Whitney: Worship should be God-centered and biblical

God has not left Christians to worship Him in any manner they please, but has instructed them in Scripture how He is to be worshiped, author and teacher Don Whitney said Oct. 16 during a lecture series at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While most Christians know when they are worshiping in spirit, many are at a loss to explain how they are to complete the imperative of Christ in John 4:24 to worship Him in truth, Whitney said.

Whitney is associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also author of a number of books including “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life.”

Whitney argued that the Bible provides the “truth” aspect of the double command. Scripture sets forth the elements that are to be included in worship and nothing should be added to them, he said.

This biblical mandate is known as the “regulative principle of worship” and if it were faithfully followed by churches, Whitney said many of the skirmishes in the so-called “worship wars” would be avoided.

Whitney said the regulative principle may be summarized in a two-fold question every congregation should ask when considering the addition of an element to corporate worship: Is it God-centered and biblical?

“The regulative principle of worship in essence says that God knows how He wants to be worshiped better than we do,” Whitney said.

“He has not left us in the dark about that and has revealed in Scripture how he wants us to worship Him, what the elements of worship are to be. If He has done so, then those are the things we must do and we should not bring any of our own ideas in addition to that.”

Biblical elements of corporate worship include preaching and teaching the Word of God, prayer, the public reading of Scripture, the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and celebrating the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The regulative principle rules out extra-biblical elements such as drama, clowns, and the like, Whitney said.

Whitney pointed out that many Baptists today practice what is known as the “normative principle” of worship. The normative principle says that corporate worship must include all biblical elements, but believers are also free to include things not forbidden by Scripture.

This approach is dangerous because we know God’s will only through His special revelation, he said.

“We don’t know what honors God except that which He has revealed,” Whitney said. “In areas like worship where He has revealed His truth, we may not go beyond the bounds of that.

“There are other areas of [church] life [in which] He has not revealed the activities or elements. So we don’t say the Bible tells us the elements of a good church nursery, for example. For those things, we have general principles to apply.”

Whitney said Baptists historically held to the regulative principle as evidenced by its inclusion in many of their early confessions of faith.

For example, article 22.1 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith reads in part, “...the only acceptable way of worshiping the true God is appointed by Himself...Visible symbols of God, and all other forms of worship not prescribed in the Holy Scripture, are expressly forbidden.”

There are variously nuanced views among Christians who subscribe to the regulative principle, he said. For example, some say the principle can be taken only from commands on worship in the New Testament and not from the Old.

Whitney argued that all of Scripture is to be brought to bear on worship because all Scripture is inspired by God. However, there is an acknowledged priority of authority in Scripture among evangelicals of the New Testament. A New Testament command on worship, such as that found in John 4:24, is the highest authority on worship, he said.

While a single verse does not teach the regulative principle, numerous passages from across the canon, when considered together, make a strong case for it, he said. These include:

* The first four commandments found in Exodus 20:3-4, 7-8. All deal largely with worship.

* The details given by God in the construction of the furniture and garments of worship in Ex. 25-30. In Ex. 30:33,38, God promises the death penalty for the misuse of anointing oil and incense.

* The death of Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10:1-3. God struck them dead for offering “strange fire” to the Lord.

* The disobedience of Saul in offering the sacrifices Samuel was to have offered in 1 Sam. 10:8 and 13:8-13.

* The death of Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Sam. 6:3-8. Whitney pointed out that Uzzah’s motive can be assumed to be pure in keeping the Ark from falling off a cart, but God struck him down for his irreverence. This overturns the argument of some contemporary worship leaders who say only a worshiper’s attitude, and not how he worships, matters to God, he said. God must be worshiped equally in spirit and truth.

* The leprosy of King Uzziah for offering incense in 2 Chron. 26:18-21. Only priests were allowed to offer incense by divine fiat.

* The sin of King Ahaz for replacing the altar of worship in 2 Kings 16:10-16.

* Jesus’ rejection of the Pharisees’worship in Mark 7:6-7. Christ said they worshiped in vain because their doctrines of worship were the precepts of men.

* The warning of the Israelites in Deut. 12:30-32 not to get their ideas of worship from the world around them, but only from God’s revelation.

The regulative principle is not a stifling “cookie-cutter” approach to worship, Whitney said. It merely regulates the elements used in worship and demands that God be worshiped in a manner consistent with Heb. 12:28: “in reverence and awe.” There is freedom in how we apply the elements, he said.

“We are to worship in ways that edify our local church,” Whitney said. “That is a New Testament command on worship. Worship in a black church does not have to be the same as in a white church. Worship in an inner-city church does not have to look like worship in a suburban church.

“They should have the same elements, but that doesn’t mean the musical style is going to be the same in them all. Just ask yourself: is it God-centered? Is it biblical? If you will evaluate everything in your worship service by that, you will do well.”


Christians must practice private worship, Whitney says

Private worship is an essential part of a healthy relationship with God, said prominent Christian author Donald Whitney.

Whitney, who spoke as part of the Institute for Christian Worship’s lecture series Oct. 14-15 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“How can once-a-week worship satisfy the heart of those who know and long after God?” Whitney asked. “How in the world can anyone walk out of a worship service where God has been exalted and they claim they have met with God and say ... ‘Well, I don’t need anymore of that for a week?’

