Reflecting on his tenure as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said his only response is gratitude.
Twenty years ago, Oct. 15, 1993, Southern Seminary inaugurated Mohler as its ninth president — in ceremonies that included evangelist Billy Graham and theologian Carl F.H. Henry. Twenty years later, yesterday, Mohler preached Oct. 15 in a special chapel service as a part of the seminary’s annual Heritage Week activities about the place of gratitude in Christian life and theology.
“A bit more than 20 years ago, I was given the unspeakable opportunity to serve this sacred school as president and professor,” said Mohler, who, at the time of his election, was only 33 years old. “Let me ask the question that others were clearly asking at the time: ‘What were they thinking?’ It has been 20 years that can only be summarized in one word: ‘gratitude.’”
His sermon, “What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive? Gratitude and Christian Discipleship,” came from 1 Corinthians 4:1-7, where the apostle Paul establishes the proper relationship between God and his servants.
“What is the one thing most on my heart that I would share with you this day?” Mohler said. “It is gratitude.”
Mohler emphasized the relevance of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church.
“To one extent or another, every one of our congregations is a Corinthian congregation; every one of our congregations has at the very least, its Corinthian moments and is perpetually afflicted by the Corinthian temptations,” he said.
Mohler explained that “one of the problems in the Corinthian church was the perpetual sense of spiritual superiority that was lorded over by some believers over others because of their spiritual gifts.” Paul’s answer, he said, is to remind the Corinthians that all they have is from God.
“We are all tremendously shaped ... by the simple declarative sentences of Scripture, those sentences which establish the truth of the gospel, the reality of the one true and living God, the substantial and accessible, forcible, eternal truth of God’s revelation to us,” Mohler said. “We live on those.
“But I am sometimes, I must admit, more attracted to the questions asked in Scripture. Some of these haunting questions sometimes seem to reveal even more than those declarative sentences.”
Referencing verse seven of his passage, Mohler said, “Here are one of those questions I think should frame our thinking as believers: ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’”
Mohler said that the correct answer to this “incredible question” frames Christian theology, and should define the believer’s life.
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing” is the answer, Mohler said. “We know that God is himself the giver of all good and perfect gifts, the source of all that is good, including life itself. And thus we understand that thanksgiving and gratitude are the Christian’s portion. This is our natural and rightful response, not only to who God is, but to what he has done for us. Understood rightly, there is no more inherently theological act than thanksgiving.”
Mohler used the topic of gratitude and thanksgiving to express his thanksgiving to the seminary community.
“When I look out at this room, I see what I had no right to expect to see 20 years later: you,” Mohler said, referencing the early days of his presidency, many of which brought struggle and difficulty. “And beyond you, so many who have gone out; and beyond you so many who are now coming. This is God’s doing, and it is marvelous in his sight. And what’s our response to that? Mine, first of all? Gratitude. Gratitude for all. Gratitude at the beginning, gratitude at the end, gratitude at the top, gratitude at the bottom, gratitude at every point, gratitude at every moment.”
He continued: “The Christian life and all true theology begins and ends with the right answer to that one question — and the right last word to this sermon. What do we have that we did not receive? Nothing.”
At the beginning of his sermon, Mohler expressed his sentiment of how “special” the seminary’s Alumni Memorial Chapel is to him. He catalogued his experiences in the building as a prospective student, student, employee, graduate and then as president — his daughter, Katie Mohler Barnes, was married in the chapel this summer.
Also during the service, trustee chairman E. Todd Fisher read a resolution of “thanksgiving and appreciation,” unanimously adopted during the Oct. 14-15 semi-annual meeting, that traces Mohler’s stewardship of the seminary through two decades [Story available here.] The seminary presented Mohler with a framed copy of the resolution. In response, Mohler told the seminary community the recognition is “humbling” for himself and Mary. “And what an incredibly moving day.”
Audio and video of Mohler’s sermon are both available at www.sbts.edu/resources.
Twenty years to the day after his inauguration as ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the school’s board of trustees honored R. Albert Mohler Jr. for his leadership in recovering the founders’ vision for the school and its progress since 1993.
During an Oct. 15 chapel service, trustee chairman E. Todd Fisher read a resolution of “thanksgiving and appreciation,” unanimously adopted during the Oct. 14-15 semi-annual meeting, that traces Mohler’s stewardship of the seminary through two decades. The statement expresses “profound gratefulness” for Mohler’s “faithfulness” to restore the school, which was a key concern of grassroots Southern Baptists resulting in the “Conservative Resurgence” in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination during the 1980s and 1990s.
Fisher, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., read from 2 Timothy 4:1-5, a passage “very fitting” for the occasion, he said. Addressing Mohler, Fisher said, “Thank you so much for all you’ve done for this seminary and the kingdom of God.”
A framed copy of the resolution was presented to Mohler and his wife, Mary, who were greeted by a lengthy standing ovation by the filled-to-capacity audience in Alumni Memorial Chapel.
In response, Mohler told the seminary community the recognition is “humbling” for himself and Mary. “And what an incredibly moving day,” he said.
