No matter how orthodox one's theology or how favorable his opinion of Jesus, unless one is converted from a self-centered life of sin to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ he will not receive salvation, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference.
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, worked through the story of Nicodemus in John 3 to demonstrate the centrality of conversion in Scripture.
"We come to understand that conversion is so central to our theology that it must be in every sermon," Mohler said. "It must be in every church. It must be always the confession of the church, that we are not the ones born merely, but twice born by the promise and power of God and by the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Mohler noted that while Jesus had many conversations with theological liberals, Nicodemus was not one of those. Instead, as a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a world-class conservative.
"The Pharisees were the theological conservatives: they were the inerrantists of the day," Mohler said. "They believed in the absolute inspiration of Torah: the law of God. They were those who held to an understanding of the reality of the Holy Spirit. They affirmed belief in life after death. They sought to maximize and cherish every doctrine."
Though Nicodemus was positively disposed to Jesus, he quickly learned that this was not sufficient to be saved, Mohler said.
"I want you to notice something about the New Testament: Jesus turns out not to be favorably disposed toward those who are favorably disposed to Him," he said. "Being favorably disposed to Jesus is simply not enough."
While Nicodemus came to Jesus for conversation, Jesus quickly turned the discussion to conversion for Nicodemus was not a believer.
First, Mohler noted the imperative of conversion.
"Jesus makes very clear that conversion is not an option," he said. "It is not a way one becomes a believer. It is not one understanding among other possible understandings; it is not one experience alongside other experiences. Jesus says the definitive, essential experience is that one must be born again. Jesus here underlines the imperative of conversion."
Second, Mohler highlighted the mystery of conversion. He said such mystery highlights both the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit to awaken the dead and the means God uses in conversion: the proclamation of the Gospel.
"Here we have a testimony to the fact that the wind blows and we cannot orchestrate it or manipulate it: we can't even predict it and that is how it is with salvation," Mohler said. "We preach the Gospel, we bear witness to the Gospel and we see the affect of the Spirit as there is a response to the Gospel by faith."
Third, Mohler fleshed out the theology of conversion, focusing on the necessity of a substitutionary sacrifice.
"In the Old Testament, Moses was instructed to craft a bronze serpent so that everyone who was bitten by a venomous snake might look to the snake and live," he said. "It is a pointer to a substitutionary atonement. There was nothing that the Israelite could do to save himself. His salvation had to come from completely outside of himself: his salvation had to come from God.
"Here in this gospel, John three times makes the statement of Jesus being lifted up and all three times it refers to Jesus being lifted up on a cross: the sinless Son of God paying the full penalty for our sin. But it all three times in the gospel of John also points to His exaltation, to His ascension, where He is lifted up now as Savior and as Lord."
Mohler said there must be some essential data communicated for someone to be converted.
"There has to be the declaration of the saving death of God in Christ," he said. "There has to be a declaration of our problem of human sinfulness, a problem that we cannot solve. There has to be a declaration of God's provision in Christ. There has to be a declaration of the cost of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His resurrection. There has to be a declaration of what it means to respond to that act of God in faith: to believe."
Finally, Mohler highlighted the Gospel in conversion. Scripture teaches about the purpose and plan of God in salvation, man's necessary response and the imperative to proclaim the Gospel to all men.
"God's love underlines the divine initiative in the Gospel," Mohler said. "God's purpose before the cosmos was created was to redeem a people through the blood of His own Son. To clothe His people in the righteousness of His Son. To declare His people as sinners who are drawn to faith in Christ as the Gospel is proclaimed. Sinners from every tongue, every tongue and every nation because God loves the whole world.
"And there is a whoever here: that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And thus we find our confidence to declare the Gospel: that if any sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she will be saved. There are no conditions here and that is why we come to understand that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel with all people at all times in order to see the glory of God in the calling out of the redeemed."
Russell D. Moore called attendees of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference to view adoption and orphan care not as a charitable effort, but as an extension of the Gospel that characterizes churches that are serious about the mission of God.
