FROM THE SEMINARIES: SBTS, Gateway convocations focus on students' mission, character

Mohler stresses church's task 'to the end of the age'

By Forrest Strickland

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- The church should prioritize the preaching of the Gospel, both at home and abroad, until the end of the age, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the spring convocation of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 4.

"So long as we are here, we have work to do. So long as this age continues, we have a task, a calling, a commission," said Mohler, who is president of the seminary. "The only reason for this age to continue is that this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed to all nations -- to the whole world."

The church should prioritize the preaching of the Gospel, both at home and abroad, until the end of the age, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the spring convocation of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 4.
SBTS photo
His address, which was an exposition of Matthew 28:18–20 and titled "To the End of the Age," noted that there are three distinct ages in human history: the age before Christ, the age after Christ, and the age when Christ will return to inaugurate His Kingdom.

This age, the one after Christ, though marked by pain and suffering, is also marked by the good news of the Gospel. Scripture makes it clear, Mohler said, that Christ has not yet returned so the Gospel may spread further.

"Evangelism and missions aren't just something we do, they are the only reason why this age continues," he said.

The church stands at the heart of this commission, Mohler said. Missionaries must take the Gospel to the nations with the goal of forming churches out of new believers. As the people of God wait for the return of Christ, the church is at the center of God's plan of redemption -- a foretaste of what is to come when Christ inaugurates His Kingdom.

"The church is the embassy of heaven; the church is the Kingdom of Christ, visible as a promise of the Kingdom of Christ that will be triumphant," said Mohler. "Wherever you find true Christian missionaries, you will find true Christian churches."

The task of the seminary is to cultivate future church leaders -- those who will take the Gospel to the nations, teaching them all that Christ has commanded -- so that they may more faithfully proclaim the Gospel, Mohler said. The driving force behind everything done at the seminary -- from how professors teach to how students study -- is the building up of the next generation of those who would be about the work of this age.

Drawing from the broader context of the Gospel of Matthew, Mohler noted that the proclamation of the Gospel is evidence that the end of the age approaches.

"Christ has not come, so we haven't reached the nations yet," Mohler said. "The Gospel [therefore] is to be preached to all the world."

The end of this present age, Mohler said, will end in catastrophic destruction. Referencing T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Hollow Men," Mohler inverted the classic line, saying that our age will end "not with a whimper, but with a bang."

"The present age is marked by death pangs, but there's an age that is coming that will be announced with birth pangs," he said. "We are waiting for a cosmic redemption."

Mohler expressed gratitude for the tangible fruit that he sees in the school's influence over the 26 years since his election as president. Yet he also made it clear that the seminary's work is legitimate only when it trains men and women to take the Gospel to the nations.

"Why are we here at Southern Seminary and Boyce College?" asked Mohler. "The only rationale for the existence of a school like this is that the Gospel will be proclaimed to the nations because of what happens here -- more effectively, more energetically, more faithfully and more expansively. Otherwise, there's no justification whatsoever for the existence of a seminary because this entire age is going to pass away, and if it's not about the Gospel, it's not going to last.

"Everything that is Christ's will last."

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Iorg urges students to have 'character we long for in elected leaders'

By Tyler Sanders

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) -- At President's Convocation Feb. 6, Jeff Iorg said Christians must approach the tumultuous political landscape with humility, patience and prayer as they sort through the complicated decision of whom to vote for in the 2020 election.

At President's Convocation Feb. 6, Jeff Iorg said Christians must approach the tumultuous political landscape with humility, patience and prayer as they sort through the complicated decision of whom to vote for in the 2020 election.
Gateway Seminary photo
Iorg warned attendees at Gateway's opening chapel service of the confusion and stress many evangelicals feel as they face a dilemma in a particularly vitriolic political landscape. He said the division is caused by two conflicting perspectives. "First, many evangelicals are distrustful of Democratic candidates which seem beholden to the radical wing of their party. Second, many evangelicals have deep-seated concerns about supporting President Trump," he said. Some evangelicals have embraced Trump despite his personal shortcomings. Others have called for his removal from office, concerned association with him undermines their Gospel witness he said.

"Should we support President Trump because of his policies and despite his flaws? Or, should we reject his leadership and choose someone with character and demeanor more in line with our expectations for leaders? My message today will provide a framework to help you answer those questions."

Iorg proposed three questions to bring clarity into the issues surrounding the upcoming presidential election: 1. Does character matter for leaders? 2. Which is more important for political leaders -- policy or personality? 3. What are the most important policies when deciding which candidate to support?

Iorg said the answer to the first question is a resounding yes. However, ministry leaders and political leaders are held to different standards. Iorg described the serious character flaws of David, whose moral failures did not cost him his leadership role though they did diminish his effectiveness.

"Some Christians erroneously apply David's example to ministerial leadership and are willing to excuse immoral and unethical behavior among ministers. That's an exegetical leap too far," Iorg said. David's failings cannot be used to excuse heinous behavior by ministry leaders because of the different standards to which political and ministry leaders are held.

Iorg built on this conclusion and explained why he prioritizes policy outcomes over personality in his assessment of political leaders. "My heartfelt desire would be for a president to have sound policy positions and a leadership style reflecting my values, while demonstrating high character and a winsome personality," he said. "But, if that person is not available, the decision of which candidate to support must be determined by the policy positions he or she will likely enact (and leave behind with the force of law) -- not their character or personality or leadership style."

Prioritizing important policies is a complicated task. Iorg said individuals are responsible for determining what policies are most important to them. "While there are many evangelical voices answering that question for you, mine will not join that chorus this morning," Iorg said.

"Once you determine your position on the issues that matter most to you, support the candidate who most closely shares your positions. It is very likely you will not agree with some other evangelicals on which issues are most important and which candidate you choose to support."

Iorg concluded his address with cautions -- to make realistic assessments of political leaders, to limit exposure to overly-politicized news sources, to think deeply on policy outcomes, and most importantly to approach political issues with humility and patience. He asked listeners to demonstrate Christian character in their political interactions through 2020. "Let's choose the high road and demonstrate the Christian character we long for in our elected leaders," he said.

Iorg ended the chapel service by asking attendees to pray as instructed in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. "According to these verses, a primary prayer for governmental leaders is they will govern in a way that does not hinder Gospel expansion," he said.

"Our mission is timeless, has eternal consequences, and is too important to dissipate with trifles like political infighting or falsely placed hopes that political victories fulfill our Gospel-sharing mission."

The video and printed manuscript of the entire message are available at gs.edu/dilemma.

Forrest Strickland writes for SBTS. Tyler Sanders is director of communications at Gateway Seminary.
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