Mohler tells winter 2013 graduates to be torchbearers for Christ December 16, 2013

IMG_9605-webAt the winter commencement service of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 157 students received degrees, Dec. 13, 2013.

At the ceremony, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary, delivered a commencement address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” in which he charged graduates to be a torchbearers for Jesus Christ.

“Take the light; send the light; defend the light; declare the light; teach the light; preach the light,” he said during the seminary’s 212th commencement exercises. “And let the light of Christ shine, confident that, even as he is our light, he will draw sinners unto himself. In other words, ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching,’” he continued, quoting 2 Timothy 4:2.

Throughout the address, Mohler contrasted a 1838 commencement address at Harvard Divinity School by Ralph Waldo Emerson with the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isa 9:2-7).

“Emerson’s ‘Divinity School Address’ is now remembered as one of the most influential commencement addresses ever delivered to an American audience,” Mohler said.

“Emerson was declaring theological independence from every authority and model, including the Bible, the prophets and the apostles,” he said. “Do not be imitators, he charged the students, go alone, in your own light, and with their own ‘immeasurable mind.’

“[Emerson] declared each of the graduates, ready to assume the pulpit, as ‘a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost’,” Mohler said.

In contrast, the prophet Isaiah — in Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” — reveals that “the people were walking in darkness, but have now seen a great light. They were dwelling in deep darkness, but the light has now shone on them,” he said.

In the end, Mohler concludes that “Ralph Waldo Emerson had it wrong.”

Mohler said: “The minister of Christ is a torchbearer, not a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost; but this is a greater calling, not lesser. By God’s sheer grace, the light has shone on us. Now we share that light with others.”

Mohler’s entire address is available in audio and video at the SBTS Resources page, A complete manuscript of the address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” is available at


William Hull, former provost and dean at Southern Seminary, dies at 83 December 12, 2013

p.hulw.003William Hull, 83, former provost and dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Dec. 10 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to a press release from Samford University.

Hull taught New Testament at the seminary for 17 years, during which time he served as dean of the School of Theology and the seminary’s first provost. He then, in 1975, became the pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., and in 1987 he became the provost at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

“Bill Hull was a gifted scholar and a born leader, and he stood as a giant in his generation of Southern Baptists,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary. “He was a dedicated professor and a gifted administrator, who helped to define the roles of dean and provost at Southern Seminary.


Southern Seminary Communications team wins graphic design awards for fourth year in a row

IMG_9417 lowerFor the fourth year in a row, Southern Seminary’s Office of Communications received five awards at the 24th-annual Louisville Graphic Design Association (LGDA) 100 Show, Dec. 6, 2013.

“The mission of Southern Seminary has attracted a talented creative team committed to producing innovative communication materials,” said Steve Watters, vice president for communications at the seminary, who leads the office. “It’s a testimony to their commitment that Southern’s work should not only be recognized by an organization as prestigious as LGDA, but that the gospel-centered materials Southern submitted should be recognized so highly, including the Best in Show award.”

Of the six compositions the office submitted, five won. The design team received the highest available award, the Best in Show award for the 2013-14 Southern Seminary Viewbook. The office also received a gold award for the design and layout of The Call to Ministry journal; a silver award for DVD packaging of “Don’t just stand there: say something,” the 2013 convocation address by Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr.; and bronze awards both for a Women at Southern booklet and photography from a recent study tour to Israel. Southern’s photographer, Emil Handke, also won a “people’s choice” award for a portrait submitted as a personal entry.

Southern Seminary’s creative team includes creative director Eric Jimenez, lead designer Andrea Stember, graphic designers Daniel Carroll and Gabriel Reyes, photographer Handke, account executive Lindsey Poenie, special projects manager Jason Thacker and production coordinator Brittany Loop, as well as interns Ashley Dunn and Amy Loh. The lead writer for the viewbook and The Call to Ministry was Matt Damico.