Saying he did not want to “linger” on the matter, but reflecting on his inauguration ceremony in the same building 20 years to the day before, Mohler said, “We had no assurance that we would be here 20 years hereafter. Matter of fact, we had no assurance that this seminary would be here 20 years thereafter.”
He said, “This is the seminary that God has built and what a joy it is to be able to reflect upon that.”
Noting 20 years is a “significant period of life,” Mohler said, “I think in many ways those were the most strategically invested years of my life and I want you to know that I would do nothing other with them if ever I were asked or given the alternative. There is no alternative history I would choose here. This is it. And for that I am unspeakably grateful.”
Mohler then preached on the theology of gratitude in a sermon entitled, “What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive? Gratitude and Christian Discipleship,” from 1 Corinthians 4:1-7. [Story available, here.]
Following chapel, a reception for the president and his family, attended by students, faculty and staff, was held in Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion.
The trustee resolution notes that Southern is now one of the largest seminaries in the world, with the largest enrollment of master of divinity students in any seminary. According to the Association of Theological Schools, in 2012-2013, Southern had a total enrollment of 4,366, compared to 2,858 in 1993, making it the second-largest ATS-accredited school.
The resolution also notes academic, financial and campus facilities improvements under Mohler, and expresses “unqualified support” for the president’s recent reaffirmations of his vision for the school during the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and his August convocation address, “Don’t Just Stand There – Say Something: The Sin of Silence in a Time of Trouble.”
Noting Mary Mohler “modeled grace, humility and steadfast allegiance … during times of severe opposition” and “personal attacks,” trustees also offered “profound gratitude to Mary Mohler, Katie Mohler Barnes and Christopher Mohler for their irreplaceable devotion and incomparable assistance to Dr. Mohler as he has led Southern Seminary for the last 20 years.”
Trustees requested copies of the resolution be sent to SBC President Fred Luter and Executive Committee President Frank Page “with encouragement that it be shared with the wider Southern Baptist family so that all may join us in celebrating this important milestone in the ministry of Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
[The entire text of the resolution follows at the end of this story.]
During an Oct. 15 banquet for trustees, faculty and friends of the seminary, Fisher presented to Mohler a trustee approved “twelve-month study leave” to be “allocated and used at his discretion by Dec. 31, 2018.”
In other actions during the trustee meeting, the board received reports from its committees and unanimously:
-- approved sabbatical leaves for Heath Lambert, associate professor of biblical counseling; and Mark A. Seifrid, Earnest and Mildred Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation;
-- amended the trustee bylaws in two sections: (1) to reduce the number of standing school committees to three, reflecting the April trustee-approved merger of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism with the former School of Church Ministries, resulting in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministries; and (2) to allow flexibility in scheduling of the semi-annual meetings of the board of trustees;
-- moved the spring trustee meeting to April 14-16, 2014, in light of the date of Easter;
-- approved a policy for the Faculty and Staff Handbook and Student Handbook on “Sex, Sexuality and Gender Identity” stating the seminary’s biblically based positions on these matters; and
-- approved a response to a motion made at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting concerning mental health summarizing the seminary’s role in training pastors and counselors on the matter, while deferring to a prospective recommendation from the Executive Committee for further reporting.
The board also received a report from its Executive Committee on the election of seven members of the Southern Seminary Foundation Board.
In recognition of Mohler’s anniversary milestone, the seminary released, Oct. 15, several resources.
A special fall edition of the Southern Seminary Magazine, the quarterly publication of the school, includes articles reporting on the seminary’s progress since 1993, Mohler’s role as a denominational statesman and innovative communicator and Mary Mohler’s leadership of the Seminary Wives Institute.
A special October edition of Towers, the campus news magazine, includes a profile of Mohler, based on an extensive interview with him, and a photo essay of a day in the life of Mohler on Aug. 20, 2013.
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Seminary. Following is the full text of the resolution marking R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s 20th anniversary as president of Southern Seminary unanimously adopted by the school’s board of trustees in its Oct. 14-15 semi-annual meeting.
