At annual summit, Southern Seminary emphasizes expository preaching

PHOTO: H.B Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preaches during the second annual Expositors Summit that brought more than 400 pastors to the Louisville, Ky., campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 29-31. (SBTS photo by Emil Handke.)

The second annual Expositors Summit, hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 29-31, featured pastors H.B. Charles Jr., Alistair Begg and seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. The event, which opened and concluded with seminary chapel services, brought together more than 420 attendees from around the country.

Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached three sermons, the first from Philippians 2:5-11 about the humiliation and exaltation of Christ.

Charles emphasized Jesus’ suffering, noting his selfless sacrifice for sinners.

“Christ made himself nothing in the role he adopted in the incarnation: a servant,” he said. “We have never sacrificed anything in comparison to what Christ did for us.”

Christ not only humbled himself, but God exalted him to a place of high honor. The proper response to Jesus, then, is worship, Charles said.

“The bowing of the knee is the proper response to Jesus’ exaltation,” Charles said. “The lordship of Christ is the ultimate confession of every Christian and all creation.”

In his second sermon, Charles preached from Psalm 119 about the necessity of personal devotion for ministers.

He said, “We must have confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture that begins in our personal devotion before it will take real effect in our public ministries.”

To know God’s Word is to love God’s Word, he said, giving three reasons loving the Bible is important.

The first reason is because the Word of God makes Christians wise. He said that Scripture is so sufficient that it will overcome whatever may stand against it, if ministers commit to preach it faithfully.

Age and wisdom don’t always go together, and experience is not always the best teacher. Instead, Christians should intentionally fall in love with God’s Word and submit themselves to it because it leads to wisdom, Charles said.

Charles’ second reason was that Scripture aids in keeping Christians from sin.

And in his final point, Charles pointed out that Christians need to know and love Scripture because it brings joy.

Charles closed the summit, preaching from Psalm 46 about “a safe place in God.”

The passage, Charles said, “seems to speak to any and every situation the people of God may face. The personal trials, the moral decline, the social upheaval, the economic reversals, the political shenanigans, the international conflict, the the terrorist threats — not to mention the spiritual challenges we face — cause our hearts to ask, ‘Is any place safe?’ Unfortunately, there is no safe place in this world.

“But I stand to say: there is a safe place in God. In fact, this is the message of Psalm 46: the only safe place in the world is in God alone.”

Charles pointed to three aspects of God in which the psalmist finds safety: in the power, presence and purpose of God.

Mohler preached for the first general session of the Expositors Summit. He spoke from Matthew 7:24-29 — the parable about the man who built his house on the rock and the one who built his house on the sand — about the lack of authority in contemporary preaching and the problem this presents.

When Jesus concludes the parable, the scribes listening to him stood astonished, Mohler said, because he spoke with authority.

“What’s missing today in pastors is authority,” he said. “The one thing missing is the one thing necessary.”

Mohler said preachers can recover this authority by preaching God’s Word. Pastors and teachers, he said, do not teach on their own authority, but on God’s.

He closed out the second day of the conference preaching from 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul says that he has became “all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Mohler exposed common misinterpretations of this passage that creep into cultural Christianity.

With the growing moral revolution and churches that listen to the culture’s ideologies, Christians must look out for the “wolves” who want theological reformulation in place of orthodox theology, Mohler said.

Mohler said the way to contextualize ministry is to live as resident aliens and understand the temptations that face the church. He argued that Paul does not intend to become “all to save all,” giving up sound doctrine. Rather, he lets go of preferences and holds on to Scripture in order to save some.

“The first temptation is to hold on to what we’re supposed to let go of, and the second is to let go of what we’re supposed to hold on to,” he said.

Begg, pastor of Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio, preached three times for the summit.

In an Oct. 29 chapel service, after he recounted advice he received early in his career that he should find his “thing,” a brand that would define his ministry, Begg argued that, rather than a brand, the emphases of the Bible should define Christians. He discussed three statements — three “one things” — from three different passages of Scripture that should characterize believers.

