Mohler: ‘Unmistakably huge’ task requires future ministers to speak
BALTIMORE — “Vast shifts” in American culture present an “unmistakably huge” task to future generations of pastors, missionaries and evangelists, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention on the state of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We can no longer live with the illusion of what sociologists used to call ‘American exceptionalism,’” said Mohler, who this summer begins his 22nd year as president of the Southern Seminary. “America, as it turns out, was not the exception to the trend of secularization; we were just behind Europe. And we are fast catching up.”
He described the “vast shift from the experience of American society over the last 200 years,” citing recent polls that indicate one-third of Americans younger than 30 claim no religious affiliation. And, claiming that no one alive today experienced “a time such as this,” Mohler said that Christians now live “in a time morally when the world is turning on its axis.”
This “moral upheaval,” according to Mohler, “presents an enormous challenge to every preacher, every evangelist and every missionary.”
Against this socio-cultural backdrop and with the “totality of these challenges,” Mohler stated the task of Southern Seminary: “We now understand that the task we have is unmistakably huge. And we should recognize that that is exactly where the Lord Jesus Christ directed his church to be, ready to face that challenge with the full measure of biblical conviction, armed with the gospel of the lord Jesus Christ and with the knowledge of what God has spoken in his Word.”
Comparing the challenges of the current generation with in those in the Book of Acts, Mohler said that Southern Seminary trains ministers of the gospel to respond to these challenges in the same way Peter did in Acts: 10 he “opened his mouth.”
“The Lord is raising up a generation ready to open their mouths and speak all that the Lord has commanded,” he said. “And Southern Seminary is committed to training up a generation of those who will open their mouths and say what gospel faithfulness requires and all that gospel faithfulness requires.”
Mohler reported to SBC messengers that, as of this upcoming fall semester, Southern Seminary will enroll more than 4,600 students, more than at any other time in the life of the seminary, more than 1,700 master of divinity (M.Div.) students, which represents the most M.Div. students assembled at one time in one institution in the history of theological education.
Mohler described three initiatives by which the seminary prepares students to speak to the challenges of the day.
First, the school’s Bevin Center for the Missions Mobilization serves as a resource to the seminary in training for evangelism, missions and church planting, as well as equipping and sending students and faculty on short-term missions trips all around the world.
To address the ever-increasing influence of Islam around the globe, the seminary’s Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam exists to inform about and train students and faculty to engage Muslims for the sake of the gospel, he said.
Mohler highlighted, finally, the Mathena Center for Congregational Revitalization, an initiative to train ministers in leading declining and dying churches back to health.
Concluding his report, Mohler thanked the messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention for their support and for funding the school through the Cooperative Program.
Mohler did not receive any questions from messengers following his report.