Moore, preaching from Romans 8:12-23, said God adopting people who were once spiritual orphans should be a life-shaping reality. Instead, he said it is something we often quickly forget.
"God has said to us that every single one of us was isolated and alone and spiritually fatherless and we have a Father who rescued us from that and a Father who has given us a Gospel that is enough to say ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,'" said Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "If we believe that and if we have received that then we should picture and show that, including to the fatherless children of the world."
Moore - who has adopted two boys from Russia - recounted walking into a Russian orphanage that was totally silent because infants had needs go unmet for so long that they stopped crying out for help.
"(Before we adopted our boys) we walked into their room one last time and told our boys that ... we would not leave them orphans and we would come to them," Moore said. "When we walked out of the room, we heard that little one-year-old boy fall down on his face in that crib and scream. My wife's knees buckled as she started to cry and I held back tears myself as I said, ‘that is the most beautiful sound I ever heard in my life because he has parents who will hear him when he calls.' That was the first time I understood the passage we just read."
Paul wrote of men who were known as children of God, Moore said, not because they were part of ethnic Israel, but because the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwelled within them. Such people regularly cry to God ‘abba!" a term that entails relationship and familiarity, but also much more.
"Paul is telling us that the cry ‘abba!' is literally a scream through the Spirit of adoption," Moore said. "Those who are the children of God are crying out, with arms lifted up, ‘father! Father! Father!'
"Adoption and orphan care is not charity; adoption and orphan care is not another denominational program. Adoption and orphan care is spiritual warfare, because adoption and orphan care is about Gospel and about mission."
Moore said the freedom believers have in Christ should cause them to yearn, to groan, for the lost in the world, including orphans.
"Paul says ‘do you see the freedom here, do you see the promise of what you have waiting in glory?'" he said. "He says that because of the glory that is to be revealed we groan, and we groan for the world, with the world. Paul is inviting Christians who have already received the Gospel ... to receive others as they have been received.
"Do you groan inwardly of the fact that there are 140 million fatherless children in the world today? Do you feel the weight of the curse around us when we see that right now while I am talking to you there are those babies in a Russian orphanage rocking themselves to sleep?"
Moore said a church with a culture that cares for children and orphans will also have a culture that is set on doing missions.
"What would happen if an adoption culture were so created within our churches that when people thought of Southern Baptists, they thought ‘those are the people who welcome children and hurting mothers?" he said.
Moore recounted his two adopted boys screaming as they left the orphanage with parents for the first time. They were screaming because they did not know that what lay in front of them was far, far greater than what they were leaving behind.
"Scripture says that what was happening to those boys is exactly what too often happens to me," Moore said. "Unable to see the glory and the freedom of the home to which I am going in Christ, too often I am looking back at what I am leaving behind: stuff, reputation, money. Paul says, ‘we understand that we have in the present time is absolutely nothing compared to the freedom and glory that is awaiting us in Christ.' If we see that and recognize that, then why would we not be willing to welcome into our homes and churches children who through us are going to hear and see pictured before them the Gospel?"
Moore challenged Southern Baptist pastors to go back to their congregations and ask them to pray about their involvement in adoption and orphan care. Not everyone is called to adoption, nor to foster care, Moore said, but every Christian is called to care for orphans and widows in their distress. If we pastors went back and did that, Moore said the impact would be greater than we can imagine.
"It would change this entire world."
A great sense of historical importance looms as the 2010 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention fast approaches. The messengers to the SBC meeting in Orlando will cast many important votes, but one exceeds all others in significance, and that is the vote on the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Southern Baptists have faced such moments before. In 1845, those messengers who founded the SBC took a great step of faith as they created a convention of Baptist churches called by and committed to a Great Commission vision. Southern Baptists faced another moment when they revolutionized the denomination in 1925 by adopting the Cooperative Program as the unified means of supporting our Great Commission efforts, established the Executive Committee, and adopted our first confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message.
