The legacy of one Southern Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher includes serving his local church faithfully for 40 years and raising up one of the world’s most influential evangelical leaders.
Richard Albert Mohler Sr., 76, died Monday, March 18, 2013, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage in his Deerfield Beach, Fla., home. He died in an area hospital that evening with family gathered at his bedside.
A native of Plant City, Fla., Mohler Sr. leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Janet Johnson Mohler; four children, Richard Albert Mohler, Jr. of Louisville, Ky., Jan Mohler Knight of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Lee Mohler of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Mark Mohler of Melbourne, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.
Mohler Sr.’s eldest son, R. Albert Mohler Jr., received news of his father’s condition early that morning, and arrived in Florida prior to his father’s passing.
Moments after, Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sent out the following tweet: “My faithful and compassionate earthly father has gone home to be with my Heavenly Father. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
A retired store manager for Publix Supermarkets, Mohler Sr. was recently honored as deacon emeritus — “deacon for life” — at First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach, Fla., where he and his family became members in 1972. His son, Mohler Jr., delivered a sermon at the tribute service for the honored deacon in January 2013.
Regarding his father’s recognition as deacon emeritus, Mohler Jr. said during the funeral service: “I want you to know how much that meant to him, because if there was any title that he would want other than husband and father and grandfather and friend and believer it would be deacon of the First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach.”
The church’s pastor, Ron Harvey, arrived in Pompano Beach eight years ago, and during that time regarded his deacon, Mohler Sr., as a “mentor and source of godly advice.”
“It is a rare gem for a church to have someone like Dick Mohler.”
Harvey recounted how Mohler Sr. served as a Sunday school teacher for middle and high school-aged students. Remarkably, the teenagers consistently remained silent during lessons because of their high level of respect for the elder Mohler.
“[Mr. Mohler] has influenced so many lives for Christ,” one family friend wrote on the online obituary website legacy.com
“Families move to different locations, but they never forget the foundation and love he poured into the kids of FBC Pompano.”
On Mohler Sr.’s Facebook page, current and former students in the youth ministry posted messages to honor his memory.
One wrote, “I’m eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to spend even a second of time with a man like Richard Mohler. He was compassionate, understanding, humble, always ready to listen.”
That same student described how Mohler Sr. drove him and his brother to church even though their family moved 15 minutes away from Pompano Beach.
“He did this for two years, never once being late and somehow always finding a chance to grab donuts for the ride. Mr. Mohler played a large role in bringing me to salvation in Christ.”
Another student, reflecting on Mohler Sr.’s dedication to the students, wrote: “Who knew that the one youth leader that understood us kids was the oldest one.”
As a Publix store manager for nearly 40 years, Mohler Sr. often provided the youth in his church with their first jobs in order to teach them a solid work ethic. One of those former youth employees shared that he “always admired [Mr. Mohler’s] wisdom and would not hesitate to go to him for advice.”
“I honestly believe he was one of the greatest Christian men that I have met in my lifetime.”
One of those young employees included his eldest son, Mohler Jr., who began working with his father early on Saturday mornings at the age of 14.
In an episode of Mohler Jr.’s daily podcast, “The Briefing,” posted on his website the morning of his father’s funeral, March 21, Mohler Jr. devoted the end of his broadcast to commemorate his father.
“I’m so thankful in a world in which so many did not know their fathers or did not know their father’s love, that I was known by and loved by and named for a father I will so greatly miss,” Mohler Jr. said.
“I am thankful for the legacy of Christian faith he left for me and so many others.”
That legacy was reflected during the funeral service held at First Baptist Pompano, a service that included as speakers Mohler Jr., Harvey, grandson Joey Knight and former youth pastor Brad Jones.
The memorial service drew a large crowd in attendance to remember Mohler Sr.’s life, including prominent Southern Baptist leaders Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former chief of staff for Mohler Jr. at Southern Seminary; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson.
Harvey reflected on Mohler Sr.’s influence in the community and dedication to serving the church, especially the youth. Mohler Sr. had planned to serve at a youth discipleship event the weekend of March 22-24 and at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina during the summer.
Of Mohler Sr.’s role to the youth in the church, Harvey said: “He was like a father figure and maybe in later years, a grandfather figure. He was so loved by the kids in this congregation.”
