FROM THE SEMINARIES: Russell Moore at SBTS; text-driven preaching conference at SWBTS
In today's From the Seminaries:
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Moore, at SBTS, speaks of Christian 'loneliness, weakness'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Loneliness, weakness and irrelevance have a place in the Christian life, Russell Moore said in drawing from the prophet Elijah during a chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"The pattern here is not unusual," Moore said. "The pattern is the pattern that will belong in some way to everyone who seeks to follow Jesus Christ. Because Jesus tells us, 'If you try to hold on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life, you will find it.'
"When you find and live a life of conviction, that is not about winning arguments, that is not about demonstrating power. Often it is about loneliness and weakness and irrelevance."
The end result of ministry in service of Jesus Christ will often look like failure, Moore said. This reality, he said, is the "way of the cross" -- a way in which faithfulness often conflicts with cultural influence or powers.
"Everyone will have to choose between the pursuit of power and fidelity to God," he said.
"There will be times when you will wonder, 'Why in the world did I sign up for this? Why in the world am I speaking to a culture like this one? Why in the world -- when my family thinks I'm crazy for going to seminary, when my community thinks I'm crazy for saying Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father -- am I here?'
"If you will listen to the thinnest sound of silence," Moore said, "you will hear the words that you heard in the beginning: Come follow me."
Prior to leading the ERLC, Moore served at Southern Seminary as senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology from 2004-2013. He also taught systematic theology and ethics.
Introducing Moore at the March 20 chapel, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. spoke of having been Moore's doctoral supervisor when he was a Ph.D. student., "I've known Russ Moore now for decades," Mohler said. You know him because you know of his leadership, you know of his voice, you know of his preaching, you know of his insight, you know of his courage, you know his of his conviction.... But I'm particularly thankful for Russ Moore as friend and colleague."
Video of Moore's sermon, "Convicted Without Baal: How Loneliness, Weakness, and Irrelevance Can Save Your Life," is available in full at equip.sbts.edu.
SWBTS preaching conference -- 8 plenary, 30 breakout sessions
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's second annual Text-Driven Preaching Conference provided instruction in the what, how and why of text-driven preaching. Eight plenary sessions, a choice among 30 breakout sessions and a pre-conference workshop equipped attendees to allow the structure, substance and spirit of a given biblical text to drive the structure, substance and spirit of their sermons.
Each of the March 7-8 plenary sessions featured a text-driven preacher -- Dante Wright, H.B. Charles, Tony Merida, Robby Gallaty and Alistair Begg and Southwestern professors David Allen, Barry McCarty and President Paige Patterson -- modeling how to preach a text-driven sermon.
This is characteristic not only of Isaiah, but of himself and of the many preachers at the conference, Allen said, noting, "All your losses, all your disappointments and all your discouragements have a mission from God -- to point you not to an empty throne on earth, but to a God who sits enthroned in heaven."
Allen called on preachers to be wary of neglecting their calling. "There is only one sin greater than the rejection of the preaching of God's Word," he said. "That is the rejection of preaching the Word when you are called to do so."
Wright, senior pastor of Sweet Home - The Pinnacle of Praise in Round Rock, Texas, preached Jeremiah 20, exhorting preachers to rely on God as the sustainer of their ministries even when they face the temptation to quit.
Wright described a "virus" that has power to destroy one's ministry and church. This "virus," he said, is manifested in various aspects of ministry: disappointment following Sunday services, members who "starve your appetite for ministry," discouragement and other factors that bring pastors to the brink of "spiritual burnout."
Wright challenged conference attendees to remember the God who called them to ministry. "God is too legit for you to quit on Him," Wright said.
The complaints described by Jeremiah in chapter 20 are not unfamiliar to preachers of today, Wright said. Many pastors are frustrated and discouraged by ridicule they receive, as well as the disappointments of unmet expectations.
"Remember, if God calls you, He can save you and He can sustain you," Wright said. "You can overcome the temptation to quit by making a decision to persevere under pressure."
The doctrine of salvation is the most important element in God's Word, Patterson said in his message. "Every doctrine is important, and the Bible is about many things," he said, "but from the earliest chapters of Genesis, the Bible is about the fall of man and the plan of God to bring about his redemption."
Preaching Leviticus 16 on the Day of Atonement, Patterson noted how God told Aaron that he must approach Him in a prescribed way. "The first thing that we are met with is that you do not come to God anytime you choose, under your chosen circumstances.... You have to come to God in God's way and on His timetable," Patterson said. "There is no guarantee there will be another opportunity like that."
While a sinner is subject to the laws of God, Patterson said, repentance and the blood of Jesus make atonement possible. "God is the eternal judge of the universe," he said. "He has found us guilty of evil and said the wages of sin is death. But then the eternal judge laid aside His robes and took human form and paid the price for us."
Charles, pastor-teacher of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., doubled as Southwestern's chapel preacher March 6, preaching on the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9-11.
"The baptism of Jesus is not about what Christians should do; the baptism of Jesus is about who Christ is," Charles said. "And I declare to you this morning that the baptism of Jesus declares Him to be the sinless Son of God who came to save sinners."
The baptism of John the Baptist was one of repentance for sinners, Charles noted. The question arises, then, why Jesus would seek to be baptized by John. In response to the question, Charles said, "Jesus was baptized that day, I submit to you, to identify Himself with sinners.
"Jesus was not baptized that day to repent of sin; Jesus was baptized that day to represent sinners. I'm glad Jesus did not stand at the banks of the Jordan and judge the sinners in the water. He got in the muddy water and joined the sinners in the water.... But not only did He get baptized to identify with sinners; He was baptized to identify Himself as the Savior of sinners."