Throughout the years from 1979 to 1990, Southern Baptists showed up in force to reclaim the denomination for the full authority and integrity of the Bible and the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Each of those conventions was a moment of historical consequence. The same was true in 1995, when Southern Baptists adopted the Covenant for a New Century, streamlining the convention as it celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Now, once again, Southern Baptists will convene for a meeting that will make history. Messengers to the 2009 convention in Louisville overwhelmingly adopted a motion calling for a task force to report this year concerning how Southern Baptists may work more faithfully and effectively together in service to the Great Commission. A generation of younger Southern Baptists is gripped by a vision for a Great Commission Resurgence, and Southern Baptists of every generation are reminded again of the reality of a lost world and of Christ's commission to His church - the command to make disciples of all the nations.
The Southern Baptist Convention is a massive denomination. No task force or committee can review the totality of the convention's work and reach. Nevertheless, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force dedicated itself to making the greatest Great Commission impact as Southern Baptists face the future.
The Task Force's report will be presented to the Convention on Tuesday, June 15, and that day will go down as a turning point in this denomination's life and work. This is true, not only in light of the report and recommendations presented by the Task Force, but in light of the attitude and passions that will be revealed in the deliberation and vote.
I am convinced that the recommendations we are presenting are both right and reasonable. They are not a revolution in themselves, but they point to the future with a statement that we are determined to be far more serious about reaching the nations and our own continent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The report is honest in setting the reality of lostness before us, and calling us to a renewed commitment to make disciples of all the nations. The report respects our Baptist polity and is based in gratitude for all that Southern Baptists have done in generations past. The recommendations are constructed with care to preserve the bonds that hold us together, and also to propel us into the future determined to do more, not less, in faithfulness to Christ.
Change is never easy, and change merely for the sake of change is a charade. Nevertheless, God's people are called to make whatever changes are necessary in order to obey the commands of Christ. Southern Baptists are a people committed to the Great Commission. That commitment will be shared by every messenger who arrives in Orlando ready to do the Convention's business. The future of the Southern Baptist Convention will not rest on this vote alone, but who can calculate what it will mean as a watching world and a rising generation watch to see if we are serious about emboldened Great Commission faithfulness in the future?
The looming question in Orlando is this - will Southern Baptists face the future with boldness, eagerness, and faithfulness, or will we choose business as usual? In other words, the real question is whether Southern Baptists will face the future, or flinch. So much rests on the answer to that question.
This article originally appeared at www.pray4gcr.com.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. -- where Mark Dever serves as senior pastor -- is known for a strong emphasis on preaching, membership, church discipline and church government.
What few people know is their equally strong emphasis upon member care.
In December 1993, Mark Dever accepted the call to be pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. From the moment Dever came to the church he started to get a pulse on its spiritual heartbeat.
"The first thing I did when I got to the church was get pictures of all the members and started learning their names and praying regularly for them," Dever said.
He also began getting together with some of the members.
"When I first came to the church I thought I was going to do a Richard Baxter type ministry (regularly ministering the Word to people in their homes), but I soon learned that with a large church this is impossible," Dever said.
Dever would go over to the members' houses and begin to talk to them about the church, their spiritual journey and whatever else came up.
"It was a good way to find out landmines beforehand so you can avoid them," Dever said.
Through this process he also found out where they stood on their understanding of the Gospel.
"In some of the interviews some people were less clear on the basics of the Gospel so we would go through (the book) ‘Christianity Explained' with them," Dever said.
Most importantly Dever said the interactions were a good way to meet with every member of the church and get to know them.
Member care begins at CHBC with membership classes and interviews.
In Dever's book "What is a Healthy Church" he argues that church membership is an implication drawn from several passages of Scripture.
He uses 1 Timothy 5 to show that the New Testament churches kept lists of people, such as the lists of widows. In 1 Corinthians 5, the church is told to exclude someone, which implies that there is also inclusion, he argues. Also 2 Corinthians 2:6 speaks of "the majority," which Dever says again shows that there is separation between those who are part of the church and those who are not.