“How can you meet with God and not be compelled to want to meet with Him more often than just what is convenient once a week?”

Ministers are especially prone to ignore personal worship as they settle into the daily routine of ministry, he said.

Ignoring personal worship, however, will transform a minister into “the politicking and the ladder-climbing and the name-dropping and the prideful string-pulling sort of person that seems to take more delight in politics than preaching sermons or preparing for ministry,” Whitney said.

Statistically, only one of every 20 seminary graduates will remain in ministry through age 65, he said, and the attrition rate is due largely to a neglect of private worship.

Without private worship, ministers “will burn out because there’s no drinking from the wells of living water,” Whitney said.

“In private worship God reveals Himself through His Word, shining divine light upon the divine book so that we might find our minds instructed by God, our hearts encouraged by God, our hopes refreshed by God and our spiritual hungers satisfied by God,” he said.

“Here we can delight in God, sing to God, weep to God, pour our thoughts to God, confess our sins to God and feel the worth of God. When with God alone we can rejoice in His forgiveness, revel in His goodness, thank Him for His blessings and bask in His love.”

In particular, private worship includes three essential elements, Whitney said.

First, private worship includes the intake of God’s Word.

Reading, studying and memorizing the Bible are all vital parts of taking in God’s Word, he said, but meditation on the Scriptures is perhaps the most important activity of private worship.

“Meditation on Scripture is not just leaning back and staring at the ceiling after reading a bit of the Bible. Meditation as worship means focused thinking on the text of Scripture, and thus on God and the things of God revealed in the words of Scripture,” he said.

Second, private worship includes prayer.

Despite an active public ministry, Jesus took significant blocks of time to pray by Himself, Whitney said. As followers of Jesus, we must do the same.

“To pray during the intake of Scripture is a valuable way of absorbing and applying the text and a way of conversing with God about what He is saying through these words or how He would have you put them into practice,” Whitney said.

“... Some passages lend themselves to such prayerful reading more easily than others. Frequently you might read an entire chapter and pray no more than, ‘Lord, please keep me from ever sinning like the man in this story.’ But whatever the text, don’t just read it—respond to it.”

Third, private worship includes worshipful song.

Singing praises to God is “part of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell in you,” Whitney said.

Citing the example of eighteenth century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Whitney encouraged Christians to sing their prayers and praises to God in private.

“In some situations it may be impractical to sing aloud in private worship,” he said. “But unless there’s a compelling reason to sing in a whisper or only in your mind, why not sing aloud? It’s almost impossible to envision public worship without openly singing our praise to God. What makes private worship so different?”

Whitney warned students, “The risks of rushing through life without resting beside the quite waters of daily worship, virtually unmindful of God, are many and great. But so are the benefits and blessings [of private worship].”


Hawkins and Draper encourage students to reflect on heritage

O.S. Hawkins and James T. Draper encouraged students to reflect on faithful Christians of the past during the 5th annual Heritage Week at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 13-17.

Hawkins, president of the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, told seminarians that every generation of believers faces a key question that it must answer. Considering how past generations answered their most pivotal question, can equip the church to confront today’s issues properly, he said. Hawkins and Draper addressed students during Heritage Week chapel services.

First and second century Christians had to answer the question Christ posed in John 13:38, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake?’” Hawkins said.

“From Stephen outside the Sheep’s Gate in Jerusalem to James at the sword of Herod to Peter to Paul to most all those apostles and into those next generations ... Ignatius that great pastor of the great missionary church at Antioch who was devoured by those wild lions, Polycarp of Smyrna who was burned at the sake. ... They all went to their martyr’s death with that question of their time burning in their hearts: ‘Will you lay down your life for Me?’” he said.

Subsequent generations of Christians faced other questions, Hawkins said. For example, Christians during the Protestant Reformation were confronted with the question of John 11:40, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

“Armed with the question of their time, and armed with the truth of the book of Romans, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg and the glory of God began to fill Europe through the likes of Calvin and Zwingli and Knox ... and our Baptist forefathers ... and so many others,” Hawkins said.

More recent generations dealt with the question of liberalism, Hawkins said.

“In these past generations, we watched as one major mainline denomination after another after another after another went away from the faith of their founders, their forefathers and the truth of the Gospel,” he said. “The question of their time [was], ‘Will you also go away?’ I thank God that over 20 years ago, Southern Baptists answered that question in a very positive way.”

Today, the most important question for Christians is the exclusivity of the Gospel, he said.

“It is the question of Matthew 16:15, ‘Who do you say that I am?’” Hawkins said. “For as these generations unfold before us now, and particularly into this next decade, the single most important issue that you will face as you go out into ministry and seek to engage and impact the culture and convert a culture around you is this issue of the exclusivity of Christ, whether He is the one and only way to eternal life.”

Christians must be particularly careful to avoid two incorrect views of salvation: pluralism and inclusivism, Hawkins said.

Pluralism is the belief that “there are a plurality of ways to get to heaven,” he said. “It permeates our culture and the mindset of people all around us who believe that there are many roads that lead to heaven and a plurality of ways to get there.”