The LGDA 100 Show accepts entries from professional graphic designers and creative service agencies in the Louisville, Ky., area. The show’s panel of judges include directors, designers and entrepreneurs from leading creative service companies around the country. Judges for the 2013 show were Katie Heit Gardner of Tomorrow Studio in San Francisco, Calif.; Kevin Grady of Ideo in Boston, Mass.; and Eric Thoelke of Toky in St. Louis, Mo.

The 2013 100 Show is the final LGDA event, as the organization will become a chapter of the 23,000-member American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). More information about the LGDA is available at; information about AIGA is available at


New Southern Seminary worship degree format allows leaders to earn degree without relocating December 2, 2013

Crider photo webA new delivery method for the master of arts degree in worship leadership will allow worship pastors with substantial experience to earn a seminary degree in as few as three years without relocating from their local church ministry. The program, offered through the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will begin enrolling students in June 2014.

“We are thrilled to announce the new  master of arts in worship leadership professional track. This new delivery model allows students to study online throughout the year and attend a two-week summer intensive for three summers,” said Joseph R. Crider, professor of church music and worship and executive director of the Institute for Biblical Worship, who led in developing the program. “We believe students are looking for the type and quality of education that Southern Seminary provides, and this delivery model will be a significant step in serving those students.”

The Department of Biblical Worship is a part of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Seminary.

“Students enrolled in the M.A. in worship leadership professional track will enter this coming summer [June 2014] for the program’s foundational courses, and then begin supplementing their residential summer study with our online theology courses the rest of the year,” Crider said. “During the two week sessions, we will offer band lab courses, a summer worship choir, applied lessons and the other performance-based courses that are nearly impossible to deliver effectively online.”

The M.A. in worship leadership requires a total of 61 credit hours. In the professional track, students earn all of their worship- and music-related credits during two-week intensive terms for three summers. Students then complete the degree’s core courses online — including biblical studies, theology and ministry —  during the standard fall and spring semesters.

This new model is a part of Southern Seminary’s commitment to combining the best of online education with the best of traditional formats. With the M.A. in worship leadership professional track, seasoned worship pastors can complete a degree that brings together the seminary’s historic, 154-year-old campus, with the engagement and fellowship that characterize the seminary experience and make it irreplaceable — all while continuing to serve in their local church.

Information about this new degree program — including instructions on how to apply — is available at or email Crider at


Mohler: Southern Baptists need ‘table manners’ when discussing Calvinism November 15, 2013

Mohler, Hankins conversation Nov. 7, 2013 webSouthern Baptists need to “learn the table manners of denominational life” when discussing the controversial issue of Calvinism, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during a Nov. 7 “conversation” with Mississippi pastor Eric Hankins at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, and Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., co-chaired a 19-member Calvinism Advisory Committee that issued an unanimous report in May to Executive Committee President Frank Page, who assembled the group, acknowledging tension and disagreement within the Southern Baptist Convention. The report urged Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” on Calvinism while joining arms for the Great Commission.

In recent years, a debate about Calvinism, a term associated with the doctrine of salvation taught by 16th century theologian, John Calvin, has generated controversy within the SBC, with each side of the debate convening conferences, publishing books and issuing theological statements. Mohler holds to Calvinistic soteriology. Hankins was the primary author of “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” issued in 2012 as an alternative to Calvinism.

Mohler invited Hankins to hold the public discussion before students and faculty in order to model how Southern Baptists who differ on the often-contentious issue can dialogue with each other while remaining committed to working together. Hankins also preached in Southern Seminary chapel earlier in the day.

Throughout the hour-long conversation, both men affirmed the need for Southern Baptists on both sides of the debate to exercise humility and show grace to those who disagree.

“We have to learn the table manners of denominational life," Mohler said. “There is a certain etiquette and kindness that is required, just like in the family reunion.”

The Southern Baptist family is made up of Calvinists and those who are not, he said.

“The decision to be a Southern Baptist is the decision to work with the people” on both sides of the debate, Mohler said. “We should not be surprised by differences of understanding of the issues that are comfortably within the Baptist Faith and Message,” he added, citing the SBC’s confession of faith, most recently revised in 2000.

Hankins said, “There’s been too much ugliness,” noting a friend warned him before issuing the “traditionalist” statement that “Calvinists will maul you. … And he was right.”