CHBC's membership process includes going through six classes, followed by a personal meeting with one of the staff elders.
These six classes take place during Sunday School and are centered on the following topics: (1) statement of faith, (2) church covenant (3), why join a church?, (4) summary of church history, (5) why Southern Baptist? and (6) nuts and bolts.
These classes are meant to provide prospective members information on the type of institution they are joining. The classes answer questions like, "What does the church believe?," "What is involved in being a member?" and "What is the history of this church?"
"In the membership interview we are hearing people's stories essentially," Dever said. "We ask them basic questions about their life like if they have been married, divorced, baptized as a believer, and if yes, when and where. We ask them if they are coming from another church and if yes why they are leaving that church. We ask them if they are happy to attend regularly and make clear their responsibilities as a member."
Each person is also asked to explain the Gospel in 60 seconds or less.
"This is not so much a test as it is a way to see if they can boil down the basics of Christianity for us," Dever said.
Once people are members of the church Dever says that CHBC's pastors/elders encourage a culture of discipleship among the members of the congregation.
"We don't have a tier structure where I disciple a couple people and they disciple the rest. Rather we encourage the members to be a kingdom of priests," Dever said. "If the members are not creating a culture of discipleship and member care then the pastors' work (of member care) will fall woefully short."
Dever encourages members to move close to the church so that it is easier for them to get involved. Many of the staff pastors lead by example, living literally right next to the church.
The staff and lay pastors/elders of CHBC work to keep up with the spiritual state of their people by discussing a portion of the members in every elders meeting. Every member of the church comes up for discussion on a rotating basis over the course of time. If no pastor/elder knows how a certain member is doing, then one gets assigned to follow up with that person.
At Sunday worship services, it is clear that preaching of the Word is central. Sometimes sermons go over an hour.
Dever said he sees preaching as his main task and an essential component of member care.
"If I sit down and talk to one member that is great. I am helping them," Dever said. "But I have 750 other members I am not helping. Ironically, it is actually the time that I am sitting here preparing my sermon that I am serving the entire congregation."
CHBC's forward-looking mentality regarding member care takes the form of an internship program. The internship program at CHBC trains six young men each semester who move to Capitol Hill where they get a stipend for five months, a place to live and a lot of books.
The pastors/elders at CHBC spend a significant amount of their time with the interns. Each intern regularly trails pastors, read books and write papers.
"I read these papers and make comments on them," Dever said. "Then on Thursday morning we sit down for three hours and talk about them."
The conversation usually starts with topics surrounding the church but often reach into all areas of theology. The purpose of the internship is to teach interns the doctrine of the church and to do so in the context of a church.
Dever said he would encourage pastors to think about what they are doing to train up leaders for the future.
"Christianity's impact in America is shrinking," Dever said. "Our kids are growing up in a culture where people are increasingly hostile to Christianity. I think one of the best things we can do is raise up a generation of pastors who think about the Gospel and the church well."
Bryan Chapell serves as the president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., as well as professor of practical theology there. He is the author of several books, including "Christ-Centered Preaching" and most recently "Christ-Centered Worship."
Chapell delivered the E.Y.Mullins Lectures on expository preaching at Southern Seminary March 30-April 1 and while he was here Towers had a chance to interview him.
How profound an impact did transitioning to a Christ-centered approach to preaching have on your life and ministry?
Bryan Chapell: I think the primary thing that changed for me was identifying the motivation and enabling thing for love for Christ rather than simply preaching imperatives for people. My early task was getting people to do the things that they don't want to do and ultimately, believing that preaching is getting people to love Christ so much that they have a new heart, new affections and desire to do what He calls them to do; their calling actually becomes their passion rather than what they are resisting. By encouraging people with God's love for them, they are actually strengthened for service to people.
How did this change you?
Chapell: I think there was a time when I believed that it was the job of the preacher to beat the people about the head and shoulders with the Bible to get them to straighten up. But that was not my personality; I think my personality is more gentle and caring, but I somehow had it in my mind that beating people over the head was what preachers were supposed to do and to be a faithful preacher, I really just kind of needed to get after people and that was my job and God called me to be faithful to do that.