Inclusivism is the belief that Christ’s death on the cross may bring salvation to some who have not explicitly trusted Jesus as their savior, Hawkins said.

“Why should we be concerned about these two issues?” he asked. “Because they dramatically affect the nature of our faith. ... For if you believe there are a plurality of ways to get to heaven, what need is there to believe in the Incarnation or the Virgin Birth or the sinless Deity or the vicarious death or the bodily resurrection or any of the great doctrines of our faith?”

Inclusivism, Hawkins continued, “affects ... how be behave, our mission. And so is it any coincidence that churches that believe in this fashion in mainline denominations that have gone this way no longer talk about evangelism? [They] no longer talk about world missions?”

Faithful Christians must embrace explicit faith in Christ as the exclusive way of salvation because the exclusive Gospel has power to transform lives, he said.

“What motivated Simon Peter to meet a martyr’s death...? Was it a belief in pluralism? Was it a ... belief in inclusivism?” Hawkins said.

“No, he gave his life for the message of the exclusivity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. ... What motivated Paul, who gave us most of our New Testament, to meet his martyr’s death? This belief in an inclusive gospel, a pluralistic gospel? No, it was this insistence on the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of a pagan culture.”

He concluded, “You have a heritage here at Southern, and this heritage is about the future. Go out and raise high a standard and let the world know, as Simon Peter did, that neither is there salvation in [no other name].”

Draper, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, exhorted students to preach the Gospel faithfully amid cultural chaos.

“We have one message, one person: Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “The world doesn’t need some clever new theological philosophy. The world does not need some clever new psychology. The world needs to experience the living presence of Jesus Christ who Himself is God in the very essence of God.”

Preaching from John 1:1-5, Draper emphasized several essentials that ministers must teach about Jesus Christ.

First, ministers must teach the preexistence of Jesus.

“Jesus has always existed as God,” he said. “He is not just a late bloomer on the theological scene. He is not just some historical character that you can give deference to or you can ignore. He is in the beginning with God. He preexisted. He didn’t come into being. He always has been.”

Ministers also must emphasize the preeminence of Christ, he said.

Because many religions teach that Jesus was merely a prophet or teacher, it is vital that Christians declare Him to be fully God, Draper said. When humans understand the deity of Christ, His power will be released in their lives, he said.

“[Jesus] has the power over the conflict between light and darkness, between truth and error. There’s a battle taking place today, and I have good news for you. We don’t have to win the battle. The battle has already been won. The light lasts. The darkness cannot extinguish the light. It cannot overcome the light.

“We go out to announce a victory, not to win a victory. Ours is to go out and proclaim that the light has come, the Word of God has come, and He has power over life and power over light [and] over the darkness of this world.”

Jesus Christ, said Draper, “is the message we proclaim today.”


Spurgeon Awards celebrate God’s work in SBC churches

“Shock and awe” has an all-new context for David Dixon.

Dixon, who serves as associate pastor of evangelism and church growth at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., said he was intensely surprised when the church was named “Church of the Year” at the second annual C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony Oct. 23 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The only advanced notice Dixon and other staffers at Englewood received was a letter informing the church it had been nominated for an unspecified C.H. Spurgeon Award.

“It was shocking and surprising,” Dixon said. “The letter said we had been nominated for an award but it was not specific as to which award. We had no idea. We are excited about winning it but we certainly give all the praise and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because that’s why we are here, for His glory.” The C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony and conference debuted last year. It is sponsored by the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and was conceived by the school’s dean, Thom Rainer.

The Spurgeon Awards honor top churches in a number of categories including global missions, evangelism, prayer and innovative ministry, among others. Rainer had been sending certificates of recognition to top SBC churches for several years prior to his founding of the Spurgeon Awards.

“The purpose of the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Awards is to bring glory to God by recognizing His work in His churches,” Rainer said. “Although the churches do get rightful recognition, we are very clear that we do not seek glory for the churches, but to encourage and exhort them in the manner of the apostle Paul.”

Both objective and subjective criteria determine finalists and award recipients in each of the 12 categories. All finalists receive a recognition letter from Rainer and the Graham School. A winner is selected from among the finalists.

The Spurgeon Awards have broadened their scope since their inaugural year.

Last year, only Southern Baptist churches in the Midwest were eligible for the awards. This year, nominees came from SBC churches nationwide and the event will continue on a national scope in the years to come, Rainer said.

This year’s top church, Englewood, has experienced profound growth in recent years. The church averages 1,250 in attendance for Sunday morning worship and 800 for Sunday school. Sunday school attendees have increased by nearly 200 in the past two years and have climbed by a greater percentage of late, Dixon said.

“The past two months we have averaged 950 in Sunday School so the Lord is continuing to grow the church,” he said. “We just moved to two worship services in October.”

The Spurgeon Awards are named in honor of the famous 19th century British Baptist pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He lived from 1834-1892 and served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London which underwent such meteoric growth during Spurgeon’s ministry that the church built a 5,000-seat sanctuary.

“We use Spurgeon’s name for these awards for several reasons,” Rainer said. “He was a Baptist who had a high view of Scripture and believed that no church could be healthy without firm theological convictions. He had an evangelistic passion as clearly evident in his book, `The Soul Winner.’