Begg summarized the three: “One thing I know, says the Christian, I used to be blind but now I can see,” he said. “One thing I do, I forget what lies behind; I press on toward that goal. And one thing I ask, that I might enjoy in all of its fullness to live in the house of God forever.”

For the first “one thing,” Begg pointed to John 9:25, where a blind beggar, after Jesus restores his sight, tells the Pharisees that the “one thing” he knows is, “I was blind but now I see!”

“Those words on the lips of this man born blind identify, in a radical way, the intervention of Jesus Christ in his life,” Begg said.” This ‘one thing that I know,’ says the man, is a reminder to us of something, of course, we must never forget: namely, the nature, the wonder, the absolute necessity of being converted. ”

Begg drew his second “one thing” from Philippians 3:13-14, where Paul writes that the “one thing” he does is, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” press “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

For his final statement, Begg looked at Psalm 27:4, where the psalmist asks “one thing” of the Lord, that he “may dwell in the house of the Lord  all the days of [his] life.”

Begg concluded the first day preaching from the Book of Jude. Jude calls his readers to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, Begg said. In his first general session, Begg contended that the church today, as in Jude’s, faces a threat from the inside when Christians doubt the sufficiency of Scripture.

“Jude is saying to his hearers that in the climate they are living, it is imperative that they take a stand for their faith,” Begg said. “This faith is not to be diluted; it is not to be distorted; it is not to be contaminated. The sum and substance of the gospel lies, in Luther’s words, in the word substitution.”

Begg expounded on Jude’s message to Christians who are called, loved and kept by God. He noted that God alone accomplishes all of these aspects in the passage. Christians are saved as a result from something done for them, Begg said.

“This message is to be proclaimed clearly, wisely, sensitively and authoritatively,” Begg said. “It is the conviction that what God has said is to be said with nothing else to be added, and what God has done he has done with nothing else needed.”

In a second sermon from Jude, Begg noted that the apostle calls Christians to learn from the past and persevere in the present until Christ returns. Jude wants his readers to remember that building themselves up in the love of God is a “constant, lifelong activity,” Begg said.

At the end of his sermon, Begg encouraged preachers to remember God’s love toward them in order to build up believers in their congregations.

“The care of God for the pastors and shepherds of the flock is a care that is to extend to those who are our sheep and our lambs so that we may convey to them the mercy and love and the goodness and the intervention of God and together we might follow hard after him,” he said.

In addition to the main sessions, the Expositors Summit offered breakout sessions about expository preaching led by Southern Seminary faculty members Kevin L. Smith, Hershael W. York, Daniel S. Dumas, Robert L. Plummer and James M. Hamilton. The event also included a panel discussion in which Begg, Charles, Mohler and Dumas discussed a range of topics related to expository preaching, from preparation time to application.

Audio and video from the Expositors Summit are available at sbts.edu/resources. Next year’s Expositors Summit will be Oct. 28-30, 2014. More information about the Expositors Summit and other events at Southern Seminary are available at sbts.edu/events.

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In Alumni Academy course, Mohler talks convictional leadership, shares from early days of presidency

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discusses the importance of friendship in leadership with long-time friend James Merritt (left), lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., during a recent Alumni Academy event at the Louisville, Ky., school.

Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. lectured about convictional leadership and shared stories from the early days of his presidency during the latest Alumni Academy course, Oct. 10-11.

Mohler, who is also Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at the seminary, taught the course about leadership, based largely on his newest book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters. Two sessions of the course featured a special guest, James Merritt, lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga.

In The Conviction to Lead, which debuted November 2012, Mohler argues that most definitions of leadership are in error. Leadership, he suggests, should not be merely pragmatic; conviction must define leadership. And he proposes a model of leadership in which conviction drives action, inspiring and equipping others to do the same.