“That goes both ways,” Mohler responded, to which Hankins replied, “I absolutely acknowledge that.”

Both men agreed that terminology and labels are significant hurdles to better understanding on both sides of the debate.

Hankins flatly rejected the term “Arminian” to describe his theology due to Arminianism’s rejection of eternal security of the believer, among other reasons.

Arminianism is named for late 16th century Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius who rejected some tenets of John Calvin’s theology of salvation. His followers, known as the “Remonstrants,” issued their views in 1610, to which followers of Calvin responded in the Synod of Dort in 1619. Both Calvinists and Arminians express their convictions with five points addressing various aspects of salvation.

Hankins also said “non-Calvinist” is not a good term — one he “hates” — while conceding, “We do not have good terms.”

Hankins said he used “traditionalist” to attempt to describe his views in contrast to Calvinism, although he acknowledged the term is offensive to some Calvinists.

“I wasn’t trying to insult anyone. I was just trying to come up with a name. … I hope to figure out some way to talk about what the distinctions are, but I don’t have a good answer to that question,” he said.

Mohler said, “I am troubled at times and challenged perpetually about what language to use,” noting the term “Reformed” carries its own misunderstandings.

Hankins said most Southern Baptists who hold to less than four points of classical Calvinism do not consider themselves Calvinists. Mohler noted, however, that Southern Seminary’s confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles, only requires adherence to three points of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election and perseverance of the saints. The other two points of Calvinism are limited (or particular) atonement and irresistible (or effectual) grace.

“So it is a very interesting thing in that I think most people would look at the Abstract of Principles and say it was Calvinist, and I think that would be right,” Mohler said, adding that “from the very beginning” of the seminary, there were faculty “who were more or less Calvinist on some of these very questions.”

Hankins said a “real problem” is Calvinists who consider his soteriological views to be “deficient.” That attitude “propelled me to say something,” responding to what he considered to be a new “tone” among Calvinists.

Mohler responded, “Well, I do think your soteriology is deficient,” while adding that in truth Hankins would say the same about his soteriology.

He said “theological humility” requires both sides to acknowledge “we’re doing the very best we can.”

Mohler said those who hold to all five points of Calvinism and those who do not are still capable of cooperating together in the Great Commission and other ministries, as long as they can both affirm the Baptist Faith and Message.

Mohler and Hankins agreed that the BF&M in its current form is sufficient for both sides of the debate.

“I need to say publicly in this conversation with you — I do not want our Baptist Faith and Message to be any narrower than it is now,” Mohler said. Hankins responded, “I sense zero interest in having the Baptist Faith and Message be this battleground and we’re going to fix it there.”

Mohler asked Hankins to outline areas of Calvinist “misbehavior.”

Hankins said Calvinists should not dismiss those who disagree with them as “stupid.” Some young, aggressive Calvinists make older pastors who reject Calvinism “feel inadequate.”

Hankins noted, “Those who hold to non-Calvinism can do so with a robust seriousness about the sovereignty of God, a robust seriousness [about] the absolute ruination of sin over humankind, and the singularity of the gospel in bringing about salvation and the absolute necessity of the prior working of the Holy Spirit to bring about salvation.”

Another problem are Calvinists who fail to disclose their convictions when under consideration by pulpit committees, Hankins said.

He said search committees should move beyond a yes or no question, “Are you a Calvinist?” on pastoral search questionnaires. “And if you check, yes, they’re going to wad it up and throw it in the trash, which does not need to happen,” he said.

Mohler responded that it’s good that young believers are interested in these issues. “I don’t think you can be too excited about theology or the truths of God’s Word,” he said. “You can just be too excited about your system.”

He added, “If there’s a young, Reformed guy who’s more interested in traveling across the state to argue about John Calvin when he’s not talking to his next-door neighbor about the gospel, then there’s a huge problem.”

Hankins suggested a “rule” for both sides of the debate: “You only get seven days to talk about [Calvinism] and for another seven days you have to actually share the gospel.” The truth, he added, all Southern Baptists are failing to share the gospel.