Mohler Sr.’s grandson, Joey Knight, also spoke at the service. He learned as a student in Mohler Sr.’s Sunday school class and also received instruction from his grandfather on how to set up his Facebook page.
“My grandfather was one of the most godly and Christ-like men that I’ve ever known and has served as a role model for me for as long as I can remember,” Knight said. “He was also the coolest grandfather that I could ask for.”
Jones, FBC Pompano’s former youth pastor, shared his own memories of Mohler Sr., centered around Paul’s instructions on humility in Philippians 2:2-3. Jones currently pastors CityChurch Pompano, a local church plant.
Prior to his arrival at FBC Pompano, Jones received an email from Mohler Sr. after the youth pastor made a connection between the deacon and his son, the president of Southern Seminary.
Mohler Sr. wrote in the email: “I’m proud of my son. He has a ministry that reaches the world. But my ministry is to middle school guys and in what I do, they are my world.”
That was the beginning of a fruitful friendship between Jones and Mohler Sr., who often gave Jones the option of choosing someone “more relevant” to help with the youth group.
Jones said, “If you want to know how to be like Richard Mohler when you grow up, here it is: he was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life with Gospel intentionality. And that ordinary, humble man armed with the good news of the Gospel was extraordinary.”
Mohler Jr. delivered the main eulogy of the service, remembering his father’s life, and ultimately issuing a call for attendees to profess faith in Jesus Christ. Mohler Jr.’s reflections of his father’s life included how their ministries often overlapped.
“The Lord allowed me the joy of having young men show up at the seminary I’m privileged to serve who told me, ‘Your dad taught me in middle school and had a massive impact on my life,’” Mohler said. “And more than one has told me, ‘Your dad led me to the Lord and helped me understand what it meant to come to Jesus and to believe in him and to be saved.’”
Reading from Matthew 7:7-11, Mohler Jr. emphasized the perfect goodness of the Heavenly Father by comparing it to the goodness of his earthly father Mohler Sr., which extended beyond his own children to the children of the church.
Issuing a call to believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, Mohler Jr. said, “My father staked his life on this. My father would want you to know this same truth. My father shared this with me by word and precept and by the quiet confidence of his faith and active energy of his faithfulness.”
Mohler Jr. noted that two years ago, he spoke on the topic of death to biblical counselors using Psalm 116:15 as his Scripture text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know even more I believe [Psalm 116:15] now,” Mohler said in the conclusion of his eulogy. “And thus, I can tell you how proud I am to be Richard Albert Mohler Jr., and how thankful I am to be gathered here with you this day with my dear mother, with my wife and children and with my family to say, it is well with my soul.”
And certainly precious is the life, and death, of Richard Albert Mohler Sr.
James A. Smith Sr. and Aaron Cline Hanbury also contributed to this article.
The ERLC's board of trustees approved Moore, currently dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a special, called meeting Tuesday (March 26) at a Nashville hotel.
Moore, 41, a native of Biloxi, Miss., will be the eighth president of the entity charged by Southern Baptists with addressing moral and religious freedom issues. With a background in government, the pastorate and seminary training, he already is well-known as a commentator from a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian perspective on ethics, theology and the culture.
"I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Southern Baptists as ERLC president," Moore said. "I pray for God's grace to lead the ERLC to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the Gospel in the world."
Moore's election means he will be only the second ERLC president in the last quarter of a century. He will succeed Richard Land, who will retire upon the completion of 25 years leading the entity.
"I am delighted that the Holy Spirit has led the ERLC's trustees to Dr. Russell Moore as the commission's next president," Land said. "Dr. Moore is a godly Christian minister, a devoted husband and father, and a convictional, committed Baptist. His excellent academic preparation, combined with his keen mind and his tender heart for God and His people, make him a person uniquely suited to serve our Savior and Southern Baptists in this crucial role at such a critical moment in our nation's history.
"I join the trustees and ERLC staff in committing to pray for Russell and his dear family as he prepares to assume the tremendous responsibilities of the ERLC presidency," Land said.
Moore will begin his new responsibilities June 1. At that time, Land will become the entity's president emeritus, an honor bestowed on him by trustees in September.
The ERLC trustees' seven-person presidential search committee, chaired by Barry Creamer of Criswell College in Dallas, recommended Moore to the full board after a seven-month process.