“He was a pastor’s pastor, evident in the pastor’s school he started at Metropolitan Tabernacle... He insisted on churches having some type accountability beyond themselves. That is why he urged churches to report records of attendance and baptisms. He had no interest in numbers for numbers’ sake, but he did believe in congregational accountability through numbers.”

Rainer said the response from participating churches has shown that the Spurgeon Awards are accomplishing their goal of celebrating God’s work and encouraging congregations and leaders.

“We have had countless church leaders, staff and laypersons, tell us that they rarely, if every, have received encouragement as they did through the Spurgeon Awards. They tell us that they are now more motivated than ever to press on for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.”

Other winners were:

* Evangelism, Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, Ala.

* Prayer, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.

* Worship, Valley View Church, Louisville, Ky.

* Discipleship, First Baptist Church Thayer, Thayer, Mo.

* Ministry, Word Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa.

* Church planting, Eastwood Baptist Church, Haughton, La.

* Global missions, Calvary Baptist Church, Elko, Nev.

* Sunday School/small group, Holgate Baptist Church, Portland. Ore.

* Innovative approaches, The Country Church SBC, Marion, Texas.

* Preaching, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.

* Fellowship, Brown Springs Baptist Church, Mosheim, Tenn.

* Most comprehensive programs, First Baptist Church Brandon, Brandon, Fla.

* Church of the Year, Englewood Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, N.C.; First runner up, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; Second runner up, Long Heights Baptist Church, McKenzie, Tenn.


Mohler calls Christians to be on high alert in war for hearts and minds

Christians are not called to a life of self-absorbed ease, but to one of militant spiritual warfare in which they deploy the Gospel as a weapon to overthrow the false worldviews of the modern age, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during an Oct. 15 sermon at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mohler, Southern Seminary president, said the Gospel has many enemies in the contemporary culture just as it did in the early days of the Christian church. Mohler preached from 2 Cor. 10:1-6 during Southern Seminary’s annual Heritage Week celebration, held Oct. 14-16.

“The Gospel has its enemies,” Mohler said. “Why do we delude ourselves into believing that the Gospel had its enemies in the first century and we can be at peace now? Why do we harbor the narcissistic illusion that the apostle Paul had to deal with the reality but we can be freed from this?

“We can go on and make our decisions and plans and plot the future of our churches, our denomination, our institution, and our ministries as if we will not have enemies. But that is delusional...We should not be any more militaristic than the Scripture obligates us to be...but we had better not be any less.”

Believers must realize what it means to be “in the world but not of the world,” Mohler said. It means that they must not try to win the spiritual battle by worldly means in building a cult of personality or employing persuasive, but unbiblical, rhetoric, he said.

“Charisma [in personalities] can’t be the center of our ministry,” Mohler said. “Powerful personality [and] self-aggrandizement [or] pragmatism; that’s what it means to walk according to the flesh.

“There is [also] the pitfall of persuasive rhetoric. There are people who can sell almost anything, especially ideas. That is what is so dangerous in this society...Persuasive rhetoric was condemned for the church once for all in 1 Cor. 2.”

Christians must not fight the spiritual war “according to the flesh,” Mohler said. The enemy is not the people who believe or proclaim false worldviews. Rather, the enemy is the one who stands behind all unbiblical ideologies--Satan, Mohler said.

“We must keep ever before ourselves [the fact] that the enemy, even in the battles we fight on this earth, will not be the human beings we will engage,” Mohler said. “We must engage them. But the enemy is behind them...If the enemy were limited to those we engage in debate and in confrontation...we could deal with them in the flesh.

“But the problem of course is, they are not really the enemy. They are the mouthpieces of the enemy and they will answer for that...Because we realize this is a spiritual battle, we have to understand we must fight in a spiritual way.”

The Christian’s weapon is to be the Gospel, which alone is mighty to destroy competing belief systems, Mohler said. In the 20th century alone, two great worldviews—Nazism and Communism—both of which loomed as might fortresses on the sociopolitical landscape, were taken out by truth, Mohler pointed out.

There are scores of modern-day “fortresses” that have established themselves in opposition to the Gospel, Mohler said. Among them are moral relativism, secularism, postmodernism, hedonism, false tolerance, individual autonomy, and a culture of death, he said.

It is the authentic biblical Gospel that possesses the power to explode all competing worldviews, he said. And ultimately, this destruction is God’s work and must be done God’s way—through proclamation of His Word, Mohler said.

“The tearing down of fortresses in our day is going to have to be God’s work,” he said. “In the Gospel, we have God’s weapon of mass destruction. In the preaching and in the teaching of the Gospel, there is the power of God and that alone is the weapon of worldview destruction.”

In preparation for the battle, Christians must study and know the content of the faith to a degree that it becomes a comprehensive worldview. But they must wed this knowledge of God’s truth with undying obedience to it, for authentic Christianity is bound up in two commands, Mohler said: “believe” and “obey.”

“Christian truth is the power of the Gospel. We must stand by our Christian cognitive statements in the Gospel but [also] know that this truth is a transformative truth,” he said. “There is a moral character of knowledge that we as Christians must ever have in mind.

