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James 2 and Southern Baptist Seminaries: 2 Leaders Address the Perils of Partiality

 akin

MooreIn the first week of Seminary classes two Seminary administrators preached from James 2.  At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Dr. Danny Akin preached a message entitled "Seeing Others with the Eyes of Jesus." Two Days later Dr. Russell Moore, Vice President of Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached a message entitled "The Kingdom of God in the Wal-Mart Breakroom: Poverty, Partiality, and the Peril of a Gentrified Ministry." These sermons are excellent and significant for the current Southern Baptist situation.

Dr. Akin specifically addressed perils in the region where he serves. He aggressively denounced the evils of racism and socio-economic snobbery. He adamantly proclaimed to his students that partiality, whether racial or economic, is a matter of the heart. Partiality does not evidence a heart captured by our Savior. He specifically mentioned a story from his days as a young Bible college student at Criswell College. Dr. Akin worked in a kitchen at a local church. A staff person there racially slurred both he and a co-worker. Unfortunately, racism is still a problem in the church. Near the end of the sermon Akin gives advice to the future pastor who interviews with a search committee. Akin says that the candidate should ask questions about several issues, especially on issues of racism and partiality, because these are "gospel issues." Prospective pastors must be careful because they might be called into a "wicked religious social club" that does not reflect the gospel and is not really a church. Dr. Akin is very passionate in this sermon and I believe it is a piece that ministers and lay people should heed in order to see people as Jesus sees people.

Dr. Moore also thundered away on similar issues. He particularly singled out theological snobbery. He begins his sermon with the example of Herman Moore. Herman Moore, Dr. Moore's granddad, was a "typical" Southern Baptist Pastor. He was a man whom academia would look down upon because he was unpolished and had only a grade school education. As Dr. Moore points out there is a tendency in the academic world to be arrogant about one's knowledge. I have grown up around Seminaries and seen this time and again. Knowledge indeed "puffs up" (1 Cor. 8). Moore warns of the danger to not be relevant to those people that we will serve in our Southern Baptist Convention. Those in a Seminary culture sometimes are more concerned with impressing other seminarians or those in the blogosphere than they are with impacting the plumber in their congregation. Moore explicitly asserts that if our attitudes are wrong then it does not matter how right our doctrine is. He explains that we do not realize that those that we look down on God has chosen to rule the cosmos with Christ. This sermon, like Dr. Akin's, is delivered with power and authority. Dr. Moore provided a message that is very convicting as I now sit in Seminary classes and train in theology. 

So, why would two administrators start the academic year off with this passage? Both of these men felt a burden to deliver these messages because there is always a tendency in academia towards arrogance. This is a message that we as seminary students, future pastors, current pastors, future professors, current professors, current administrators, and teachers need to hear and heed. We cannot ever see ourselves as better than the people that we serve or the people that we must evangelize. If we do we blaspheme that "noble name from which we are called." Brothers and sisters, let us never think that we are too good to talk to the "fisherman," "tax collector," "woman at the well," or the "thief on the cross." 

I hope these messages will be as helpful to you and your ministry as they have been to me. As Southern Baptists support another year of seminary education, I pray that we will thank God for the leadership God has given them. And I hope that we all never forget that the kingdom of God is advancing throughout all the world, whether that's seen in the academy or the Wal-Mart break room. And its advancement doesn't come through eloquent words. It comes through a simple message, Jesus Christ is Lord!

Nathan Akin 

 

The Passing of a Baptist Leader

Rev. C. Mark Corts, longtime pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, passed away August 29 from congestive heart failure. He was 68 years old. Rev. Corts pastored Calvary Baptist for nearly four decades, watching the church grow from 125 members to 6000 members today. Calvary was a leading church–perhaps the leading church–among conservatives in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Rev. Corts was active in the "official" Conservative Resurgence, but just as important, he was a leading conservative dissenter in the SBC in the years leading up to 1979.

Rev. Corts was part of a small but influential group of North Carolina pastors that found themselves in regular opposition to the moderate leadership of the state's Baptist convention. Along with men like M. O. Owens, Gerald Primm and James Bulman, Rev. Corts stood for the inerrancy of Scripture in one of the most progressive states in SBC life. He stood for baptism by immersion when some churches in the state convention were rejecting the ordinance as prerequisite to church membership. He stood for traditional gender roles in ministry when North Carolina Baptists took the lead in ordaining women into the ministry. He stood for the autonomy of the local church when state convention bureaucrats successfully pushed through a resolution calling upon churches to alter their constitutions so that, in the event of a church split, whichever faction remained loyal to the convention would retain the church's property and other assetts. He stood with Lewis Drummond and Paige Patterson as they led Southeastern Seminary to transition from a small, progressive seminary to a large, conservative seminary. He was one of the key leaders in Conservative Carolina Baptists, a network of conservative churches that were critical of the state's progressive leadership.