"After praying, planning, meeting and working for months to find the man we believe God would have lead the ERLC, we are blessed by the board's election of Russell Moore today and confident that God will use his message to impact churches and the public marketplace of ideas for what is right, true and desperately needed today," said Creamer, Criswell's vice president of academic affairs.
Moore has served since 2004 as dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He joined the faculty in 2001 as professor of Christian theology and ethics and continues in that role.
He was preaching pastor at a campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville from 2008-12. While a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Moore was associate pastor at Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, Miss.
Before attending seminary, Moore served for four years as an aide to pro-life Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.
Moore and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.
Moore is a leading voice in the growing pro-adoption movement among evangelicals. His 2009 book -- "Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches" -- has played a significant role in that cause and he is a frequent speaker at adoption conferences.
On his blog, in written commentaries, in speeches and in news media interviews, Moore comments frequently on a range of issues and the Christian Gospel's impact on them. These include abortion and other sanctity of life matters, race relations, marriage, pornography, politics and popular culture.
Government, academic and church leaders applauded Moore's selection in written statements.
"His presence of mind and keen insights as a theologian and pastor are such that his work has not only benefited me personally, but many who serve our nation in public life," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. "I have never read anything by Russell Moore that did not leave me with a strong impression that this was a man who could speak carefully and powerfully to the public square."
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, "He will provide a public voice Southern Baptists will follow and the secular world will respect. ... The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will greatly miss him, as will I, but we congratulate Southern Baptists on the wisdom of their choice. Russell Moore was made for this position of leadership, and for this hour."
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, whose Ph.D. is in ethics, said, "Welcome, Dr. Moore to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. As an ethicist myself, I am always concerned about this particular area of our ministry. I am delighted that someone with Dr. Moore's cultural awareness and concern for God's people has been appointed to such a post for such a time as this. I encourage all Southern Baptists to pray for him during this time of transition, for the need has never been greater."
Popular author and Southern California mega-church pastor Rick Warren said he "can think of no one more qualified in experience, in temperament, in passion, and in doctrine to represent us as Southern Baptists on the most critical ethical issues of our day, and on the all-important issue" of religious freedom.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Moore "has uniquely prepared himself spiritually, theologically, academically, and politically for just such a moment as this. Placing a leader with the right convictions, a razor-sharp mind, and a moral compass that will not fail paints a bright picture for Southern Baptists' future."
In addition to his book on adoption, Moore has written two other books, "Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ" and "The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective." He has three other books scheduled to be published, including one on marriage and one on abortion. Moore also has edited and contributed to other books.
He has served four times on the Resolutions Committee at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, including as chairman in 2010.
Land, who was 41 when he became head of the entity in 1988, led the transformation of the ERLC during the convention's theological resurgence, moving the commission in a more conservative direction on such issues as abortion. He announced his retirement as ERLC president in July 2012.
In addition to Creamer, other ERLC trustees on the presidential search committee -- all members of Southern Baptist churches -- were Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Barbic, a lobbyist with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan.; Ray Newman, executive director of Georgia Citizens Action Project in Atlanta; and Bernard Snowden, family life pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bowie, Md. ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles, who appointed the search committee, was an ex officio member. Piles is pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.
In addition to its Nashville office, the ERLC has an office in Washington, D.C.
More information on Moore, including a full list of endorsements, is available at http://erlc.com/moorepresskit
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, missionary pastor Nathan Price preaches to villagers in the Belgian Congo for three decades with no fruit from his labors. Price’s fruitless ministry, which culminates in the death of a daughter and the abandonment of his family, centers on his poor communication. For 30 years, he preaches “Jesus is Bangala,” which translates as “Jesus is a poisonwood tree.” Price’s ministry isn’t fruitless because of a lack of zeal, but because he lacks clear communication.
“Pastors need the ability to communicate the greatest truths clearly, in such a way that the least educated person in their congregation can clearly understand them and see the beauty of these life-changing truths,” said Joe Harrod, director of assessment at Southern Seminary.
Toward that end, the seminary will implement a plan to improve theological writing among master’s degree-level students.
As a part of the seminary’s regular 10-year accreditation reaffirmation process, the school formed an enhancement plan to strengthen an area of student learning. In the process, the faculty at Southern Seminary decided to focus on student writing ability. So, starting fall 2013, the seminary will initiate a quality enhancement plan (QEP) to improve theological writing among master’s students.