“The transformative vision of the church [is that] it is the church after all. We are to be part of an army, not lone warriors. We are called to be the soldiers of Christ, not mercenaries. We are called to be the church militant until by God’s grace, when the Lord comes and claims His church, we are the church triumphant. The triumph will be His, not ours.”


Seminary faculty and trustees adopt proclamation on open theism

Members of both the board of trustees and the faculty at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously adopted a resolution affirming “God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge” and condemning open theism as “an egregious biblical and theological departure from orthodoxy.”

Trustees acted on the resolution at their fall meeting on Oct. 14, adopting a statement penned by a committee of seminary faculty members. The faculty unanimously passed the resolution earlier this month.

The statement reaffirms the historic Christian teaching on God’s foreknowledge as set forth in both the seminary’s confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles and the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message. Proponents of the so-called “openness of God” deny that God exhaustively knows the future, and that God can know only possible future outcomes.

Scripture clearly teaches otherwise, seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. If open theism is correct, then the plan of salvation through the person and work of Christ only took place through God’s “good intentions” and not as His saving act, he said. It also undermines biblical prophecy, he said.

“When Peter and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin and Peter in his day of Pentecost sermon, he made clear, ‘these things happened by the plan and predetermined will of God in order that Christ would die,’” Mohler said.

“If you take this position of open theism seriously and begin to look at it, the entire plan of salvation comes down to God’s good intentions rather than His saving act.”

The resolution reads as follows: “Open theism’s denial of God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge constitutes an egregious biblical and theological departure from orthodoxy and poses a serious threat to evangelical integrity. In accordance with our confessional documents—the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message—the Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary affirms God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge including the knowledge of all future free choices and actions of his creatures, and thereby denies that open theism is a viable evangelical view.”

Faculty members wanted to make a statement on open theism in light of a pending action on the issue at the upcoming meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).

At the society’s annual meeting set for Nov. 19-21 in Atlanta, the membership of ETS—composed of scholars and theologians from across the evangelical world—will likely vote on whether proponents of open theism may remain within the society.

Southern faculty members have been active in the debate over open theism with theology professor Bruce Ware publishing two major books on the subject. In 2001, the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology devoted an issue to the topic.

“I think [it is] an extremely powerful statement from an institution to have a unanimous action by the faculty and by the board affirming this,” Mohler said.

“It’s not as if this is an open question for us, the answer is absolutely and explicitly given to us in the Baptist Faith and Message and the Abstract of Principles. So it’s not like we are coming up with a new doctrinal statement. This is a specially-timed resolution addressed to an issue that is not, by name of course, mentioned in our confessional documents.”


Trustees approve master plan to meet seminary growth

To accommodate continuing growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the school’s board of trustees Tuesday approved a revised master plan that will add classrooms and parking spaces within the next year.

Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., told trustees the seminary’s growth requires difficult decisions regarding campus facilities. Because of the need for classroom space, Southern will renovate and reassign two existing buildings for academic use.

Rankin Hall, which now houses the seminary’s Child Development Center, will be transitioned into a classroom facility for Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate school. The center, which provides daycare to 72 student, faculty, staff and community children, is scheduled to close at the end of the academic year in May 2004.

The seminary will also convert a 76-year-old gymnasium into two high-technology classrooms.

Mohler said the changes are necessary because the seminary must keep its mission of preparing Gospel ministers as the main priority.

“The moves reflect a concentration on our core assignment,” said Mohler. “We are forced by enrollment gains to make difficult choices and must look to other options for child care needs. We are very concerned for the well-being of the children and families currently using the Child Development Center. We will work with staff and families over the next several months to develop a transition plan.”

Southern Seminary’s enrollment exceeds 3,500, including more than 600 students at Boyce College.

Mohler told trustees that Southern must remain on a “wartime footing” because of the urgency of its call to proclaim the Gospel amid a culture that is becoming increasingly secularized, he said.

“An institution that is called to a wartime footing will make different decisions than an institution that thinks we are at peace with the world and our future is secure,” Mohler said.

“It means as we look to the future and as we are operating in the present, we have got to insure that we are doing what the churches have called us to do. Actually, our assignment is not just to mobilize students. It’s not just to build a seminary. You need to re-conceive this seminary as a West Point or an Annapolis [whose purpose is] to train those who will go out and lead the church for the battle.”

The master plan includes several projects, totaling more than $3.2 million in the first year. The entire revised Master Plan is scheduled for completion by December 2006. Under the plan:

* Levering Gymnasium, built in 1927, will be converted into two high-technology classrooms in 2004. Each of the two classrooms will seat 160. The gym currently serves as an auxiliary to the Honeycutt campus center, which features a modern gymnasium facility.

* Rankin Hall, which houses the school’s Child Development Center, will be converted into eight new classrooms for Boyce College.

* Parking capacity will increase with the addition of 136 spaces in 2004 and an additional 86 in 2005.

* Twenty-four residential units will be added to Fuller Hall in 2005, along with cosmetic improvements, a sprinkler system, and other amenities.

* Alumni Memorial Chapel will receive an upgrade in technology.

* Sprinkler systems will be installed in Carver and Mullins halls. Mullins will also receive a cosmetic renovation.

