Talk is cheap, so pursue gospel power, says Mohler at Southern Seminary fall convocation
In a world marked by mere talk, the community of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College should be known for the power of personal transformation and fruitful ministries, said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the school’s fall convocation on August 21. In a technologically saturated environment, it is easy to assume the talk of social media and online discourse represents reality, Mohler said, but reality is more grounded than that. He said it is in nursing homes, one-on-one spiritual conversations, and the preaching of the cross.
In his 26th fall convocation address as president of Southern Seminary, Mohler preached from 1 Corinthians 4:20 in an address titled “For the Kingdom of God Does Not Consist in Talk, but in Power.” In the two letters to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was forced to respond to a group of false teachers called the “super apostles,” who disrupt the preaching of the gospel by drawing attention to style instead of substance. These teachers split the church into factions, Mohler noted, diverting attention from the gospel and onto themselves through a “gospel of power.”
“The danger of factionalism is very central to Paul’s concern. [He is concerned about] those who are defined as the ‘super apostles’ — the slick preachers who showed up in Corinth — and their gospel of power,” Mohler said. “The Apostle Paul’s predicament is that they appeared to be more powerful preachers than he.
“The Apostle Paul says, ‘I don’t want any preaching other than the preaching of the cross. That is the message of salvation for those who are being saved. It may be a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness for the Greeks, but that’s all I’m going to preach.”
Drawing from the larger context of 1 Corinthians, Mohler noted that Paul’s claim was not about his powerful rhetoric, but instead about the power of the cross. The super apostles used fancy words, eloquence, and powerful personalities to gain a following. But for Paul, his ministry was not driven by the empty words of the “super apostles,” but the content of the powerful message.
Similarly, contemporary society is enamored with talk, Mohler said. On social media and the internet, it seems that people are noteworthy only because they say something — not because they do much of anything.
“I can still remember when politicians were remembered for doing something, rather than just saying something,” Mohler said. “These days, one political leader, one cultural leader, one sports figure can put out 140 characters and the world acts like the axis of the entire planet has been shifted. We’re surrounded by talk: talk shows, talk TV, talk radio, Twitter, podcasts, YouTube. There’s good in the mix, to be sure, but the mix is often not good.
“Here’s the reality of the new digital media age: Anybody can talk and evidently, everyone does.”
This obsession with talk is not limited to the secular world, Mohler said. Charisma and attractiveness are the calling cards of the prosperity gospel movement. Figures like Jesse Duplantis — a televangelist who asked his followers to donate more than $50 million to fund a new private jet — have constructed massive followings upon their smooth words. But there’s no evidence to support all their claims, Mohler said. There is no power.
Genuine conversion and sanctification is one of the best evidences of true power, Mohler said. And this transformation is what should mark institutions like Southern Seminary and Boyce College. Of course, words are an important component of any decent education, Mohler said — not to mention any explanation of the gospel. But the fruit of one’s seminary education is not ultimately demonstrated in words, but in the Spirit-driven power of changed lives.
If one follows the logic of Paul, according to Mohler, the proof of true Christianity is the tangible evidence of what the Word of God does in the hearts of people.
“The word is known by its effect. The kind of power we’re looking for is the power of consecrated teaching, preaching, and learning such that we are changed by the Word of God, conformed to the image of Christ,” Mohler said.
The evidence of real power is not located on the campus of Southern Seminary, according to Mohler, but in the churches where graduates preach and the world where they serve. The proof of the kingdom’s expansion lies in the ministries of graduates, Mohler said, and may well require decades to be fully revealed.
“We all want to know that our life is invested rightly and worthily in something important,” Mohler said. “But let’s remind ourselves that far more important than what happens here — not only in this service, but on this campus — is what happens in the world and the church because of what happens here.”
Four professors sign Abstract of Principles; five new faculty introduced; two trustees announced
As part of the convocation service, four professors newly elected to the faculty during the spring trustee meeting signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s confession of faith. This year’s signees were Jeremy L. Pierre, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling; John David Trentham, associate professor of leadership and discipleship; Melissa Tucker, associate professor of elementary education at Boyce College; and Jarvis J. Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation.
The Abstract of Principles is the founding document of Southern Seminary and has been signed by full professors at the institution since 1859. Pierre, Trentham, Tucker, and Williams became signees No. 261, 262, 263, and 264 of the Abstract.
In addition to the faculty members who signed the Abstract, Mohler announced five new faculty members for the new academic year: Southern Seminary professors Curtis Woods, assistant professor of applied theology; Lilly Park, assistant professor of biblical counseling; Dominick Hernandez, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation and director of the Hispanic Online Program; and Shane Parker, associate professor of leadership and missions; along with Boyce College professor Amy Crider, assistant professor of English at Boyce College.
Mohler also announced John Wilsey, associate professor of church history at Southern Seminary, who was hired in 2017 but not formally introduced at that time.
Mohler also introduced two new members of the seminary’s Board of Trustees: Nat Millican, a former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and captain for UPS Airlines, and Bradley Rushing, senior pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama.
Currently, Millican serves as executive director for Unbridled Skies in Fisherville, Kentucky — an organization that provides leadership training and mentorship for small- and medium-sized churches. He is a member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also serves as a deacon. Rushing has been senior pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church since 2008.
Audio and video of convocation are available at equip.sbts.edu.