In the book, Mohler establishes the priority of belief, then demonstrates ways in which beliefs find their way to practice. Mohler’s “25 principles” range from belief and understanding worldviews, to passion and credibility; from communication and management, to moral virtues and digital engagement; from a leader’s endurance to his legacy.

Mohler does not limit convictional leadership to church or Christian-group leadership. Conversely, he suggests that the Christian worldview provides the necessary foundation for leadership in any sphere, and this worldview places a given sphere in the context of God’s mission in the world.

And much like his book, Mohler’s lectures for Alumni Academy employed personal anecdotes. He addressed several topics straight from his book, including “convictional leadership” and “leadership with passion.”

From the outset, Mohler suggested that a Christian perspective of leadership views that leadership in its eternal context.

“From a Christian perspective, leadership has to be put into a temporal frame. And that is leadership for eternity, for now,” he said. “In other words, that means we, as leaders in a Christian context, are not just worried about this world and this life; we’re ultimately concerned about putting everything under our care and stewardship into an eternal frame of reference. And that is a humbling and a liberating act.”

However, Mohler said, leadership remains a “worthy” task.

“As much as leadership is about the eternal frame, it’s also about this life,” he said. “The Christian worldview dignifies this life; this life is not meaningless. … It really is worthy of your investment of a lifetime to lead.”

In his lectures, Mohler also addressed a topic he thinks is missing from The Conviction to Lead: friendship.

“One of the main chapters I wish I had had the opportunity to put in [The Conviction to Lead] is one that is perhaps most personal of all, and that is leadership and friendship,” Mohler said.

Mohler rejected conventional leadership advice that leaders should avoid close personal relationships among colleagues.

He said, “I can’t work that way. One of my goals in life is to have a catalog of friends that I just enjoy spending time with anytime I have that opportunity.”

But, according to Mohler, leadership and friendship is about more than personal enjoyment.

“After 20 years in this role, now in my 21st, I don’t see how a leader survives without friends,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be here, humanly speaking, without friends.”

Mohler introduced Merritt as “one the dearest of one of those friends,” telling course attendees about the early days of his ministry when Merritt’s friendship was especially valuable.

During two sessions, Mohler and Merritt discussed leadership principles and practices and their history together, including Merritt’s time on the Christian Index Board of Trustees at a crucial time at the Baptist newspaper Mohler led before becoming president of Southern Seminary. When Mohler first arrived at the seminary, the school’s trustees charged him with returning the school to its founding commitments, commitments from which the seminary departed during the 1960s and 1970s.

Initially, many in the seminary community resisted Mohler’s leadership.

“It’s very difficult for some of you to appreciate what this school was when we were here,” said Merritt, who is also a two-time alumnus of the school.

Merritt described the “coldness” on campus when he attended the seminary. And he said the theological and cultural change at the school over the past 20 years is the fruit of Mohler’s leadership.

“To go from that to this, what you’re seeing, brothers and sisters, this is leadership,” he said. “You’re seeing the result of leadership.”

In addition to Mohler’s lectures and talks with Merritt, Alumni Academy held a question-and-answer panel with Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College;  Aaron Harvie, church planter mobilization strategist for the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization; and Dan Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration. Matt Hall, vice president for academic services, moderated the panel. The panel answered questions related to leadership in the local church, leadership development, priorities of a leader and more.

After the panel, Gregory A. Wills interviewed Mohler about his early presidency, a time when Mohler’s leadership was met with severe opposition.

Alumni Academy offers ministry enhancement and ongoing theological learning to the institution’s alumni free of charge. For a nominal fee, attendees may bring members of their church staff with them.

The next scheduled Alumni Academy course will be about family ministry within the local church with Timothy Paul Jones, professor of leadership and church ministry, Jan. 9-10, 2014. More information about Alumni Academy is available at events.sbts.edu.

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New SBTS Press title helps readers discern the call to ministry

SBTS Press, a division of Southern Seminary, today released a new resource, The Call to Ministry. The write-in, journal-style book helps readers discern whether or not God has called them to vocational ministry.