* Boyce Library will receive improvements including high-density book shelving and floor-by-floor refurbishing. Dated or worn aesthetics will receive a cosmetic facelift.

* Village Manor Apartments will be sold to a “friendly buyer” in 2004. The private entity buying Village Manor will renovate the 251-unit complex and maintain it as a low-income facility. The renovated apartments will continue to be available for student occupancy under private ownership.

Mohler said the master plan’s current projects are only the beginning of changes the seminary will undertake to allow continued growth. The changes will not only allow more students to benefit from the seminary, but will also increase Southern’s ability to carry out its stewardship in the way it uses campus space, Mohler said.

Churches are seeking ministers from Southern Seminary at a rate that exceeds the number of graduates annually going out from the school, Mohler said. The master plan is aimed at meeting that demand, Mohler said.

“We’ve had the opportunity over the last several years, in a number of very different ways, to make certain we are doing what the churches want us to do,” Mohler said.

“But the proof is always in the pulpit. And the good news is that churches demand our graduates. We have no trouble placing our graduates. We have more requests for our graduates than we yet have graduates.

“The time is short. We need to do everything possible to equip those who are currently studying at Southern Seminary to be readied in every way that we can possibly make possible for them to go out in the churches to be faithful servants of the Word and under-shepherds of the flock.”

In other business, trustees:

* Elected with tenure Duane Garrett to the faculty. Garrett presently serves as Old Testament professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. He will begin as professor of Old Testament at Southern in the fall of 2004.

* Unanimously approved a resolution denying that open theism is a viable evangelical view. Open theism contends that God does not have exhaustive definitive foreknowledge (see accompanying article).

* Approved the repair of Southern’s swimming pool. The pool has been out of service since earlier this year and will undergo extensive repairs. The project will cost $215,000 and is expected to be completed by summer.


Conference focuses on vision for youth ministry

More than 250 youth workers attended a day of intensive youth ministry training Sept. 20 at the fifth annual Vision Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The conference featured 26 speakers from 6 states speaking on topics ranging from high school ministry to counseling and missions. The Vision Conference is hosted each fall by the National Center of Youth Ministry, a group that seeks to recruit, train, place and network local church youth leaders.

The conference “exceeded our expectations and was the best heretofore,” said David Adams, professor of youth ministry at Southern and executive director of the National Center of Youth Ministry.

Jay Strack, founder of Student Leadership University in Orlando, Fla., was the featured speaker. Preaching from Habakkuk, Strack told conference attendees that a fresh vision from God is the greatest need in youth ministry today.

“I promise you, the greatest need we have is a fresh vision from God,” Strack said. “But no one ever tells us how to have a vision. ... How, in heaven’s name, do we get a fresh vision for your ministry, for your life, for your family from God?”

To discover a fresh vision, believers must follow the example of Habakkuk by moving beyond negative attitudes and actively seeking God, Strack said.

Pursuing God’s truth is of paramount importance in ministry, he said. In fact, one reason why ministers loose sight of God’s vision is that they depend too heavily upon sources of inspiration other than God’s revelation.

“You’re never going to get it from a conference or from a speaker or from a book or from a tape. Now I can hopefully make you thirsty for a vision. My heartfelt desire [is] to be practical, to motivate you to seek a vision and to remind you: how dare we go about His work without His fresh vision for your life,” Strack said.

The widespread desire for vision in both religious and secular arenas, Strack continued, evidences a hunger for the Lord. People may claim to seek “vision” generically, but what they truly seek is a word from God.

“I’m not going to be able to help you much with vision unless you realize that only the One who made you and only the One you’re going to stand before and only the One who loves you, the Creator who knows you best can give you a vision,” he said.

When the Lord finally grants a sense of vision to His followers, they have a responsibility to receive that vision and share it with others, Strack said.

“We know that God speaks. We know he answers. We know vision comes from Him. ... Please don’t settle for anything less than that as a result of having been here today.”

Strack concluded, “Write [the vision] down so that others can get the vision.”

In addition to hearing Strack’s keynote addresses, the Vision Conference presented awards to two youth ministers for their outstanding service. Barry Shettel, youth pastor at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., was awarded the “CYM Lifetime Achievement Award” for 34 years of youth ministry service. Gene Dodson of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., received the “CYM Founder’s Award” for 24 years of youth ministry service.

Next year’s conference is scheduled for Sept. 11, 2004. It will focus on counseling youth through problems including addiction, pregnancy and rebellion.

With reporting by Jeff Robinson


Hemphill exhorts seminarians to kingdom-focused prayer

God-honoring prayer is not about merely informing the Lord of our need but is about enjoying God and committing to the expansion of His kingdom, Ken Hemphill said Oct. 2 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preaching from Matthew 6, Hemphill, who served as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for nearly a decade, told students and faculty that the Lord’s Prayer models kingdom-focused prayer. Hemphill is National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) for the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Somehow we’ve come to the notion that prayer is about informing God or even convincing God to be on our side,” Hemphill said. “Listen, God is so on your side that while you were yet ungodly, He sent His Son to die for you. ... Prayer is primarily an issue of enjoying God and [discovering] His priority for your life.”