In a sense, I felt like discovering grace in all of Scripture as the motivating power of the Gospel actually brought me back around to my true self. I didn't have to be somebody I wasn't to try and get somebody to straighten up. In fact, I could be my truer self of seeking to love people, seeking to be gracious toward them and encourage them, and even when I had to challenge them to do it in a way that says, "But it's because of a love for you," and it's not because I feel like you are not going to be honoring me or not respecting me or not listening to me (if you don't change). So, my motive came more from my care for them, rather than my own ego building.
In preaching the Old Testament, how can we avoid tacking on the Gospel in an artificial way?
Chapell: I think there are two basic ways, and these have multiple subdivisions, but two basic ways, I think. One is to identify where an Old Testament text fits in God's redemptive plan, so as we are looking at God's unfolding of the revelation of His plan of redemption, the primary purpose, (for example) of the story of Sampson, is not "If you have long hair, you will be strong." There is something in that story about people abandoning God, but God not abandoning them. As that message is maintained, we begin to understand that God is showing His revelation of redemption. For everyone to do what is right in his own eyes is not a way out of the human condition. Human kings are not a way out of the human condition. Obedience to the law is not a way out of the human condition. Ultimately, the path out of fallen humanity has to be a divine path and so you begin to see all the texts of Scripture as unfolding God's path toward redemptive provision in Christ.
One way of not just doing tag-on sermons is showing where the text fits in God's redemptive plan. That is the macro approach. I think the micro approach is to identify, "Where is grace evident in the passage? How is God revealing His provision for humanity of a rescue that they cannot provide for themselves?" Somewhere that is going to be in the text. God is saying, "I am providing what these people cannot provide for themselves." It may just be food for the hungry or strength for the weak or rescue for the hopeless, but in some way, God is saying, "I am providing for you what you cannot provide for yourself." And in that sense, a grace principle is being shown that we can say has its fullest revelation in what Christ has done.
Sometimes people fear that this is doing eisegesis,that this is imposing the New Testament on the Old, and I simply reply, "I live on this side of the cross. I know where the story goes." So, for me to say, "Here God is showing the seed of His grace in order for me to understand what the full bloom will be," is okay to do. I can present the revelation of what grace is here, showing that it has its fullest representation in Christ because I know Christ has come.
How important is it for us to preach what your classic book "Christ-Centered Preaching" calls "the fallen condition focus" in all our sermons?
Chapell: The Holy Spirit did not inspire a text just for our information. There was a purpose behind each text and He is saying that there is something behind our fallen condition that requires the provision of God to correct the human dilemma. If you begin by looking at a text and saying, "What's wrong here? Why did the Holy Spirit write this?" you are forced to say that He is not just giving God-inspired words so you will be a better person and you will fix the problem yourself.
By identifying the fallenness, you are forced to come up with a divine solution and that divine solution is going to force you to think redemptively about the text and that ultimately is saying Christ must provide something that humanity cannot provide for itself. So, identifying the fallen condition focus, if you will, is identifying the hole that the divine grace of God must fill. Thus, the Gospel comes into play no matter where you are (in Scripture).
You published a book last year titled "Christ-Centered Worship." Do you think evangelicals have been asking the wrong question in the so-called worship debates? We have spent a lot of time debating contemporary vs. traditional, but wouldn't it be better to ask "Whom are we worshiping in our churches?"
Chapell: We get very divided over style, which is basically, "Does my preference win over your preference?" versus the question of what is the purpose of worship.
If you look at church worship through the ages, across traditions, there is a very consistent pattern. There is a beginning of adoring God, recognizing His greatness and goodness. And whenever you recognize the greatness of God, the automatic human response is, "If He is that great, I begin to recognize that I am not." Adoration of God leads to confession which leads to the need for understanding, "Isn't God going to help me in this?" The answer is yes, He provides His grace. When we understand His grace, we give thanks for that, we want more instruction: "Lord, now tell me how I can live for you." And then we desire to live for Him and that Gospel pattern is the way the church has worshiped through the ages.