The Call to Ministry features essays from Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr.; associate professor of biblical spirituality Donald S. Whitney; and Daniel S. Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration at the school.

Readers will find, in addition to these essays, a collection of quotes that show how pastors, both past and present, think about the call and the task of ministry.

In the book’s preface, project editor Matt Damico writes, “The book includes pages with blank space; those pages are for you to respond to questions, react to the quotations and reflect on the Scripture references you’ll find throughout. So, open your Bible, get out your pen and discover whether God has called you to this most noble and weighty task.”

The book answers questions concerning the internal and external aspects of the call, the nature of ministry and whether or not the reader’s desires, gifts and qualifications meet that which Scripture requires for ministers.

The publication of this book coincides with the second annual Expositors Summit at Southern Seminary. The summit is hosted by the Center for Christian Preaching that aims to restore the primacy of expository preaching in local churches. The 2013 conference features speakers Mohler, Alistair Begg and H.B. Charles Jr. Information about the Center for Christian Preaching is available at sbts.edu/preaching. The center sends updates and highlights resources through Twitter: www.twitter.com/tc4cp.

The Call to Ministry is available from press.sbts.edu, Amazon.com and Southern’s LifeWay Campus Store. More information about the book and SBTS Press – including the four prior volumes in the guide book series — is available at press.sbts.edu.

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Stephen Rummage encourages Christians to know the depths of God’s strength, presence, love and fullness

Stephen Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., preaches Oct. 22 in Alumni Memorial Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

God’s strength, presence, love and fullness are greater than Christians can imagine, Southern Seminary chapel speaker Stephen Rummage said, Oct. 22.

Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., preached from Ephesians 3:14-19, where Paul prays for spiritual strength. Rummage spoke about God’s vision for his people, which is greater than they can imagine.

“Your God has a vision for you that you can’t see yet. And it’s greater than anything you can ever imagine. As you walk with Jesus Christ day in and day out, he will work in you and on you,” Rummage said.

Rummage, who served as a second vice president for the Southern Baptist Convention, 2009-2010, gave four reasons that God can do more than Christians imagine to accomplish his purpose.

The first reason, Rummage said, is that God’s strength is greater than people think. He said that God strengthens his people with, through and in the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit allows Christians to accomplish things that they never could do alone, Rummage said.

“Strength is to take something that is weak and wilting and make it strong,” Rummage said. “God’s power is his can-do ability in your life to do what you can’t do on your own.”

Second, Rummage said, God’s presence is greater than Christians can imagine. He spoke about their attitude concerning the study and meditation of Scripture, noting Christians often give only one area of their life for Christ to rule, but he deserves all.

“When Jesus came into your life, he didn’t come to take a seat. He came to take over,” Rummage said.

Rummage’s third reason, he said, is that God’s love is greater than Christians can imagine. He said that no matter the situation, Christ’s love is sufficient for life. God wants Christians to build the foundation of their lives on his love, Rummage said.

“God wants you to grow deep roots into his love,” he said.

His fourth and last reason was that God’s fullness is greater than Christians can imagine. Rummage said that God’s fullness is his absolute control in a person’s life. It’s him reigning over every part of life, Rummage said.

“God’s fullness is his absolute domination, control, lordship and satisfaction in your life,” he said. “As you are filled with his fullness, he will accomplish more than you can ever ask or think.

He concluded his sermon noting that Christians will face difficult days, but with the power of the Holy Spirit and the truths he spoke about from Ephesians, Christians will represent Christ even on those days.

Audio and video from Rummage’s sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.

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Tom Nettles highlights Charles Spurgeon’s commitment to Scripture in new book

Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s commitment to live and minister in light of all Scripture says provides a model for all Christians, said Baptist historian Tom Nettles, who recently published a biography on the 19th century British Baptist preacher.