Resolution of Thanksgiving and Appreciation for R. Albert Mohler Jr. on the Occasion of His Twentieth Anniversary as President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Whereas, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. was elected ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary by the Board of Trustees on March 26, 1993; and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler was inaugurated as president of Southern Seminary on October 15, 1993; and
Whereas, before his election as president, Dr. Mohler had previously served as an administrator and was a distinguished Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy graduate of Southern Seminary; and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler’s profound affection for Southern Seminary is evidenced by his deep knowledge of the history of the institution and his stewardship of the school as president for the last 20 years; and
Whereas, upon taking office, Dr. Mohler immediately commenced the implementation of his vision to restore Southern Seminary to the Founders’ commitment of a confessional school based on fidelity to Scripture and The Abstract of Principles, grounded in a steadfast allegiance to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and its confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message; and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler eloquently expressed his vision to restore Southern Seminary in his first Convocation Address, “Don’t Just Do Something: Stand There!”, delivered to the seminary community on August 31, 1993; and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler unwaveringly withstood vehement opposition and sometimes deeply personal attacks upon himself and family by elements of the faculty, alumni and others in the Southern Baptist Convention determined to see his vision unfulfilled; and
Whereas, because of his commitment to restore a confessional seminary based on the total truthfulness of God’s Word, Dr. Mohler was able to recruit faculty with both the highest academic credentials and deepest Gospel ministry commitments, resulting in the finest collection of evangelical scholars in the world; and
Whereas, because of his commitment to restore a confessional seminary based on the total truthfulness of God’s Word, Dr. Mohler’s convictional leadership has attracted outstanding students from across the nation and around the world seeking Gospel ministry training, resulting in one of the world’s largest seminary student bodies and the largest number of Master of Divinity students in any seminary; and
Whereas, because of his commitment to restore a confessional seminary based on the total truthfulness of God’s Word, Dr. Mohler’s management has resulted in a financially sound institution with a budget more than twice as large, an endowment more than thirty million dollars larger, and campus facilities that are well-maintained, improving and expanding; and
Whereas consistent with his commitment to restoring a confessional seminary based on the total truthfulness of God’s Word, Dr. Mohler has led in the development of new academic programs – including the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry and Boyce College – to better equip ministers to serve more faithfully the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention; and
Whereas, even while leading the recovery of Southern Seminary, Dr. Mohler has played a strategic role of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention as longtime president of the Council of Seminary Presidents; by service on key SBC task forces and committees, including the Presidential Theological Study Committee (1994), Program and Structure Study Committee (1995), Baptist Faith and Message study committees (1998, 2000), the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (2010), and the Calvinism Advisory Committee (2013); and by delivering the Convention Sermon in 1995; and
Whereas, in addition to his seminary and denominational leadership, Dr. Mohler is widely admired as an innovative communicator of evangelical convictions to the broader American society through his extensive writing ministry; multi-media platforms; as a frequent commentator on theological, moral and social issues in the nation’s most prominent newspapers, magazines, network and cable television news programs; and in many other venues; and
Whereas, because of Dr. Mohler’s personal investment in students, faculty and administrators, key leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical world have been drawn from among those most closely associated with Dr. Mohler during his 20-year tenure at Southern Seminary; and
Whereas, Mary Mohler, Dr. Mohler’s wife and ministry partner since 1983, has made an incalculable investment in Southern Seminary through her founding in 1997 of the Seminary Wives Institute, training nearly 2,500 wives of students to better equip women for their unique roles as ministry partners to their husbands; and
Whereas, Mary Mohler modeled grace, humility and steadfast allegiance, standing by and supporting Dr. Mohler during times of severe opposition, even sometimes when she and their children, Katie and Christopher, were the subjects of personal attacks; and
Whereas, the seminary community has watched as Katie and Christopher have grown from young children to young adults, and the Mohlers have been blessed this year with the marriage of Katie to Riley Barnes, while Christopher continues his studies at Boyce College; and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler reaffirmed his vision for the seminary in a report to messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston this year: “I want to stand before you now twenty years later and say that those commitments are not fulfilled; they are here reaffirmed, as we move forward in an age unprecedented to do what the Lord Jesus Christ would have us to do;” and
Whereas, Dr. Mohler cast his vision for the coming decade at Southern Seminary in his twentieth anniversary Convocation Address, “Don’t Just Stand There – Say Something: The Sin of Silence in a Time of Trouble,” delivered on August 20, 2013.
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, that the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, October 14-15, 2013, express our thanks to God for His kind providence in leading our predecessor trustees to elect Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. as ninth president of this institution; and
Resolved, that we give our thanks to God for blessing Dr. Mohler uniquely with the requisite spiritual gifts, insight, intelligence and character to provide the convictional leadership that was necessary to restore Southern Seminary to its Founders’ vision; and
Resolved, that we congratulate Dr. Mohler on his twentieth anniversary as president of Southern Seminary, with great hopefulness that God will continue to grant him health and perseverance to lead the school for many more years; and
Resolved, that we express our profound gratitude to Dr. Mohler for his faithfulness to his vision to restore The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as a school committed to the total truthfulness of God’s Word and fidelity to the institution’s founding confession of faith, The Abstract of Principles, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message; and
Resolved, that we express our unqualified support for Dr. Mohler’s reaffirmation of his vision for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as an institution committed to the total truthfulness of God’s Word and fidelity to its confessional statements, The Abstract of Principles and The Baptist Faith and Message; and
Resolved, that we give thanks to God for trustees, faculty, students, administrators, friends of the seminary and others who played key roles throughout the last 20 years in providing support to Dr. Mohler as he led the restoration of Southern Seminary to the Founders’ vision; and
Resolved, that we extend our profound gratitude to Mary Mohler, Katie Mohler Barnes, and Christopher Mohler for their irreplaceable devotion and incomparable assistance to Dr. Mohler as he has led Southern Seminary for the last 20 years; and
Resolved, that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees send a copy of this resolution to Dr. Fred Luter Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Dr. Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, with greetings from this Board and with encouragement that it be shared with the wider Southern Baptist family so that all may join us in celebrating this important milestone in the ministry of Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Few people are indispensable, but theologian Carl F.H. Henry and his role in the evangelical movement can be described as just that, said Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. at a Sept. 26 celebration of Henry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The daylong conference, “Carl F.H. Henry: A Centennial Celebration,” honored the legacy of Henry, who died in 2003 and would have been 100 this year. In addition to Mohler, the conference featured plenary sessions led by Gregory Alan Thornbury, Paul House, Richard Mouw and John Woodbridge.