As we begin to think about what a church's ministry is, it is not simply to tell that Gospel story to its own people, but to think missionally as well. Given those whom God has called us to minister to, how do we make sure they know the Gospel in our worship? That's not just satisfying personal preference, because then you're not honoring the greatness of God. Nor is it failing to be aware that, just as I might relate the Gospel different to a high schooler than I might to an attorney, there might be some variations in the way the Gospel might be presented for a missional purpose. The basic Gospel pattern won't change, but the way in which I might frame it or phrase it could well change, depending on those to whom I am speaking.
In "Christ-Centered Worship," I am very much calling for the leaders of churches to identify "Who is here and who needs to be here?" In answering that question, I ask, "How do we best frame our worship according to Gospel patterns to minister to those people?" We can't forget either group: if we only minister to those who are here, we have no outreach; if we only minister to those who are not here, then we actually lose those whom God has called us to build up in the faith.
May 24 Towers: professor Stam honored at graduation; interviews with Dever, Chapell, Shai Linne & boundless.org founders
The May 24 Towers combines a collection of interviews with a spotlight on Southern Seminary's 205th commencement service. You can also read a little about the first commencement held 150 years ago.
- Carl Stam was honored as the recipient of the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence. Stam is battling an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and has been a model to the SBTS community of how to handle suffering in a gracious and godly manner. R. Albert Mohler Jr. charged graduates with a message from Revelation 5:6-10, calling them to not view themselves as professionals in a career, but as ministers in a calling to faithfully uphold and advance the Gospel (pages 3 and 6).
- Patrick Schreiner interviewed Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on how his church carries out member care (page 7).
- Jeff Robinson sat down with Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, for a conversation about Christ-centered preaching (page 10).
- Courtney Reissig talked with the founders of Focus on the Family's Boundless.org, Steve and Candice Watters, about their work with the ministry they founded in 1998 (page 14).
- Shai Linne, Christian hip hop artist, shared what he is learning in an internship at Capitol Hill Baptist and how his Atonement project came about (page 16).
- Grant Gaines, SBTS graduate and Ph.D. candidate and pastor of Brushy Fork Baptist Church in Canaan, Ind., passed on what he has learned in his first few months of leading a church as its senior pastor (page 8).
As a student prepares for future ministry in worship leadership, how should he balance time spent on honing musical excellence and on biblical/theological study?
You strive for, and can achieve, musical excellence to some degree in a certain amount of time. Biblical/theological study will continue for the rest of your life so that is the priority. Now, I went to school and played music for significant parts of the day in college and never regretted it. I think it is important while you are here in school to really hone your musical skills.
For someone who is trying to decide, ‘which courses do I take?' I would stick to ones that will most directly impact your ability to serve in the future. So, if your musical skills have gotten to a place where they are sufficient to serve then I would pull back on the musical side and really dive into the theological side. If, on the other hand, your conducting or arranging is not where it needs to be, then get the practice now. Do that now and then focus more on biblical/theological studies later. Whatever you do, always make sure that you are maintaining communion with the Lord so that you are doing the music for the right reasons.
How should a senior pastor going into a church with a worship leader already in place work with that worship leader if he sees things he thinks should change?
I wrote a chapter in my book, "Worship Matters," -- the last chapter -- that is addressed to pastors. The first thing I would do is make sure he knows you are for him. I would not go in and start changing things right away. Express encouragement for whatever you could that the worship leader is already doing. And then I would say, "I know you care about our times of singing like I do. Let's study a book together." You could take a book like "True Worship" by Vaughn Roberts, my book, or "Engaging with God" by David Peterson - that one is a little more substantive - or you could even do chapters from a book. You could each read the chapter and then talk about it. So, the first thing I would try to do is win the heart of the music minister. If that fails, and he isn't going to change, then he probably won't last. On the other hand, if, as you read with him, he starts to see things, then I would start to talk about how what he is doing might be altered to fit more in line with the things you are talking about. This should be loaded with encouragement, "Thank you for doing this." Don't try to hit everything at once, take it one step at a time.