Hankins said his hope for the future of the SBC is based on cooperation to carry out the Great Commission.

“The concept of cooperating together to do the work of missions and evangelism is beautiful and it’s brilliant,” he said, adding that seminarians need to be engaged in the denomination. “This seminary exists because of that cooperative movement.”

Mohler said in a “post-Christian culture” all Southern Baptists “need each other because we’re going to be up against unbelievable ethical, moral, leadership, discipleship challenges. … I feel right now we desperately need one another and we need the resources we all bring to this.”

He added, “What we need to think about is what it means to have healthy gospel churches in a hostile culture ready to be faithful to Christ.”

In his chapel sermon, Hankins preached about “A Great Commission Hermeneutic” from Luke 24:44-49, asserting the need for “Christ-centered preaching.”

Audio and video from the discussion with Mohler and Hankins’ sermon are available at

RuthAnne Irvin contributed to this report.


In a new book, Burk says sex exists to glorify God November 12, 2013

20131022_3248-webIn his new book, What is the Meaning of Sex? Denny Burk says that the ultimate purpose of marriage and sexuality, which finds its fulfillment in the picture of Christ’s love for the church, is the glory of God.

Burk, associate professor of biblical studies and ethics at Southern Seminary’s Boyce College, wrote the book to “help communicate to people what the Bible says about the gift of sexuality, why God created this and what we’re supposed to do with it,” he said in a recent interview with Towers, the seminary’s campus newsmagazine.

“I think the most important thing that I’m saying in this book that maybe is not stated as well elsewhere is that sex exists for the glory of God,” Burk said.

“The Bible teaches that the deepest meaning of marriage, and indeed of the gift of sexuality, is to indicate Christ’s love for his church, the way Christ relates to his people,” Burk said. “If you’ve missed that, then you’ve really missed the ultimate meaning of sex and you’ve missed what God’s purposes are for you in Christ.”

In a culture where sexual promiscuity is rampant, Burk says Christians need to prepare to face ridicule for a firm conviction about what the Bible says about sexuality and the world.

“If we’re faithful to Jesus, we’re going to be more conspicuously different than everyone else,” Burk said. “And it means that there’s going to be sometimes a cost for us to pay to be faithful to Jesus in the culture that we live in. Jesus said to us that it would be this way. But it is a change for us and it’s something that Christians are going to have to learn to face with courage and conviction.”

Because Christians live in a sexualized culture, this issue is important for pastors to understand. Pastors know their members’ struggles, and they know that the culture pushes Christians to believe and act contrary to Scripture. So, Burk said, preachers “have a responsibility to preach the Bible to people, to preach in such a way that people would be sanctified and formed into the image of Christ.”

Burk answers what the meaning of sex is by asserting that Christians must understand the gift of sexuality in light of God’s purpose for it and everything else in life. If Christians fail to understand that, they fail to understand why God created humans, he said.

He hopes after people read his book that they understand their own need for Jesus. Christians are not saved through sexual holiness, Burk said. Jesus saves sinners and he sanctifies them into his likeness for God’s glory.

“I want readers to have an abiding hope in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, but I also want them to see that the same Jesus who saved us is the one who sanctifies us, and he intends for all of our lives to be brought under his sovereign control, and that includes our sexual lives, and he wants our lives ordered for and toward the glory of God.”

Burk’s full interview with Towers is available online at What is the Meaning of Sex? is available in all major Christian book retailers and on


Mohler introduces Billy Graham to new dean of school named for the famed evangelist November 11, 2013

Graham-and-Mohler-lower-webIn a rare meeting, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported to Billy Graham — the world-renowned evangelist and evangelical leader — about Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at the 20-year anniversary of its establishment. He also introduced him to the school’s new dean, Adam W. Greenway.

“It was a tremendous privilege to visit with Dr. Graham and to affirm the friendship that has existed between him and Southern Seminary for so many decades,” Mohler said of the Oct. 29, 2013, meeting at Graham’s home in Montreat, N.C. “My personal friendship with him goes back to when I first came here as president. He played such a pivotal role in the establishment of the Graham School and in my inauguration as president, and I owe to Dr. Graham such a deep personal debt.

