Southern Seminary professors urge churches to participate in missionary activity
Local churches must take ownership of the grand mission of God to the nations, said three professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during a learning intensive on global missions for alumni, prospective students, and leaders, July 31–Aug. 1, 2014.
The Alumni Academy event on global missions featured M. David Sills, professor of Christian missions and cultural anthropology; Zane Pratt, associate professor of missions at Southern and director of Global Theological Education with the International Mission Board; and Jeff K. Walters, assistant professor of Christian missions and urban ministry.
The experienced theologians and mission practitioners taught on fundamental elements of global missions and the local church. They recently co-authored the book Introduction to Global Missions, from which the conference sessions derived, allowing them to narrow in on important concepts.
Sills began the conference explaining the missionary call and the great call on all believers, which is tempered by the great need in the world.
“There are currently 50,000 people who die each day and go to a Christless eternity,” he said, while pointing out the disparity of trained individuals to bring God’s Word to the people of the world. In America, “there is one theologically trained individual for every 235 people,” while “there is one theologically trained individual for every 450,000 people” in other nations.
Emphasizing the need for contextualization because of the need to share the gospel, Sills said, “If you don’t contextualize, you are changing the gospel.” Sills urged attendees to the core of relationship and calling from the Lord, exemplified in Psalm 37:4.
Pratt provided a survey of the biblical basis for missions found in the overall storyline of Scripture and the movement of God toward the nations, saying it’s not about “a biblical basis of missions, but the missiological nature of the Bible.” This truth included the attendees, as Pratt said, “The Messiah who saved you did that as part of a global agenda.”
Pratt also discussed the history of missions and God’s work in the world through his church. In regard to the notion that some places or people are resistant to the gospel, Pratt said, “The issue is not their resistance; the issue is our disobedience.” Reminding that there has always been some response to the gospel as the church has gone forward, Pratt issued a call for Christians to use “creativity and a willingness to suffer to get the task done.”
Focusing on trends and issues for missionaries and churches, Pratt defined the task of missions as the advance of God’s glory through discipleship and church planting. This included a discussion of people group research, contextualization, access to “closed” countries, sending from the mission field, technology, and the changing role of local churches.
Walters argued for the core concept of the church as sent and sender. This is going against the way in which many churches “have become supporters of sending societies rather than senders of missionaries,” said Walters. He also spoke on the practical elements of planting churches and their need for reaching the nations.
Outlining the global urban shift, Walters offered a definition of a city while also providing a framework for the church to engage places which may be foreign to their background. This begins, however, by first "praying for your own heart and the city," followed by "praying for the one person to believe," said Walters.
Alumni Academy provides free ongoing instruction for alumni and prospective students of Southern Seminary. To find out more about the program, visit events.sbts.edu.