Why are you writing another book? What is the goal of the book?
"Worship Matters" is directed toward worship leaders and teams: those who are responsible for leading. This new book will be for the congregation and it will be less than half the size of "Worship Matters." The benefit of a smaller book to give to congregations is that Sunday morning doesn't become the only time when you are training them and teaching them about worship.
A worship pastor could give this to someone in the congregation, a number of people perhaps, and say "This is what we want you to be thinking about what we are doing on Sunday morning, especially as it relates to the music." In doing this, you can address a number of issues that Christians usually have to battle as they are sitting in a Sunday service: "Why do we sing so much?" What if I don't like the songs?" What if I don't like the worship leader?" "What does this have to do with my life?" Questions like that that you just can't take the time to answer every Sunday. My aim in even thinking about writing a book like this is to magnify the greatness of Jesus in people's hearts. It is due out in April 2011.
What is the Bible and how should we interpret it? What determines the meaning of the text and can it have more than one meaning? Is the Bible all about Jesus and do the commands of God all apply to believers today? How did we get the books of the Bible?
Have you ever been asked these questions? Or perhaps you have wondered about these issues yourself. If so, Robert L. Plummer, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided a brand new book that will answer all these and many more fundamental questions about God's Word.
The book, "40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible"(Kregel), was released last week and has already begun to make a major impact in the publishing world: it jumped to No. 1 among hermeneutics books offered on Amazon.com during its first few days of publication.
"I envisioned the book as an introductory textbook for a hermeneutics class," Plummer said. "In my hermeneutics class at Southern, I use a variety of texts that seek to answer a number of important questions, but I wanted to get all that into one book. I tried to think about the most common questions I get from students or from laypeople. I wanted to get all those into one place in a way that was accessible, clear accurate and manageable in 5 to 10 page answers to questions.
"I also wanted to provide something that could be used in a study group with each chapter having five questions and a bibliography of suggested further reading. I wanted to write a book that would benefit both students and laypeople alike and I definitely think it will."
The book is divided into four parts and each deals with a major issue of Bible interpretation, including:
- Text, canon and translation. Here, the book deals with basic issues such as how the Bible is organized, the inerrancy of Scripture, who determined what books would be included in the Bible and choosing the best English translation.
- Approaching the Bible generally. Here, the author provides helpful sections on how the Bible has been interpreted throughout the history of the church and gives some basic principles on how to interpret Scripture accurately.
- Approaching specific texts. Key questions in this section include those dealing with different literary genres in both Old and New Testaments.
- Issues under recent discussion. The author concludes his survey of Bible interpretation by dealing with current issues ranging from issues such as biblical prophecy, Biblical Criticism and "Speech Act Theory" to theological interpretation of Scripture.
Plummer's works is the second volume in the "40 Questions Series" published by Kregel, a series edited by Southern Seminary graduate Benjamin L. Merkle, who serves on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Merkle is author of the first book in the series, "40 Questions About Elders and Deacons." Upcoming volumes include works by two other Southern Seminary faculty members: "40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law" by Thomas R. Schreiner and "40 Questions About Election and Atonement" by Bruce A. Ware.
"40 Questions" is an excellent book for use in a local church setting and will benefit anyone with fundamental questions about the Bible, its history and how to interpret it. Plummer has more than achieved his goal of providing a clear, compelling and accessible volume on understanding God's Word more accurately. Any book that has that as its goal is worthy of occupying a place in every thoughtful Christian's library.
Christian ministers are not professionals who take their degrees into the world seeking success as it is typically defined, but instead are deployed for a task of Gospel proclamation which they will not finish, R. Albert Mohler told the 205th graduating class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Friday.
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and Revelation 5:6-10, Mohler told the 231 graduates that they have completed advanced degrees, but they will never receive applause from the world.