In his address, “The Indispensable Evangelical: Carl F.H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the 20th Century,” Mohler compared Henry’s role in evangelicalism to that of George Washington during the American Revolution, describing Henry as “the indispensable evangelical,” the “brain of the evangelical movement” and the “theological luminary of the 20th century.”
Mohler reflected on his interactions with Henry as a student and later as Southern Seminary president, comparing Henry’s influence to that of a father. He also discussed Henry’s many ambitions, which Mohler labeled “evangelical, institutional, theological, cultural and political and personal.” Not all of these ambitions were realized, he said, but they live on in individuals and institutions that bear Henry’s influence.
“Our ambitions may be somewhat different than those of the evangelical movement’s founders, but they are no more noble,” Mohler said. “We stand not only in their debt, but in their shadows. In an age which will require of us an even greater theological clarity and theological wisdom, may we be worthy to pick up the mantle they’ve handed to us.”
Henry’s legacy in the evangelical movement is evidenced both in the speakers at the conference and the sponsors for the event, which both bear the mark of Henry himself. Conference sponsors included Southern Seminary, Beeson Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Union University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Christianity Today, Crossway Books and Prison Fellowship.
A panel discussion with Russell D. Moore, David Dockery, Timothy George and Mark Galli answered any doubts about why Henry is remains relevant.
“What he was saying has ongoing relevance to the things that we’re all facing in evangelicalism right now,” said Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore’s debt to Henry, he said, is revealed by the copies of Henry’s groundbreaking book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, that he frequently gives away.
“Dr. Henry used to say, ‘We serve a God who is the God of both justice and justification,’ and I think that’s a message that is ongoingly needed for the church,” said Moore, former senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary.
For Dockery, president of Union University, the conference provided an occasion to honor and give thanks for the life of Henry.
“We give thanks for his amazing legacy and the way he’s touched all of us is through his prolific pen and the way he addressed so many key theological issues and ethical issues throughout his 50 years of publication,” said Dockery, former dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary.
Also on the panel was Galli, editor of Christianity Today, the magazine where Henry was founding editor, 1956-1968. Galli credits Henry for bringing “a sense of respect to CT,” and lauded Henry for the role he believed theology should play in public life.
“He was not satisfied with just talking with other people in the academy, he wanted evangelical theology to be spread far and wide,” Galli said.
While Galli considers himself “a happy recipient” of Henry’s legacy at Christianity Today, previous editorial staffs have not always been so highly esteemed Henry.
“When I first got to CT, frankly, there were conversations where Carl Henry was disparaged,” Galli said.
Conference attendees all received copies of the first issue of Christianity Today, published on Oct. 15, 1956.
George, the dean of Beeson Divinity School, said Henry knew that his convictions would bring opposition, but he also knew how to hold such convictions humbly and interact with opponents lovingly.
“He stood clearly and firmly for conservative, convictional beliefs, but he did so with irenicism, and a charity and an intelligence that could not be dismissed” by his opponents, said George, former professor of church history at Southern Seminary.
The conference began with Mouw, who recently retired from his long-time post as president of Fuller Theological Seminary, where Henry served as one of the founding faculty members.
In his presentation, “Toward a ‘Full-Orbed’ Evangelical Ethic: The Pioneering Contribution of Carl Henry,” Mouw argued that such a full-orbed ethic demands more than a merely generic evangelical theology.
Mouw called evangelicals to the “comprehensive revealed ethic, full-orbed as Christian theology" that Henry articulated in his writings. Evangelicals can do this, Mouw argued, by drawing from different theological traditions to develop a “thick” ethical understanding.
Woodbridge, research professor of church history and history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, spoke on, “Carl F.H. Henry: A Biblically Faithful Theologian-Evangelist.” Woodbridge explored the reasons Henry believed both theologians and evangelists should strive to become biblically faithful theologian-evangelists.
Thornbury spoke on, “‘Vain Philosophy’? Carl Henry’s Plea for a Philosophically Informed Ministry.” In August, Thornbury, author of the recently released book, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F.H. Henry, became president of The King’s College in New York City, a city that Henry viewed as a strategic location for an evangelical school.
Closing the conference was House, an Old Testament professor at Beeson Divinity School who formerly taught at Southern Seminary. His paper was titled, “Hope, Discipline and the Incarnational Scholar: Carl Henry’s Theological Method and Manners.”
Audio and video from the conference are available at sbts.edu/resources.
If not careful, even seminary students can hold a deficient understanding of the gospel, said Adam W. Greenway during his Oct.1 installation address as the new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Greenway, 35, is the first dean of the school since it expanded as the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, combining the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, established in 1994, and the School of Church Ministries, which began in 2009. The new Graham School officially opened in August.
Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. introduced Greenway, giving background to the Billy Graham School.
“The Billy Graham School will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. It was 20 years ago that Dr. Billy Graham was present here in Louisville for the announcement of the establishment of that school as a part of my inauguration,” Mohler said. “The Lord has greatly blessed this school over the years. This is the Lord’s timing that as the Billy Graham School enters into its 20th year and as it’s aimed toward the future, Adam Greenway would be its dean.”
Greenway, associate professor of evangelism and applied apologetics, preached from 2 Corinthians 5 about “A Full Gospel Ministry.” This era may be the “golden age” for theological uncertainty and gospel compromise, he said, so students must confidently profess their beliefs about the gospel.
“If ever there was a time that we need a recovery of the gospel message, mandate and mission, it is in our day,” Greenway said.
He offered four aspects of a “full gospel ministry.” He emphasized that students who will enter ministry need to comprehend the greatness of the gospel.
First, Greenway said the gospel has a “divine origination.” Everything has its source in God, and he is the hero of the redemption story of Scripture. God delights in reconciling people to himself, Greenway said.
The gospel also involves a “divine declaration,” Greenway said, who is also the chairman of the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources.
People are corrupted, and each time they sin, it is like swiping a credit card that needs to be paid, Greenway said. God would be just to charge a person’s sins to his or her account. But, he said, if God did that, humans would be doomed.
Greenway said that because of the declaration, the gospel’s third aspect is also necessary: a “divine transaction.” People need someone to pay their debt of sin, and Jesus accomplished this on the cross. Citing 2 Corinthians 5:21, he encouraged students to contemplate what it means that Christ became sin in order to reconcile sinners to God.
Greenway’s final aspect of a full gospel ministry is its “divine mission.” He pointed out the importance of obeying the Great Commission mandate of declaring the gospel. He said that too often students disconnect theology from evangelism.
Greenway said that the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry exists to help students apply theology to life, resulting in a full ministry of the gospel.
“Theology never finds its full expression until it becomes the driving force and passion that leads us to proclaim to sinners that there is salvation in Jesus Christ,” said Greenway.
He finished his address by expressing his thankfulness for the seminary and its faculty, who work together for the same goal in training students.
“I believe at Southern Seminary in general and the Billy Graham School in particular, there’s never been a greater assembling of God-called individuals who are passionate about the full range of the Great Commission: worship, evangelism, discipleship, leadership and missions,” Greenway said. “We’ve got the family together in the Billy Graham School, and we believe it is at the very heartbeat of God that our mission and mandate is to see the nations come to worship Christ.”
Mohler, at the conclusion of the service, presented Greenway with a plaque commemorating the installation.
Audio and video from Greenway’s message are available at sbts.edu/resources.
At third annual McCall Lecture, Dockery offers case-studies in leadership from Southern Seminary’s presidents
A helpful way to learn about leadership is to examine leaders from the past, said David S. Dockery during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s third annual Duke K. McCall Lecture on Christian Leadership, Sept. 24.
Dockery, long-time president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., spoke about Southern Seminary’s nine presidents, using each as a case-study in leadership qualities. He focused particularly on the seminary’s current president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. and his convictional leadership as the essential and foundational trait.
Drawing from leadership principles from each of the presidents, Dockery said that each of the lessons — the necessity of vision, teamwork, change agency, wise risk-taking, encouragement, good managing, strategic planning, relational skills and convictional leadership — must be grounded in the Bible and theological direction.
“Without such commitments these efforts lose shape and become disconnected from the Christ- centered mission,” Dockery said. “A leader’s life is not primarily about an organization or about success, but a leader’s life is primarily about being characterized by the worship of God, authentic discipleship, by spiritual and ministry formation — a life that God uses for his purposes.”
Dockery, who served as the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary from 1992-1996, began with the founder of the seminary, James Petigru Boyce as an example of leadership as vision. Boyce, president from 1859-1888, dreamed of a Baptist seminary for the South and the Southern Baptist Convention, and in Greenville, S.C., in 1859 this dream began to turn into a reality.
Leaders can learn about the necessity of vision from Boyce, Dockery said. Boyce saw a vision of an established, confessional seminary. He persevered through post-Civil War hardships to see the vision realized.
“Vision has the ability to see the end of the plan from the beginning,” Dockery said. “It was Boyce’s vision that served as the source of energy and direction for the seminary from 1859 until his death in 1888.”
Dockery then talked about John A. Broadus, an example of team leadership, who not only succeeded Boyce as president (1888-1895), but worked closely with Boyce from the early days of the seminary.
“In many ways, the Boyce-Broadus leadership was a duet, not a solo,” Dockery said.
Broadus stood beside Boyce in the difficult economic days of the seminary when it moved from Greenville to Louisville, Ky. He refused to take a salary while he raised funds for Southern, and he worked with Boyce to help accomplish his vision for the school. Dockery said that Broadus exemplified team leadership throughout his professorship and presidency at Southern Seminary.