“Spurgeon’s ministry grew out of a love for the Scripture and a love for doctrine that everyone should share,” said Nettles, professor of church history at Southern Seminary, in an interview about his 700-page book, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

According to Nettles, this love for Scripture should be especially true for pastors. Spurgeon let Scripture dictate all he did, and pastors today should seek a similar role for Scripture in their ministries.

“It should be everything,” Nettles said. “You shouldn't do anything that Scripture doesn’t condone. You shouldn’t avoid anything that Scripture doesn’t condemn. You shouldn’t preach anything that you could not verify with Scriptural exposition.”

Nettles glimpsed Spurgeon’s commitment to Scripture by focusing his research on Spurgeon’s monthly publication, Sword and Trowel, which Nettles thinks previous biographies have overlooked.

Spurgeon served as pastor of New Park Street Chapel, later named Metropolitan Tabernacle, in London, 1854-1892.

“He wrote most of those, and so he explains month-by-month what’s going on in Metropolitan Tabernacle or in other churches” said Nettles. “You get all these little views about how he viewed church life. … I think that adds a depth to Spurgeon’s life that sometimes I didn’t find in other biographies.”

The underused Sword and Trowel is not the only thing previous Spurgeon biographers have overlooked. According to Nettles, Spurgeon’s theological ability and consistency has not received its proper due. This, in fact, is what gave Nettles the title for the book.

“Spurgeon has not been taken seriously enough as a theologian who governed his life and his ministry on the basis of theological principles,” Nettles said.

“Some historians have not sorted out the fact that he had a very strong theology of evangelism, and a strong theology of human responsibility as it related to divine sovereignty,” Nettles said. “There were theological reasons for what he did. That’s the reason I’ve titled the book Living by Revealed Truth.”

Spurgeon’s trust in God’s sovereignty played an important role in how he reacted to the profound suffering and tragedy in his life. Spurgeon knew, from passages like Romans 8:28-29, that God works all things for the good of those who love him, to the end of conforming them to the image of Christ.

“He was so committed to the sovereignty of God that he knew that God had a purpose in everything. He did not question God in his dealing with him,” Nettles said. “He wasn’t afraid to quote Romans 8:28 in hard suffering. God is saying that he is in control, he’s fashioning us into the image of his Son. What more could we want in our suffering?”

Spurgeon’s commitment to doing ministry in light of Scripture is also evident in his heavy involvement in benevolence ministries. Eventually, Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle housed as many as 66 such ministries.

“And all of them, as far as Spurgeon was concerned, had a theological foundation,” Nettles said. “All of these things rose out of his love for the gospel.”

With all of the ministries that Spurgeon supported, and with his vast output as a preacher, writer and administrator, Nettles concedes that Spurgeon’s life could discourage readers who have little hope of such productivity. But there’s much from Spurgeon’s example that deserve attention and emulation.

“There’s one sense in which we say, ‘Don’t try to be Spurgeon, because you can’t,’” Nettles said.  Regardless, “I think we need to try to love the gospel the way he did, be insistent on biblical foundations for all we do the way he did, we should be energetic for the gospel as he was.”

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At BYU, Mohler asserts theological differences, common religious freedom concerns with Mormons

While Mormons and evangelical Christians fundamentally disagree about the gospel, they should work together to address common threats to religious freedom, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in an Oct. 21 address at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

“I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together,” said Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the Latter-day Saints’ premier educational institution, named for Mormonism’s second president. According to Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News, about 400 faculty and students attended Mohler’s address.

“I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences,” Mohler said in the address, “A Clear and Present Danger: Religious Liberty, Marriage and the Family in the Late Modern Age.”

Mohler’s lecture was the third of a “Faith, Family and Society” series at BYU. The lecture series is sponsored by several offices at the university and has featured previous addresses by Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination. In January, evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias will speak at BYU in the same series of lectures.

Mohler is scheduled to address a nationally televised, campus-wide forum on Feb. 25 at BYU, Deseret News reported.

