's vision in Acts 10:9-16 challenged that prejudice. All kinds of animals were lowered from heaven and a voice called out, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat!" When Peter assured the voice he had no intention of eating anything unclean, the voice spoke again, "What God has made clean, you must not call common."
While Peter was still wrestling with the meaning of the vision, a knock came at his door. As it turns out, Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and a God-fearer, had also seen a vision in which an angel instructed him to send for Peter. The group from Cornelius' house arrived just as Peter was still unpacking his own vision.
But Peter immediately faced a dilemma. The people from Cornelius were Gentiles and Peter was a Jew. Jewish custom prohibited Peter from inviting them into his house. As Acts 10:23 reads, "Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging."
"Peter, obviously led by God's Spirit, invited them in and gave them lodging," Rainer said. "The church was about to become a transformational church, not necessarily because of one man but definitely including one man, and his name was Simon Peter."
In light of Peter's vision and his invitation to the group from Cornelius' house, Rainer said the first lesson to learn from this story is Peter's obedience.
"It's simple, but it's profound," he said.
A second lesson to take away from the story is Peter's humility. The day after Peter gave lodging to the representatives from Cornelius' house, the group set out for Caesarea to meet Cornelius. When Peter interacts with Cornelius, Rainer said, his humility is impossible to miss.
Peter starts the conversation by saying, "You know it's forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean. That's why I came without objection when I was sent for."
"In humility before the Gentiles, he stands, even before he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and admitted he did not have all the answers and that only now is the light beginning to go on," Rainer said. "Sometimes I think the world does not listen to us because we have a sense that we have the answers. And though we certainly have the truth of God's Word, the world will listen to those who come humbly and have a sense that it's only in God's power that I can do anything."
Peter's humble greeting met an eager audience. Upon sharing the gospel with Cornelius and his household, "the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. … Then Peter responded, 'Can anyone withhold water and prevent these from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we [Jews] have?'"
But Rainer said the devotional takeaway for Christians today doesn't end with Peter's encounter with Cornelius. It also extends to his trip home to Jerusalem.
"You might expect me to say that [Peter's] courage was going to the Gentiles, and perhaps there was some level of courage in jumping that huge barrier. … But I think the greater courage was going home and telling the Jews, 'God so loves the world, Jews and Gentiles,'" Rainer said. "As a matter of fact, it looks like the journey home did not start so well."
Acts 11:2-3 states the scandal some people found in Peter's visit to Cornelius: "When Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who stressed circumcision argued with him, saying, 'You visited uncircumcised men and ate with them!'"
And when Peter recounted his vision, his visit to Cornelius and the Holy Spirit coming on Cornelius' household, the Jewish Christians first met the news with tense silence. But after a moment, their silence turned to praise: "So God has granted repentance resulting in life to even the Gentiles!"
That epiphany changed the direction of the church forever. Even today, that acceptance of Gentiles into the church should inspire believers to share their faith, Rainer said.
"For this, we should be overwhelmingly grateful to share the good news with the world around us," Rainer said.
Rainer presents LifeWay Pastoral Award
While on campus at New Orleans Seminary, Rainer also presented the annual LifeWay Pastoral Award the December 2010 graduate Shane Freeman. The annual award is given to someone who is recognized as excelling in pastoral ministry and "has demonstrated a capacity, calling and conviction that the pastoral ministry is the way that God has called him," Rainer said.
Freeman, who is married with three sons, is pastor of Mesa Baptist Church in Tylertown, Miss.
"What is affirming and rewarding to me," Rainer said, "is that [Freeman] has been pastor there since 2002. When … the average tenure for a Southern Baptist pastor is 3.3 years, it is rewarding to see someone planting roots."
At SEBTS, Hunt teaches on
stewardship of spiritual gifts
By Lauren Crane
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (SEBTS)--Seminary students ought not wait to serve the Lord, but should use their spiritual gifts to serve him and edify the body of Christ.
Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., spoke to the Southeastern family from 1 Peter 4:10 about spiritual gifts. In his March 29 chapel message, Hunt said, "There are students who are studying to serve the Lord, but who aren't serving the Lord right now. Peter says, 'The end of all things is near.'" Because no one but God knows when the end is coming, Hunt said believers should be diligent to share their spiritual gifts with others. "God supplies the message, the power, everything for the journey. What God has given me he has given me to share unto others, that God may be glorified through Christ Jesus."
Hunt said every Christian has received a spiritual gift, and the purpose is to edify the body of believers. "God has given me a spiritual gift and its divine enablement to serve the church," Hunt said. "Take what he's given you and use it for the glory of God. In the name of Jesus, be who you are. Don't give in when God has gifted you."
Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, Hunt said, and they are discerned through service. "We don't gain or determine our gifts through introspection." For seminary students, he said this means that candidates for pastoral ministry should not move through academic preparation waiting for the call. Instead, they should get the call (to ministry) in the context of service for Jesus Christ.
Every Christian not only has spiritual gifts, but has the responsibility to use them for the good of the church. Hunt said too often, Christians forget that the church is the bride of Christ, and they love Jesus, but not his bride. "I love Jesus, and I love his church. You can't love the head and hate his wife," Hunt said.
It is within the context of serving in the church that Christ develops men and women, often in roles of obscurity, Hunt said. Just as God developed David while he was serving as a shepherd, God often leads believers to obscure places of service for their development. "You will have more authority if you can speak about how you served before you had a title," Hunt said. "Then, God will move you from a place of obscurity to a place of adversity."
By God's grace and strength, Hunt said every believer has the responsibility to use their spiritual gifts well, being a good steward of the blessings God has given. This means being ready both in season and out of season to serve and to do what God has called you to do. "If you're not serving your purpose now, why do you think you'll serve your purpose later? You may be called home or Jesus may come back again."
Even if believers are ready to use their spiritual gifts in season and out of season, it will only be possible in the Lord's strength. "If God is to be glorified by ministry in his name, it must be ministry done in his strength. This teaches dependence on God and confidence in him.
"Serve in such a way that God is glorified, and others are encouraged," Hunt said. , When believers serve faithfully in places of obscurity and adversity, then they will be able to look back and be grateful for those opportunities to serve the church and glorify the Lord.