After Broadus came William Heth Whitsett (1895-1899). Whitsett, the third seminary president and a member of the faculty and historian, challenged prevailing views about Baptist origins, resulting in controversy and crisis for the seminary. It eventually cost him his job.
Dockery said the lesson of Whitsett’s presidency is risk-taking at the right time and understanding context. He said that timing is key in leadership. Leaders who make mistakes need to admit it and move on, he said.
“The right thing done at the wrong time, or the right thing done for the wrong reason is the wrong decision,” Dockery said. “Risk-taking is good at the right time and right place. And godly leaders must be willing to do so.”
Southern’s fourth president, Edgar Young Mullins (1899-1928), is an example of leadership as change agent. Mullins provided lasting leadership through his persuasive work as an administrator and denominational statesman who adapted to his time, Dockery said.
“Not only did he influence the campus and the denomination, but he influenced far beyond Baptist life through his statesman-like leadership,” Dockery said. “He demonstrated the power of persuasion. For almost 30 years, E.Y Mullins’ giant sized abilities touched Baptists everywhere and pointed the seminary forward in the changing world of the 20th century.”
After Mullins died, John Richard Sampey became president (1929-1942). Sampey inherited not only the seminary but substantial debt. “He was a model of courage in difficult days,” Dockery said, stating that leadership as encourager is important.
Sampey began to implement plans for paying the debt and the school’s enrollment grew as time progressed.
Ellis Adams Fuller, Southern Seminary’s sixth president (1942-1950), was a leader as manager, Dockery said. Fuller knew business well and had good managerial skills. He adequately managed the seminary and Dockery said that leaders can learn that timing is key for implementation from Fuller.
“Managers like Fuller make wise and prayerful decisions. They know when and how to ask for help,” Dockery said.
Duke K. McCall, the leader who the lecture honors, was Southern Seminary’s seventh and longest serving president (1950-1982). Dockery cited McCall as Southern Seminary’s strategic leader.
McCall, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, had already been the executive secretary of the SBC Executive Committee, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville before he came to Southern Seminary. He was also named president of the Baptist World Alliance after his time at Southern.
Dockery said that McCall’s presidency teaches leaders that they will not be able to move forward without strategic planning.
“He remarkably placed his stamp on the campus of Southern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention like few others in Southern Baptist history,” Dockery said. “His strategic, thoughtful leadership reached far beyond this campus.”
Dockery said that Roy Lee Honeycutt, Southern’s eighth president (1982-1993), was a relational leader. Relationships are essential for those in leadership, Dockery said. Honeycutt worked through difficult opposition from the progressive faculty, and he built consensus with a covenant statement, written in the midst of denominational controversy.
Dockery finished his leadership case studies with Mohler, who marks 20 years as president of Southern Seminary this semester. He told students that the lesson to learn from Mohler is convictional leadership and commitment to sound biblical teaching.
When Mohler began his presidency, the seminary was at the center of controversy in the SBC. Mohler, through his convictional and committed leadership, turned the seminary back to biblical fidelity and theological orthodoxy.
“President Mohler has brought about a remarkable transformation by convictional leadership which is both theologically informed and theologically shaped,” Dockery said. “President Mohler has reclaimed the vision of James P. Boyce and the tradition that provided the framework for the early decades of this seminary.”
Audio and video from Dockery’s message are available at sbts.edu/resources.
Copeland, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Ill., for the last 12 years, spoke to students about the importance of beliefs that are in agreement with Scripture and are applied to the student’s life before ministry begins.
He preached from 1 Timothy 4:16 where Paul instructs Timothy to pay careful attention to himself and the instruction he receives. From this passage, Copeland urged students to verify against Scripture what they learn in and out of class, and allow it to inform their character and way of living.
“Sometimes you can be so focused on your learning that you forget about your burning,” he said. “You can be so focused on knowledge that you forget about the fact that it isn't just about what you know but Who you know. And Who you know comes out in your deportment, your conduct and conversation.”
Copeland told the students that the goal of an education is character transformation. Education is necessary, but he said that students need to prepare for the “front lines” of ministry. Copeland said that a seminary student should not study Scripture and its meaning just to tell someone else. But, he said, what is learned should be applied to the pastor first.
“You can’t have the impact that God intends for you to have without having your doctrine straight,” Copeland said. “Study yourself like you study the Book.” Students need to live in a way that helps others know what is right, he said.
Copeland, a council member on The Gospel Coalition — a coalition of evangelical leaders, most popularly known for its blog and biennial conference — closed his message warning students to attend to their convictions and character, especially while in seminary when the temptation to be prideful is prevalent.
Copeland illustrated this by saying that there should not be a gap between what someone is learning and how they are living.
“It’s possible to know the right things, but if you’re not living it right, you don’t have the seasoning that you need in order to help other people know what’s right,” Copeland said.
“As you grow older, you will recognize that you are constantly changing and therefore you need more and more of God’s grace and you need to practice these disciplines in a greater fashion.”
Copeland is the author of Riding in the Second Chariot: A Guide for Associate Ministers, and he is also an attorney.