While expressing his “great privilege to know friendship and share conversation” with LDS leaders, Mohler said such friendship is not “in spite of our theological differences, but in light of them.”

Mohler said he accepted the BYU invitation “because I intend with you to push back against the modernist notion that only the accommodated can converse.”

Still, he was frank in asserting theological differences between evangelicals and Mormons.

“I come as a Christian theologian to speak explicitly and respectfully as a Christian — a Christian who defines Christianity only within the historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church and who comes as one committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ancient and eternal Trinitarian faith of the Christian church. I have not come as less, and you know whom you have invited,” he said, according to a prepared manuscript of the address posted on Mohler’s website.

Near the end of his address, Mohler further elaborated on the doctrinal differences with Mormons.

“I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that,” he said. “I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone.”

Because of his “love and respect” for Mormons, Mohler said “as friends, we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear on the doctrine of the Trinity perhaps most clearly. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.”

The common moral concern of Mormons and evangelicals, Mohler said, is the “moral revolution” on homosexuality that is “without precedent in human history in terms of its scale and velocity.”

With that revolution comes a threat to religious freedom, he said, noting several examples of legislative actions and court decisions impinging on religious liberty for the sake of sexual expression and liberty.

“The conflict of liberties we are now experiencing is unprecedented and ominous,” Mohler said. “Forced to choose between erotic liberty and religious liberty, many Americans would clearly sacrifice freedom of religion. How long will it be before many become most?”

Mohler noted the moral revolution and “disestablishment of marriage did not begin with the demand of same-sex couples to marry. The subversion of marriage began within the context of the great intellectual shift of modernity.”

In that shift, he said, marriage became “redefined in terms of personal fulfillment rather than covenant obligation,” “romanticized ideal of personal fulfillment” replaced duty, matrimony is mere choice and personal expression and “companionate marriage was secularized and redefined solely in terms of erotic and romantic appeal — for so long as these might last.”

Mohler insisted, “Once marriage can mean anything other than heterosexual union, it can and must mean everything. It is just a matter of time.”

He added, “We can point to others who have been the prophets and agents of this self-injury to society, but we must recognize that we have all contributed to it, in so far as we have embraced essentially modern understandings of love, romance, liberty, personal autonomy, obligation and authority.”

The Bible instructs Christians, Mohler said, to “work for the good and flourishing of this earthly city, even as I work to see as many as possible also become citizens of the heavenly city through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Mohler said he was “honored to come among those who, though of a different faith, share common concerns and urgencies” and he is “unashamed to stand with you in defense of marriage and family and a vision of human sexuality integrity. I am urgently ready to speak and act in your defense against threats to your religious liberty, even as you have shown equal readiness to speak and act in defense of mine.”

He concluded, Christians and Mormons must together “push back against this age as hard as it is pressing against us. We had better press hard, for this age is pressing ever harder against us.”

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C. Berry Driver Jr. named librarian at Southern Seminary

Veteran Baptist librarian C. Berry Driver Jr. has been named associate vice president of academic resources, librarian and professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, president R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced, Oct. 23.

“Southern Seminary is incredibly proud that Berry Driver is joining us as librarian and professor of church history,” Mohler said. “He is one of the most highly respected librarians in the theological world, and he combines great professionalism with scholarship and a love for students. He comes to us after years of service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and we are proud and thankful to have him join the Southern Seminary faculty at this strategic time.”

Since 1996, Driver has served as dean of libraries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he also has served as professor of systematic theology since 1998. Previously, Driver was director of library services and taught at the Northeast Branch of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Schenectady, N.Y.

“Pursuant to our Lord’s providence, I am honored to receive his call to ministry at Southern Seminary,” Driver said.