From its opening phrase, “Our Father who art in heaven,” the model prayer teaches believers to shift their focus from self to God and His church, he said.

“‘Our’ is the nature of the community focus itself. I began to notice that we tend to pray ‘me’ and ‘mine’ prayers, whereas Jesus prayed ‘our’ and ‘Thine’ prayers. Prayer’s not so much about me. It’s about Him and it’s about us,” Hemphill said.

Subsequent phrases specifically teach us how to focus on God’s priorities, he said. “Hallowed be Thy name,” for instance, represents a commitment to honor God’s name with all of our actions.

The Lord desires for His people to live by “[His] Word in such a way that your behavior and your character become a showcase for the authority of God,” he said. “I want people to be able to see what God could do in the lives of a yielded people.”

In fact, hallowing God’s name before the world is the focus of the EKG emphasis in Southern Baptist life, Hemphill said.

“We’re asking the question, ‘What remains in terms of Southern Baptists and evangelicals evangelizing the world?’ ... The first issue is our holiness, that God proves Himself holy among us in their sight, that there’s an obvious salty character about our lifestyle, that there is a flavor of our life, that people see us and in us they see the Father’s image so clearly reflected that they know we’ve been with Him and that we are His,” he said.

“Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for God to show believers His daily activity and allow them to participate in it, Hemphill said.

Christians often don’t know what God is doing around them because they don’t ask, he said. “His activity isn’t just here on campus. It’s not just in chapel. It won’t be just in your church on Sunday morning. God is at work all the time everywhere around us, and the problem is we’ve never asked Him to let us see.”

Hemphill told chapel attendees that one encounter in the hallway at Southwestern Seminary provided him with an unexpected opportunity to join God’s kingdom activity.

On his way to preach in chapel one morning, Hemphill struck up a conversation with a student only to learn that the student’s wife had experienced a serious health crisis. Hemphill was able to pray for the student and offer financial help to his family.

“You know what I’ve began to realize?” he asked. “A lot of your kingdom moments are going to be in the side ditch. They’re not going to be things you’ve planned. ... What we’re praying is, ‘God, give me kingdom vision. Help me to see the world as You see the world. Help me to see needs as You see needs.”

“Thy will be done” then is an expression of willingness to participate in God’s work when He reveals it, Hemphill said.

“You cannot pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ without praying, ‘Thy will be done.’ It’s a façade. It’s a lie if you’re saying, ‘I hope somebody else does the kingdom, just not me, Lord.”

In conclusion, Hemphill said that the benediction of the Lord’s Prayer defines man’s purpose for living.

“You know why you’re here? Here is it: to advance His kingdom through His power for His glory. That’s it. Bottom line, why did God create you? Why did He redeem you? So that you could advance His kingdom through His power for His glory.”


Forum presents varied Christian views of church-state relations

How high a wall should separate church and state?

Four panelists attempted to provide a Christian answer to this vital contemporary question in a Sept. 18 symposium at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The panelists argued four different views ranging from a strict separation of church from the state to the government’s acknowledging and actively working with the church.

The symposium was co-sponsored by Boyce College and the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement and featured seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., Richard Land, Hollyn Hollman, Tom Nettles, and E. David Cook. Russell D. Moore, executive director of the Henry Institute, and Boyce College Dean Jerry Johnson moderated the discussion.

More than 500 students listened as the panelists interacted and debated their views. Hollman, who is general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public affairs, was impressed by the overall presentation of the symposium.

“The turnout was impressive,” she said. “The symposium was well-planned and promoted. It was refreshing to participate in a forum where the time restraints were not so strict as to reduce important points to slogans.

“It offered a good opportunity for the students to hear different perspectives and to begin exploring the important concerns behind those differences. The relationship between religion and government deserves continuing, thoughtful attention. This forum was a positive step in that direction.”

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention presented the accomodationist view, arguing that Christians have a responsibility to offer a Scriptural perspective in public policy debates.

Christians should not, however, advocate state-sponsored religion because state-sponsored religion inevitably compromises the Gospel message, he said.

“We believe that as Christians that we have a worldview that is informed by Holy Scripture. We have a right to express our religious convictions in the public square, and we have a right to bring our religious convictions to bear on the public policy issues of the day. And if we can convince enough Americans that we’re right, we have the right to have that legislated,” Land said.

When believers engage the culture with a Christian worldview, he said, they have the potential to impact society powerfully.

“Every major social evil in our society that has been corrected has been corrected because people of profound religious faith took their religious convictions into the public marketplace and said, ‘This is wrong. This is sinful. This should be illegal,”‘ Land said. “That was true with the abolitionists. It was true with child labor. It was true with labor reform. And in the lifetime of many of us, it was true with the civil rights revolution.”

It is important though, to draw a distinction between Christians impacting culture and government-sponsored religion, Land said. Government-sponsored religion inevitably will corrupt the Gospel and run contrary to the consciences of some citizens.

Sharing the Gospel is the responsibility of individuals, not the government, Land said.

“It’s our job to teach the Bible. It’s our job to propagate the faith. And when people are then changed, they have the right to bring their religious convictions into the public marketplace of ideas and to express their faith,” he said.