Audio and video from Copeland’s sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.
Nunez, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, preached from Mark 6:14-29, a passage that reports on King Herod's beheading of John the Baptist, illustrating the cost of being faithful to the cause of Christ.
Before he preached, Nunez spoke about his background and ministry. He told about how he left the Dominican Republic to pursue a successful medical career in the United States before God called him to ministry and back to Latin America.
Nunez, the author of two books, Jesus: the Man that Challenged the World and Confronts Your Life and A Church After God’s Own Heart, said that he believes what is happening in the Dominican Republic is the “beginning of a reformation in Latin America.”
“God is doing something fresh in Latin America that perhaps you should be aware of and maybe even be a part of it,” he said. “And I suspect that is part of the reason that God has me here today.”
As a part of growing Spanish-language initiatives, Southern Seminary recently began live translation of chapel services and on-campus conferences into Spanish, for both in person and for online viewers.
Turning to his sermon, Nunez described John the Baptist from the Mark passage as an example of the cost of discipleship.
“What John the Baptist lived in private he preached in public. And we need God’s people like that today,” Nunez said, who is also the founding president of Wisdom and Integrity Ministries.
Nunez noted the power of God’s call on a man, illustrating this with John’s conviction about honoring God. He pointed out the power of resentment, which led to Herod’s daughter asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter at her mother’s advising. Nunez said that people are blind to their sin because of resentment.
He talked about the power of integrity, citing Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate and the people could not find fault with Jesus because of the way he lived his life in integrity.
He lastly talked about the power of sin in a person’s life. He said that the power of sin weakens a person’s sinful nature, which is what led to Herod not safeguarding John the Baptist even though he knew he was a righteous man.
Nunez said that John the Baptist was committed to the advancement of the truth even when it cost him his life. He pointed out that the prophet acted as a moral compass for the people around him who lived in sin because he didn’t compromise the truth.
He said that voices like John’s, who speak up for the truth, are not only important for the nations, but especially important for the church of God, citing William Wilberforce, who fought for 26 years to abolish slavery in England.
Nunez compared Herod and John the Baptist to Pilate and Christ. Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the people, which resulted in the crucifixion of Christ. Pilate had power, but no character, he said.
“Sin has a monumental influence on you and me. It has the potential to little by little make us into mere puppets of our impulses and desires. And that’s where Herod ended up,” Nunez said.
He closed his sermon by reading an anonymous letter from a pastor in Africa. The letter, written before the author was beheaded, emphasized that the high cost of following Christ.
Nunez hosts the For His Cause Conference, a gathering that ministers to thousands of Spanish- speaking people from many different countries. In the spring of 2013, Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. spoke at the conference, and plans to return next year to speak again.
Audio and video from Nunez’s message, “The Cause of Christ has a Price,” are available at sbts.edu/resources.
Rick Bordas, Southern Seminary Foundation Board member and long-time friend of the school, died Sept. 18 from gallbladder cancer. He was 65.
“A giant has fallen in Louisville,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. “Rick Bordas was a dear friend to me, to Southern Seminary, and to the cause of Christ. He was a devoted churchman, a mentor and evangelist, and a friend to a small army of friends and fellow disciples. He was a model husband and father, whose love for his wife and family was evident to all. He mentored young men for Christ and his influence will endure through the lives he shaped and through the Rick Bordas Fund for Christian Discipleship at Southern Seminary.
“Our prayers are with Lori Bordas and the Bordas family, even as we rejoice in the triumph of Christ in the life and legacy of Rick Bordas.”
Bordas, a believer for 25 years, served on the foundation board for seven years. According to a family obituary, he loved the seminary and its students, which lead him to serve on the board. He attended chapel services often.
When Bordas was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer earlier in 2013, he simply asked people to pray and continued to work and volunteer. He and his wife, Lori, faithfully attended Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., where Bordas mentored young men, served as a deacon and greeter.
Bordas, a Vietnam War veteran, was known for saying that the most important things in life are God, family and friends. He has three sons and one stepson.
Friends of Bordas recently honored him with a student discipleship fund in his honor at Southern Seminary. When these friends invited Bordas and his wife, Lori, to a dinner on June 17, the two did not know that 100 friends and family gathered at the seminary to unveil the Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship.
The fund recently co-sponsored a conference at the seminary about personal and family vigilance while in seminary.
He leaves behind his wife, Lori, three sons and their wives, Drew and Kennington, Matt and Karen, Josh and Jessica; one stepson, Jeffrey Peterson; six grandchildren; his parents, Margaret Anne and Jim Bordas; and seven siblings. He is preceded in death by his brother, Joe.
The family hosted a visitation service on Sept. 22 and a funeral service at Southeast Christian Church on Sept. 23.
The Bordas family requests that gifts be given to the seminary fund in lieu of flowers. Gifts may be sent to: Southern Seminary c/o Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship, Office of Institutional Advancement, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, introduced Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, expressing thankfulness for Rainer’s friendship and ministry as the founding dean of the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.