“Instrumental to my consideration was the unique and promising vision of Southern Seminary’s leadership, assuring their historic institution’s godly theological tradition of training for the gospel ministry in a campus environment of holy learning,” he said. “Add to this the commitment by the faculty and administration to keep at the center of biblical research an august collection of bibliographic resources. With their determination of providing the means of access via the changing venues of applied technology, one could not but accept the invitation to join such blessed endeavors.”

Randy Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost, said Driver is the “right man to take us to the next level in terms of library services. His role is central to the future of the institution. I am grateful for his willingness to make the move.”

Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic services, said Driver has “unmatched experience, gifting and credentials. He is uniquely suited to carry on Southern's legacy of excellence in theological library services in such a way that will also look toward the future for opportunities for strategic innovation and expansion.”

Driver, Hall continued, is a “skilled administrator, a Christian scholar and a man devoted to Christ. I am absolutely delighted that Dr. Driver will be joining the Southern Seminary family.”

Driver will begin his work at Southern Seminary on Jan. 13, 2014.

A native Alabamian who was ordained to the gospel ministry at First Baptist Church in Selma, Ala., Driver has served as pastor of churches in Alabama, Tennessee and New York.

Driver holds the doctor of philosophy from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, master of science in library science from University of Kentucky, master of divinity from Southwestern Seminary and bachelor of arts from University of Alabama.

Driver and his wife, Catherine, are parents of three children. Their current church membership is with Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

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Criswell preaching chair announced at Southern Seminary

Students and faculty view the 1985 sermon "Whether We Live or Die" by legendary Southern Baptist preacher W.A. Criswell during an Oct. 17 chapel service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During the service, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced the establishment of a new academic chair, W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching.

Southern Seminary announced a new academic chair in preaching in honor of W.A. Criswell, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Southern Baptist statesman and two-time Southern graduate, during an Oct. 17 chapel service in Alumni Memorial Chapel.

Jack Pogue, a long-time friend of Criswell who was present for the announcement, funded the chair. After introducing him, seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. thanked Pogue for his generosity.

“It is my great privilege to announce today, at the great generosity of this friend, the funding of the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching,” Mohler said.

Before the announcement, Mohler commented about Criswell’s gift of expository preaching.

“He, in many ways, exemplified not only for Southern Baptists but for evangelicals at large, a recovery of expository preaching,” Mohler said. “From the time of Charles Spurgeon to the time of W.A. Criswell, there are very few prominent preachers who are actually committed to what we would call biblical exposition.”

Mohler introduced a video of Criswell’s 1985 address, “Whether We Live or Die,” which the seminary community viewed as part of the service. Criswell preached the message, one of his most well-known sermons, at the pastors’ conference held before the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Dallas.

In the sermon, preached during one of the most intense times of controversy over the inerrancy of the Bible in SBC life, Criswell outlined how acquiescence to liberal theology leads to the death of denominations and institutions. As examples, he pointed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s defense of the Bible in the “Downgrade Controversy” among English Baptists in the late 1800s and the University of Chicago’s fall into liberalism after its founding as an orthodox school to train ministers.

Criswell illustrated the influence of liberalism within the Southern Baptist Convention with the story of professor Crawford H. Toy’s dismissal from Southern Seminary in 1879, due to his acceptance of German higher criticism. He pointed to the seminary’s subsequent acceptance of Toy’s theology, citing a 1985 issue of Southern Seminary’s at-the-time academic journal, Review and Expositor. The issue — published shortly before Criswell’s address —  included an article describing Toy’s beliefs, which Criswell cited as “perfectly acceptable, condoned, and defended,” were Toy to teach at the seminary then.

Later at the 1985 convention, Southern Baptist messengers elected Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., as president of the convention. Stanley’s presidency continued a line of conservative presidents and helped secure the success of the conservative movement, known as the “Conservative Resurgence.”

Concerning the context of Criswell’s sermon, Mohler said the legendary preacher and former SBC president delivered the sermon under “conditions of maximum warfare.” The 1985 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Mohler said, was one of the great turning points in the SBC.