“Religion is too important, faith is too important to let government get its hands on it. It will always squeeze the life out of it. It will always foul it up. I can guarantee you that it will never be the Gospel as we understand it that is proclaimed.”

Ultimately, Christians must recognize that appropriate church-state relations involve Christians impacting culture through the democratic process, Land said.

Representing the strict separationist position, Hollman, argued that Christians should seek to uphold both the free exercise and the anti-establishment clauses of the First Amendment.

By advocating both a free church and a state that maintains neutrality toward religion, Christians can assure maximum protection of religious liberty, she said.

“For theological reasons, we believe in a free church and a free state,” Hollman said. “Of course, this is at the core of who we are. We are created in God’s image, free and responsible to God. We believe that the freedom of the individual to exercise choice in religion is essential, and the separation of the institutions of church and state is indispensable for ensuring liberty.”

Because of the free exercise clause, it is perfectly acceptable for religion to interact with government on many occasions, she said. Examples of appropriate interaction between government and religion would include Bible clubs in public high schools and students expressing Christian viewpoints in class.

The anti-establishment clause, however, prevents the government from lending any support to religion, Hollman said.

“Some suggest that government support for religion should be permitted so long as no religion is favored over another and no citizen is forced to participate. But the weight of the evidence suggests that the framers considered that approach and they rejected it,” she said.

In fact, Hollman said, state support of Christianity—such as that advocated by Alabama Supreme Court justice, Roy Moore—tends to undermine evangelism.

“I think we could look at the Ten Commandments debate as a prime example ... Have you ever met anyone who came to know Christ because they saw a monument that was of the government where the government had decided what monument to promote and to put Scripture on it? Maybe you have, but I don’t think that is the way we promote evangelism and real religion.”

But Mohler said Christians must beware of any state that claims to be neutral toward religion.

“There is no such thing as religious neutrality,” Mohler said. “There never has been such a condition, there never will be such a condition. It is because the worldview is always religious or irreligious in whatever mixture of the individual conscience.

“There is either allegiance to or hostility to the truth claims of the various spiritual, religious, theological arguments being made at any time.”

Mohler cited the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey as an example of the lack of neutrality. In that case, justices admitted that the definition of life is an inherently theological concept and therefore had no warrant to take a position.

Mohler pointed out that by not taking a position, the court took a position. Christians must be willing to argue their worldview on such issues in the public square even in the face of charges that they are attempting to establish Christianity as the dominant religion, he said.

“The problem is, there is no neutrality and so, if for instance, to say that marriage means a man and a woman, not a man and a man or a woman and a woman, if that is to claim a special privilege for Christianity, hear me making that claim,” Mohler said. “Because I am going to make that argument in the public square.”

Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Seminary, took the separationist position, arguing that, above all else, the church should guard the deposit of Gospel truth God has given it.

The law of God—the 10 Commandments—should not be used as an external symbol or historical monument in the vein of Moore’s controversial display in Alabama, because God did not give the law for that purpose, Nettles said.

Instead, the commandments should be proclaimed by the church as a standard of righteousness that reveals sin and leads sinners to see their need of a savior. It also serves as the standard of sanctification for the believer, he said.

Russell D. Moore said an important part of the church-state argument being made by Roy Moore and other Christians is that U.S. law is built upon the 10 Commandments. Russell D. Moore is executive director for the Henry Institute and serves as assistant professor of theology at Southern Seminary.

“The argument that is being made is that the 10 Commandments are indeed foundational to the American system of justice, that you don’t have an American system of justice that is simply being created ex-nihilo, it is based upon something,” Moore said.

“That is one of the arguments that is being made for, not only a monument in the state house in Montgomery, which may or may not be wise, but other monuments...[such as the monument of the 10 Commandments] in the [U.S.] Supreme Court building itself.”

Cook argued for the acknowledgement view of church and state relations. According to this understanding, the church and state may work together to bring about the betterment of society. Cook is professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Seminary and lives in England, where the Anglican Church is the official state church.

Cook asserted that the church and state should work together, that the government may look to the church to find the impetus for teaching morality and religion in public schools. In answer to the question “how high the wall of separation between church and state?” Cook answered, “Let’s break down the wall because Jesus is Lord of all.”

“That’s why at the heart of British education, there is religious education,” Cook said. “There is religious worship at the very heart, an opportunity for believers to take that formal (religion) and make it real, to make it living, to make it vital [and] transforming.”

Cook said the Christian voice must be heard loud and clear in the public square including the arena of government.

“I believe it is vital for us not to withdraw from the world, not to live in a bubble, not to create a ghetto mentality, but to be engaged to be salt and light to show the Lordship of Christ really at work in society,” he said.

Mohler issued a closing challenge to pastors on the issue of church-state relations. The debate is a critical one and must be handled thoughtfully and with intellectual and biblical integrity.

“[As Christians] we ought not to speak about the Constitution if we have not read it,” he said. “Christian ignorance is an abysmal sin. I hope that what has begun tonight is a conversation and a process of learning and study that will lead you to the sources, lead you to read, to investigate, to debate this.

“...I hope it begins a debate in the public square of America and in our churches as well where we desperately need to have a reasonable, intelligent, illuminating conversation about these things so that we can be faithful Christian citizens.”