"Those who graduate from this school today, though rightly congratulated, and being sent out to put everything they have, everything they are, everything they have learned, and everything they hope for, on the line for mission and ministry in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said.
"They are not starting careers. Indeed, this may end their careers. They are not newly-minted professionals. In fact, they may be largely useless in the eyes of the secular world. They are now deployed for a life of ministry that runs counter to the wisdom of the world.
"The call to the Christian ministry is a profoundly counter-cultural reality. The conventional wisdom just does not fit. As children, we are taught the adage that we are not to start what we cannot finish. But these ministers of the Gospel will never really finish anything, and they are not very qualified to start anything."
Southern's graduates will join a long line of faithful Gospel ministers who gave preached the Word across the globe and have served the Kingdom of Christ in anonymity. All ministers are building on a foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, a project that will not be finished until Christ returns, Mohler pointed out.
"They will toil and serve and witness and teach and preach and lead and build, but they will die with more undone than done. Some will serve long, some may serve only a short time in this earthly life, but they will serve a cause they cannot complete; they will tell a story they cannot conclude.
"The American dream does not fit this calling. That dream calls for years of preparation to be followed by formal qualification, decades of professional accomplishment, and a happy retirement. Our hope today must be that these ministers of the Gospel will never retire, for the ministry is never accomplished. They may in due time be redeployed, but never really retired - never ready to rest and merely collect a pension or cash in their retirement accounts and live a life of leisure. They are to serve to the end, learn to the end, teach to the end, and be faithful to the end.
Some will be called to minister in difficult places, some will suffer on behalf of the Gospel and some may be martyred for their faith, Mohler said, but for this they will receive a profound reward in the next life.
"This vision transforms the Christian ministry from a profession into a calling that makes no sense according to the wisdom of the world," he said. "The vast majority of Christian ministers and pastors have served without the slightest attention of the world, completely lacking in its accolades and attention. They preached the Word, in season and out of season, evangelized, baptized, taught, tended, wept, and cared - and they were laid in humble boxes and lowered into to the waiting earth. And all is well."
Mohler's entire address is available in audio and video format at www.sbts.edu and a complete manuscript may be accessed at http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/05/14/starting-something-you-cannot-finish-the-eschatology-of-christian-mission/
The lives and teachings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Knox molded and shaped much of what we know as Western Civilization. Through the reformers and the influence of their followers, we have gained many of the religious and cultural enjoyments we daily experience - the Bible in our own language, a recovery of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith and the expository preaching of the Word of God. Without the reformers, life as we know it would not exist.
This fall, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will lead an unforgettable Christian reformation tour of Europe. From Oct. 27 trough Nov. 5, participants will make their way, city by city, through Berlin, Leipzig, Wittenberg, Zurich and Geneva. In addition to visiting historic sites associated with Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, the group will also take in the magnificent Swiss Alps.
"You can be there as we view the house where Luther was born, tour the monastery where he first grasped the Gospel of grace, stand at the famous Wittenberg door where Luther nailed his 95 Theses and visit the historic Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the New Testament into German," Mohler said.
Inspiration Cruises and Tours will ensure that all travel details are taken care of so participants can focus on their surroundings and historical sites. All airport transfers to and from hotels, hotel taxes and gratuities and entrance fees to all sites will be arranged in advance by Inspiration. Throughout the tour, guests will travel by private, deluxe motorcoach with English-speaking guides and will lodge in four and five-star hotels. Reading materials will be provided by Southern Seminary and Inspiration in advance for tour preparation
"This trip will prove to be more than educational - it will be transformational," Mohler said. "This trip will inspire our imagination, deepen our theological convictions, and fortify our resolve to stand, like the reformers, as defenders of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. As we are challenged by the courage and conviction of the reformers we will no doubt experience reformation and renewal in our own hearts."
Tour space is limited, please visit www.sbts.edu for more information or call Inspiration Cruises and Tours at 1-800-247-1899.