Harrod says that while theological writing may seem only an academic pursuit, the fruits of better papers will be “vitally important for the church.”
“We recognized that writing is a key feature of academic life, and also a key feature of pastoral ministry,” Harrod said. “Pastors, missionaries and those serving in other ministries — whether they go on to do a higher academic degree or not — will always be writing. We want to help them write better papers while they’re here, and, ultimately, we want them to be better communicators of the gospel.”
The seminary will improve theological writing among master’s level students primarily through a new rubric for evaluating academic papers in systematic theology courses. This rubric, which represents the consensus and expertise of the Southern Seminary faculty, emphasizes eight areas of theological writing: (1) thesis statements, (2) methodology statements, (3) argument and organization, (4) biblical interaction, (5) source and information literacy, (6) grammar and mechanics, (7) style and (8) Southern Seminary format.
This new rubric will allow professors and graders to give students both objective and constructive feedback on written assignments; students will understand clearly those areas in which they need to improve. They can then pursue improvement through the seminary’s newly bolstered Writing Center.
The QEP team also launched a campus-wide campaign to raise awareness of the initiative, which is an important aspect of the QEP. The seminary’s midterm review of the plan takes place in 2018, at which point the seminary must report to accreditors on the impact of its QEP. But that won’t be the end of the seminary’s emphasis on writing.
“This project will extend far beyond 2018; we want it to become part of Southern’s culture,” said Harrod. “This isn’t just something we do because we have to, we want to improve student writing for the long-run.”
More information about the QEP and the Southern Seminary Writing Center is available at www.sbts.edu/writing
Leading churches in corporate worship is no small task. Church leaders must think seriously about every aspect of worship because people’s views of God is at stake in every worship service.
To equip pastors and worship leaders for this ministry, Southern Seminary will host the Think: Worship conference, June 17-19, 2013.
Speakers for the event include,
- Matt Boswell, pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church;
- Michael Card, songwriter and author;
- Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church;
- Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship;
- Bob Kauflin, director of Sovereign Grace Music; and
- Donald S. Whitney, senior associate dean and professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Seminary.
Harold Best, emeritus dean and professor of music at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, will make a special appearance at Think: Worship. And Southern Seminary’s Norton Hall Band and Sojourn Music of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville will lead corporate worship times during the conference.
Conference rates for early registration, which ends April 30, range from $200 to $250. Rates increase to $300 on May 1, and registration closes on June 10. Registration is available at the Southern Seminary Office of Event Productions Web page: www.sbts.edu/events
The February “Towers” is now on stands and online.
GPS navigation systems — they’re a little 2003, I know — gained popularity for good reason: among all the possible destinations around you, it’s easy either to get lost or miss something important — an exit ramp, for example. Then these little machines came along and kept us on our routes and (hopefully) prevented our missing those sneaky exits.
You can think of this first “Towers” of the new semester as your GPS, helping you navigate all the activities and happenings at Southern Seminary this spring. Inside you’ll find everything from cheeseburger recommendations to missions trip opportunities to lecture schedules. Later in this issue, we take a look at a student reaching out to the community of Newtown, Conn.
Also, we offer an interview with Southern Seminary professor Bruce A. Ware about his new book, The Man Christ Jesus; Boyce College remembers Shelby-Tyler Smith, a student who died last December; and the February Southern Story column features Jeff Walters, one of the seminary's newest faculty members.
Southern Seminary Resources publishes “Towers,” Southern Seminary Magazine and other seminary publications digitally as well as physically. Check out the Resources page for an improved online reading experience.
Same-sex couples are touring southern states in protest of strict marriage laws, according to a USA Today article, Jan. 16, 2013.
The article mentions Strachan, assistant professor of church history and Christian theology at Boyce College and executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, in response to the protests from same-sex couples.
The WE DO campaign sends same-sex couples into government offices located in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South and North Carolina and Virginia, where they request marriage licenses. These states all have marriage laws forbidding same-sex unions.
"These advocates are putting these government workers in a difficult position," Strachan said. "The workers involved do not need to feel any shame about denying these initiatives."
The full article is available online at the USA Today website: here.