Upon a person's profession of faith, Charles said, Christ's righteousness is imputed, or credited. Regarding the result of this, Charles explained, "God does not merely see you in Christ as if you had never sinned.... He sees you as if you had performed all the righteousness of Christ. May I be so bold to suggest that in Christ, what God said to Jesus that day, He says to you today -- 'You are my child, whom I love; and I am pleased with you, because you are in My beloved Son.'"
Merida, pastor for preaching and vision of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., and associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached Romans 8:31-39, reminding the audience of the awe-inspiring truths of the Gospel. In short, he said, "God is for us, Christ Jesus has died for us, He rose for us, He is interceding for us, and nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
These truths, Merida said, lead Christians to worship. "We return to these texts over and over again to rekindle awe," he said. "When a person gets a new love, a new affection for Jesus, everything changes. How you spend money changes, how you spend time changes, what you look at on the computer changes. Everything changes when affections are stirred."
Furthermore, these truths lift saints from despair ("When you go to texts like this," Merida said, "you are reminded that the tomb is empty and the throne is occupied."); embolden the saints for mission ("You can endure almost anything with the promises of Romans 8, can't you?"); and unite the saints in community.
"We are living with a forward lean until the day in which we are in a new creation and every tribe and tongue are gathered together with one voice, singing praise to the Lamb," Merida said.
Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and founder/president of Replicate Ministries, preached 2 Timothy 2, emphasizing the importance of discipleship in the Christian life and ministry. Discipleship, he said, is an essential but often neglected part of the church.
Gallaty identified in 2 Timothy 2 a three-part process for making disciples. First, Christians must abide in the power of Christ. Strength in the Christian life, he said, is found not in self-reliance, but through Christ. "Ministry is not achieved," he said. "It is received from Christ."
The second part of the discipleship process, Gallaty said, is the investment of the people of Christ -- people, he added, who are teachable, available and eager to serve and follow the Lord. "We are looking for faithful men and women who have a love for God," he said.
The problem that plagues many churches, Gallaty said, is a message that salvation is the end goal. "Baptism is not the finish line; it is the starting line," he said, challenging pastors to consider how they are developing spiritually mature men and women in their churches.
Finally, Gallaty noted that disciples must repeat the process of 2 Timothy 2. "The discipleship process is not complete until the mentee becomes the mentor," Gallaty said.
McCarty, professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Seminary, preached Ephesians 3:14-21, titling his message "The Endgame Prayer." "What Paul prays for the Ephesians [in this passage] is God's ultimate purpose for every believer," he stated.
McCarty identified three petitions that Paul makes. First, "Strengthen my inner man with power so that Christ may be completely at home in my heart." Second, "Root me and ground me in love so that I may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge." Finally, in reference to the latter part of verse 19 ("... that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God"), McCarty summarized Paul's petition as "Fill me up with Yourself."
"My hope and prayer," McCarty told attendees, "is that you would adopt this prayer for yourself and for the people you love and the people you lead in ministry, because I think that's God's purpose here -- He discloses to us what He is all about."
Begg, senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and Bible teacher on the radio program "Truth for Life," doubled as Southwestern's chapel speaker March 7.
Begg preached 2 Corinthians 11:30-12:10, paying particular attention to Paul's declaration, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
Begg asked, "Have you ever considered the possibility that your handicaps and your limitations may, in the providence of God, prove to be the key to your usefulness in Gospel ministry?"
Begg encouraged his listeners to view their weaknesses as an advantage because they increase dependence on God. He noted, however, that few people view weakness in such a way.
"Many a young minister is prone to try to attain by one jump the height that others have reached by a long series of single steps in the labor of a quarter or half a century," Begg said. "Through these many dangers, toils, snares and challenges of raising our children, the experience of facing our own incapacities, the awareness of the sinfulness of our own hearts, our proneness to pride -- all of these things God is fashioning in order that we might not be inhibited by them, but that we might be helped by them. It is, at the same time, an ocean of grace, which I think many of us have only ever paddled in on the shallows."
Begg exhorted his listeners to beware the weakness of strength (that is, sinful pride) and to embrace the strength of weakness. "The day you think you can do [ministry], you can't," he said. "And the day you're pretty sure you can't, you'll be able to discover that God can."
Breakouts, Spanish & Korean tracks
Beyond the plenary sessions, conference attendees chose from 30 breakout sessions on such subjects as preaching topics, biblical topics and leadership. Breakout speakers included Denny Autrey, Deron Biles, Daniel Dickard, Adam Dooley, Michael Duduit, Jordan Easley, Mark Howell, Jonathan Leeman, Nathan Lino, Tony Mathews, Matthew McKellar, Chris Osborne, Jarrett Stephens and Kyle Walker.
In addition, the conference featured a Spanish-language track led by Rudy Gonzales, New Testament professor at Southwestern, and a Korean-language track led by David Lim and Byung Rak Choi. Also, a pre-conference workshop focusing on "hermeneutics for homiletics" was led by Abraham Kuruvilla, senior research professor of preaching and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. Finally, a late-night panel on the second day of the conference featured plenary speakers Begg, Gallaty, Merida and Allen.
Southwestern will host a Text-Driven MicroConference immediately before the SBC Pastor's Conference in Dallas on June 10. Speakers include pastors and Southwestern Ph.D. students Mac Brunson, Andre Kirkland and Clay Smith as well as Southwestern professors David Allen, Deron Biles and Kyle Walker. Registration information is available at https://swbts.edu/events/text-driven-preaching-microconference.