“There is a line that runs very straight from that day in Dallas, Texas, to this day in Louisville, Ky.,” Mohler told Southern Seminary students. “We can look back at history and say, had not the convention voted as it did in the very day after Dr. Criswell preached that sermon, we would not be sitting in this chapel today. It would be a very different world and a very different institution.”

Pogue, a businessman from Dallas, is also the funder of the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library. The digital library provides for free Criswell’s more than 4,100 sermons in digital format. At the conclusion of the service, Pogue provided each chapel attendee with a copy of Criswell Classics: Centennial Edition, a DVD collection of 12 of Criswell’s most important sermons.

Also at the service was Jerry Johnson, the current president of Criswell College in Dallas, a school which Criswell himself helped establish, which later took his name. The National Religious Broadcasters recently named Johnson as their new president.

Audio and video of the service are available at www.sbts.edu/resources.

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Southern Seminary releases documentary on Mohler presidency

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary today released a new 25-minute documentary film that tells the story of R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s presidency of the seminary. The film, Recovering a Vision: The Presidency of R. Albert Mohler Jr., looks at Mohler’s 20-year tenure within the school’s own history and the history of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

When Southern Seminary began in 1859, its founders established the school with a confession of faith — the Abstract of Principles — to define its theological commitments and to set “boundaries of acceptable belief for the faculty.” But, despite their precautions, many of the school’s faculty members departed from the school’s confession.

By the 1960s, Southern Seminary’s faculty was thoroughly and decidedly liberal in its theological commitments. And the progressive trajectory of the faculty continued into the 1980s.

When, in 1993, Mohler became president of the seminary, the school’s board of trustees charged him with returning the school to its founding commitments. But Mohler’s task came with a high cost.

Recovering a Vision, produced by Southern Productions in cooperation with the seminary’s Office of Communications, documents the seminary’s drift to liberalism and Mohler’s fight to recover the school in the face of severe opposition. The film also places the struggles of Southern Seminary within the Conservative Resurgence movement in the SBC, particularly examining the inherent and symbiotic relationship between the convention and its seminaries.

The documentary features interviews with historians and first-hand accounts of the events by students, faculty and SBC leaders, including Gregory A. Wills, Jimmy Scroggins, Timothy George and Paige Patterson.

The release of the film coincides with the seminary’s Heritage Week activities, most of which centered this year around Mohler’s anniversary. The school inaugurated Mohler ninth president of Southern Seminary on Oct. 15, 1993. Other events for the week include the seminary’s semi-annual meetings of its board of trustees and the Foundation Board. Both boards held banquets honoring the Mohlers.

The film is among a collection of resources released to commemorate Mohler’s 20th anniversary as president. Other resources include:

  • a special edition of Southern Seminary Magazine with articles on the theme, “R. Albert Mohler Jr.: Vision at the Twenty Year Mark”: reporting on the seminary’s progress since 1993, “A Vision Reaffirmed,” highlights the seminary’s growth in academics, finances and campus facilities; historian Gregory A. Wills’ essay, “Twenty Years of Denominational Statesmanship,” surveys Mohler’s role in the Southern Baptist Convention as a key leader on many formative bodies since 1993; “Innovative Communicator of Evangelical Conviction” traces Mohler’s multi-media cultural engagement, always employing the latest communications technologies, from fax machines to social media; and “Thursday Night Lights” tells the story of Mary Mohler’s establishment and leadership of Seminary Wives Institute training nearly 2,500 student wives since 1997; and
  • a special issue of Towers, the campus news magazine, including 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.

Recovering a Vision is available for viewing on the Southern Seminary Resources Web page: www.sbts.edu/recovering-a-vision.

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After 20 years as president, Mohler summarizes his tenure as ‘gratitude’

R. Albert Mohler Jr. preaches on the importance of gratitude in the Christian life, reflecting on his 20th anniversary as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during an Oct. 15 chapel service at the Louisville, Ky., school.

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.

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