As part of its periodic evaluation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will host teams from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and from the Commission on Accrediting of The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, in March 2013. Those interested may submit substantive comments related to the quality of the seminary or its academic programs in writing to the Office of the President, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY, 40280.
"Owen is an exceptionally gifted theologian and scholar who brings a gospel-gravity to his cultural commentary," said Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College. "His appointment at the CBMW will greatly serve the church in continuing to understand what's at stake in protecting and nurturing biblical gender roles."
The council, which consists of men and women within the evangelical community from a spectrum of professional and ministerial backgrounds, considers the Bible's teaching about "the complementary differences" between the genders as "essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church," and thus seeks to promote a "complementarian" vision for gender roles as normative for the evangelical church. The Danvers Statement, a doctrinal statement produced at a CBMW meeting in Danvers, Mass., in 1987 and published in its current form in 1988, presents the theological affirmations of the council.
Strachan, who is assistant professor of theology and church history at Southern Seminary's undergraduate school, succeeds Randy Stinson, dean of the School of Church Ministries at the seminary, as CBMW's day-to-day leadership role. Strachan will continue his teaching ministry at the college.
"I am thrilled to work for CBMW as executive director," he said. "Under the instruction and mentorship of complementarian leaders like Bruce Ware, Al Mohler and Mark Dever, God enabled me to see the beauty and wisdom of biblical gender roles. With many thousands of other young evangelicals gripped by the gospel, I love God's design for men and women. I'm excited to promote this design at CBMW through an ambitious slate of events and initiatives in coming days. CBMW will continue to aid local churches in the formation of God-glorifying families even as we engage the broader cultural discussion of marriage, homosexuality and human flourishing. We are ideally positioned for such engagement, because in a world struggling to find balance on the shifting sand of opinion, we stand on the solid rock of God's truth."
Russell D. Moore, chairman of the board for CBMW and dean of the School of Theology at Southern, said in a news release by the organization, “Owen Strachan is a bright and energetic young thinker, brimming with wise ideas about the next stage of CBMW’s mission. I’m excited about the road-map he’s laid out for us and look forward to the future.”
In the same release, Ligon Duncan, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., and president of the CBMW, also commented on Strachan's appointment: "At this strategic moment, I am especially enthusiastic and grateful to have the privilege of working alongside Owen Strachan, a dynamic young scholar, in promoting the Bible’s vision for manhood and womanhood in the home and church.”
In October of last year, Strachan participated in a popular radio debate with egalitarian author Rachel Held Evans. And then in November, Strachan delivered a lecture at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., about evangelical cultural engagement.
Southern Seminary's Russell D. Moore says adoption calls evangelical Christians to "shelter the vulnerable," in an interview published by the Religion News Service (RNS), Dec. 31, 2012. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology, talks with an editor from RNS, Adelle Banks, about adoption as a "pro-life policy for evangelicals."
Banks asks Moore a number or questions, ranging from the biblical metaphor of adoption to the connection between pro-life and pro-adoption movements to challenges for adoptive parents. Concerning adoption as a calling for evangelicals, he states that care for orphans flows both from the Christian commitment to help the "least of these," and from the evangelical doctrine of adoption, in which God brings spiritual orphans into his family. Moore answers two related questions:
Q: Are you suggesting that evangelical churches specifically or churches in general be more involved?
A: At the level of the common good, this is something that all people should be concerned about. But it’s consistent for evangelical Christians to be pro-orphan.
Q: Adoption has been a growing issue for evangelical churches in the last decade. How are they doing, and how much further do they have to go to meet your goals?
A: What most churches want, when they start to think about this issue, is a preprogrammed initiative, a set of instructions. I don’t think this issue works that way. It has to be organic. It has to be flexible. It has to create a culture within a congregation.
It will be congregational cultures that start to change with the inclusion of the families who are adopting and fostering and caring for orphans. I think that’s a long-term project over a generation, not something short-term.
In light of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., early Dec. 14, R. Albert Mohler Jr. recorded a special edition episode of his daily podcast, The Briefing. Mohler is the president of Southern Seminary.
In this episode, Mohler reacts to the shooting and addresses questions like, "How should Christians respond to such horrible events?", "How should Christians speak and pray regarding this tragedy?" and more. He also interviews Joey Newton, pastor-teacher of Newtown Bible Church in Newtown.
The special edition of The Briefing is available here.