“It was very clear to me that God had created one man for that job, and his name was Thom Rainer,” Mohler said. “It was a great joy when Thom Rainer came, and the growth and development of that school under his leadership was remarkable. The lengthened shadow of his legacy here continues. ... He is also a dear friend.”
Rainer, a two time Southern Seminary graduate, preached from 1 Timothy 3:7, warning students about the traps that Satan sets for all Christians, and especially ministers of the gospel.
“No one puts a trap up accidentally,” Rainer said. “Satan is setting intentional traps for you now.”
He described five characteristics of these traps: Traps are powerful, intentional, they aim at a person’s vulnerability, they catch you unaware and they bring sudden and sometimes perilous consequences to a Christian’s life.
Rainer told students about a season in his life when ministry and education took precedence over his family. He said that he realized this problem when his five year old son had not seen him in several weeks because of work and ministry. He said that this was a turning point. Rainer warned students to heed this passage and not fall into the same sin.
“Please don’t think that you’re invincible,” Rainer said. “Don’t think it can’t happen to you because it’s those who say ‘never’ who end up in the trap. We don’t have to fall into the trap, but we need to know that we can,” he said.
Rainer closed the sermon with a final warning for students to walk closely with God in order to prevent a fall.
“Please, for the sake of the glory of God, stay close to him because the devil is waiting to devour.”
Before his sermon, Rainer reflected on his early ministry at Southern Seminary when Mohler first became president.
“What took place in the early and mid-90s for several years was convictional leadership at its best,” Rainer said, referring to Mohler’s stewardship of the institution through theological transition. “What took place at Southern Seminary many said could not be done. And because God worked through a man named Albert Mohler, this school turned around as the denomination began to turn. I was an eyewitness to that history and I saw that convictional leadership. I saw it then and I see it now.”
Earlier this year, Southern Seminary named Rainer as its distinguished alumnus of the year during the school’s alumni luncheon at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas.
Audio and video of the sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.
Faithful Christian scholars must be prepared to accept the scandal of the gospel, even at the cost of academic reputation, said Gregory A. Wills in a Sept. 3 installation service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“It is right to step back and hear from the one who will take this office about what he sees in the future of the school and the reason it was established,” seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., said, introducing Wills as the new dean of the seminary’s School of Theology.
Wills preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 about the scandal of the gospel and its relation to Christian scholarship.
Wills, professor of church history and the author of several books, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: 1859-2009, called the seminary community to suffer the scandal of humility in the service of the gospel.
“I want us to reflect upon this message and its role in our scholarship and in our study of Scripture, the truth of Scripture and all things that belong unto the study of Scripture,” Wills said. “The scandal is inescapable. The scandal of the gospel is that we must repudiate our confidence in glorious human knowledge. We must acknowledge Christ’s righteousness and abandon our own. We must die if we would live.”
Wills applied this scandal to scholarship, specifically in seminary training. He said that no scholarly evidence can compel sinners to repent and trust in Christ, but only the gospel.
“It is crucifixion above all that scandalizes sinners. Christ crucified, Paul says, was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1:23). It is the cross itself that offends the heart and the conscience of man,” Wills said.
Wills said that in 1879 the seminary faced the “momentous” question of whether it would stand committed when professor Crawford Toy challenged the seminary’s commitment to divine truth. Southern dismissed Toy as an “act of gospel fidelity and courage that has bolstered Southern Baptist commitment to Scripture to this day,” Wills said.
“Southern Baptists rightly established this seminary for the promotion of divine truth,” Wills said. “And we must never relinquish this task, though at great cost of labor, at great inconvenience and great grief. We must never relent in our determination to promote and defend gospel truth. And so we repudiate tampering with the Word of God.”
The historian noted, however, that the gospel is not about scholarship, but Jesus Christ.
“We are content that our scholarship is employed in the statement of open, divine truth. This means, among other things, that we do not long for the recognition of the academy, but for the ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ We are trophies of grace, not learning,” Wills said.
Scholarship must serve the gospel, he said, and the purpose of God’s truth is to produce love, resulting in godly living and godly dying. Wills said that students are accountable to knowing the truth and that the aim of truth is love.
Wills also laid out a vision for how Southern Seminary desires to train ministers.
“We are seeking to produce theologians whose theology makes them evangelists,” he said.
Wills charged seminarians to be relentless in their commitment to the task, citing Southern’s founders who, in the aftermath of the Civil War, resolved that they would die before they allowed the seminary to die.
“May we do our duty and change history. Until Christ returns we must attend zealously to theological scholarship for teaching biblically sound and courageous ministers of the gospel,” Wills said. “The church will always need such faithfully trained ministers who are trained in the scandalous scholarship of the gospel. We believe theological education is an obligation. As long as God sustains us, we will never give up.”
Wills is the second of three new senior academic leaders to present inaugural addresses to begin the 2013-14 academic year. The seminary installed Randy Stinson as senior vice president for academic administration and provost, Aug. 29, and will install Adam W. Greenway as the new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, Oct. 1.
Mohler presented Wills with a framed certificate commemorating the installation service, and a Bible.
Audio and video of Wills’ message are available at sbts.edu/resources.