9Marks sparks discussion on church, culture

by Ali Dixon and Tom Strode, posted Wednesday, June 24, 2015 (3 years ago)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) -- Southern Baptist leaders discussed how the church can engage culture and align itself with biblical practices at two 9Marks panels in Columbus, Ohio.

During the two-evening event, held June 15-16, about 800 people attended each panel. The panels were held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Columbus.

On Monday night (June 15), Mark Dever, 9Marks church health ministry president, and Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, urged the crowd to be hopeful and faithful in the face of a culture increasingly opposed to the church. Their comments came in a conversation on "Connecting Church and Culture" hosted by 9Marks and ERLC.

Pastors and other Christians should not be "wringing our hands," Moore said. "That is such an unfaithful response to what is happening in culture, as though somehow cultural forces are able to dethrone Jesus as sovereign ruler of the universe."

"If we fear and if we lack confidence in our Gospel, we're going to turn mean and resentful toward lost people and toward our mission field," he said. "Let us be joyful, hopeful, convictional people who are not panicked, who are not distressed and who are not tossed about like the wind."

Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pointed the audience to Jesus' promise in Matthew 16 that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church and to the Great Commission in Matthew 28. The Great Commission is "not so much a challenge to us as it's God letting us know what His victory plan is," he said.

Moore said, "Increasingly, it's going to be difficult to be a good American and a Christian at the same time. I think that can be very good for the witness of the church."

Dever encouraged pastors to be "catechizing your congregation on how to pray" during corporate worship. In his pastoral prayer on Sunday morning, he prays for such topics as government change, schools, the police department and the persecuted church, he said. "Be informed. Try to think critically about the issues you're hearing about."

During a 90-minute, question-and-answer session, Moore and Dever addressed issues such as:

-- How to help gays, lesbians and transgender people who desire to follow Christ.

-- Whether to attend a same-sex wedding.

-- How to relate to Christians who endorse gay marriage.

-- How to witness to people who oppose the church because of its stand on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

-- What they have learned regarding racial issues in the last year.

On Tuesday night (June 16), Dever sought to address specific issues Southern Baptists are facing today and reflect on this year's SBC annual meeting.

The panel, moderated by Dever, included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board.

Dever asked the panel their thoughts on manipulative evangelism and its current implications. Charles said he believes the fear of sharing the Gospel can be another extreme that people lean to instead of telling others about Jesus.

Platt noted select Indian ministry efforts that saw little long-term impact. He called Christians to stay away from promoting "easy believism" and to rightly contextualize the Gospel.

In reflection on topics related to this year's SBC annual meeting, Platt focused on the need to combat declining church membership and baptisms by approaching personal evangelism with greater intention and zeal.

Charles was asked to share his experience in the SBC as an African-American pastor. He said he was encouraged by the sense of warmth, love, hope and desire in the SBC.

"I believe God is raising up a new generation of teachers," Charles said. "Faithful men trying to do God's work. Pray that ... we would do more of crossing the street to get to know one another and encourage one another."

When Dever asked the pastors if they would be willing to meet with someone of a different ethnicity in the next two months, almost the whole room stood up to express a commitment to do so.

To see the full discussion, go to http://erlc.com/connecting.

Ali Dixon is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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