In October of 1993, Graham spoke at a worship service held the evening before Mohler’s inauguration as the ninth president of Southern Seminary.

“You have elected a young man here with a tremendous vision, not only for the future of this theological seminary but the future of evangelism and missions in the Southern Baptist Convention and in the world,” said Graham, speaking directly to the seminary’s trustees and broadly to the 9,000 people in attendance at the service. “I support him with all my heart and will pray for him daily from now on.”

When Mohler became the president of the seminary, the school’s board of trustees charged him with returning the school to its founding commitments, from which the school drifted during years previous. Upon his hiring, Mohler faced criticism from the seminary faculty and even uproar among the students.

“There will come difficult times,” Graham said during Mohler’s inauguration. “There are many decisions that you have to make. And one of the things that will be difficult for Dr. Mohler will be the great expectancy there is of him at this moment. And he'll have to make hard decisions. And it won't be a decision that everybody will like.”

Graham’s words proved both prophetic and as source of encouragement to Mohler since then.

“Dr. Graham’s coming in 1993 to speak at my inauguration was such an incredible gift, and it was not only a gift in his presence, but in his words,” Mohler said.

Now, 20 years later, Graham “continues to marvel at what he calls the ‘new Southern’,” according to Graham’s chief of staff, David Bruce, who was present in the meeting. Graham expressed to Mohler his “joy at knowing that the school is reliant on the truth of God’s Word as the focus of study,” Bruce recalled.

“Praise God for the faithfulness of Dr. Mohler and his leadership of Southern Seminary,” Graham said.

Addressing Mohler directly, the evangelist said, “I am grateful to you, Dr. Mohler, for leading Southern Seminary in a reaffirmation of the truth of God’s Word.”

Also in 1993, when Mohler first assumed leadership of the seminary, he announced the establishment of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. Last week, Mohler reported to Graham about the only school he permits to use his name and introduced him to the school’s new dean, Greenway.

Graham-and-Greenway-lower-web“The invitation to visit with Billy Graham personally was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Greenway, who became the fourth dean of the Graham School in June. “Being dean of the only school Dr. Graham ever endorsed with his own name is a singular honor and a sacred trust, and I took great pleasure in being able to report to him that we remain unwavering in our commitments to the same gospel message and urgent mission that he has so faithfully embodied.”

Greenway is the first dean of the school since it expanded as the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, combining the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and the School of Church Ministries. The new Graham School serves students of both international and domestic missions, church planting, worship leadership and both local church and educational leadership.

“Seeing [Graham’s] face light up with great joy as Dr. Mohler and I shared about the incredible work God has done and is doing at Southern Seminary in general, and the newly expanded Billy Graham School in particular, was a deeply moving experience,” Greenway said. “I know with certainty that Dr. Graham has a special affection for the Billy Graham School and Southern Seminary, and I left his presence with an even greater conviction about the tremendous stewardship entrusted to me as I lead this flagship school for Great Commission training — a school from which I am a proud alumnus.”

In the meeting, Mohler asked Graham to offer advice for the students at Southern Seminary. In reply, according to Mohler, Graham spoke about the necessity of devotional life to “lead a preacher to truth, spiritual power and ministry effectiveness.”

“Tell them to study more and speak less,” Graham told Mohler and Greenway, Bruce recalled.

Mohler and Greenway’s visit came only a week before Graham’s 95th birthday. Mohler said the two were able to wish the evangelist a happy birthday. A week later, Nov. 7, Graham attended a birthday celebration, where he, in the form of a video recorded during the past year, preached his familiar evangelistic message. The video, titled My Hope America, represents Graham’s “last message to the nation,” his son, Franklin, told USA Today.

In the video, Graham says “how far people have wandered from God” has caused him to weep for the United States and calls for a spiritual awaking in the nation.


At annual summit, Southern Seminary emphasizes expository preaching November 4, 2013

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 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


In Alumni Academy course, Mohler talks convictional leadership, shares from early days of presidency October 30, 2013

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


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 The center sends updates and highlights resources through Twitter:

The Call to Ministry is available from, 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


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