Besides his leadership at the state level–which included a term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina–Rev. Corts was also involved in the national convention. He was president of the Pastor's Conference. He served on several Southern Baptist committees. He was a trustee of the International Mission Board, serving a term as the board's chairman. In fact, mission was at the heart of Rev. Corts' ministry; Calvary Baptist Church remains one of the most mission-minded, Great Commission churches in the SBC. At present, 25% of the church's budget is allocated for mission causes. Also close to Rev. Corts' heart was theological education, especially at Southeastern Seminary. Today the North Carolina Baptist Pastor's Conference gives an annual preaching award, named in honor of Rev. Corts, to an outstanding SEBTS graduate.

For more about the life and ministry of this man of God, read the obituary published in yesterday's edition of Baptist Press.

Quote of The Day

The19th Century minister Robert Murray M'Cheyne reminded himself of this truth daily:

"My people's greatest need is my personal holiness."

Dr. Daniel Akin on Ministerial Integrity

Both the media and the blogosphere have been buzzing in recent days over the reports of  notable pastors who have ethically compromised themselves and their ministries. In response to these recent scandals, Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, distributed the following paper to the Southeastern Seminary family. These are wise words that every Southern Baptist minister and seminarian should heed. Dr. Akin has granted me permission to publicly post his paper for a wider audience.

Integrity in Ministry: No Place for Compromise

(A Message From the President)

             In 1 Timothy 3:1 the Bible says leaders in the church must be “blameless” (NKJV), “above reproach” (NIV).  In recent days a number of stories have appeared in the media concerning well known ministers forced to resign because of inappropriate or unwise actions.  The cause of Christ has been harmed and the respect for ministers significantly damaged.  There are a number of issues addressed in Scripture that speak to the essential nature of integrity in ministry (1 Tim 3:17; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4), but let me encourage our students to especially guard their lives in 5 particular areas.

1)      Guard your integrity by always being completely honest.  Do not pad your resume or reputation with false or inflated accomplishments.  The Bible says God hates a proud look and lying tongue (Prov 6:17).  Be a truth-teller in every area of your life, both in the big things and the little things.

2)      Guard your integrity in your dealings with the opposite sex.  If you are married covenant with the Lord and your mate never to be alone with anyone of the opposite sex.  Men, be known as a “one woman kind of man” (1 Tim 3:2; Eph 5:33).  Ladies, be known as a “one man kind of woman.”  If you are single, be careful in your conduct with the opposite sex.  Treat them with respect due a sister or brother in Christ.  Avoid those private places where your hormones can override your will and you make a bad decision that can change your life forever.

3)      Guard your integrity when it comes to money.  As a minister, require annually a full outside audit of your church finances.  On the personal level, have nothing  to do with the direct financial responsibilities of the church.  Do not have check writing authority.  Do not handle or receive money, but direct individuals to the proper persons who handle the finances of the church.  Never use a church credit card for personal reasons.  Use your own credit card for personal reasons.  When you do use a church credit card, always document its use with a receipt and a description of how it was used.  Maintain accountability with someone in your church office or on your finance committee.  Go the extra mile to be above board and blameless.

     Furthermore, realize people who love you will want to be a blessing to you.  Develop an attitude of gratitude, but never one of entitlement.  Ministers do not deserve nor should we expect special treatment.  The Lord Jesus will properly reward us when we stand before Him (1 Peter 5:1-4).  If that reward is not sufficient, I would suggest you get out of the ministry and do so quickly.

4)      Guard your integrity when it comes to your family life.  First Timothy 3:4 says we must rule our own house well and have children who are in submission with all reverence.  Titus 1:6 adds that they must be faithful, “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (NIV).  One’s family life is often an accurate reflection of their spiritual life.  Godly men and women will raise up godly children who love Christ and obey the Bible.  Few areas of investment will yield greater reward.

5)      Guard your integrity with solid theological competency.  Often moral and ethical sins grow out of a defective biblical and theological life.  Failing to cultivate a healthy understanding of theological truth like the sovereignty and holiness of God, the sinfulness and depravity of man, the process of sanctification and the necessity of biblical wisdom, and the centrality of Christ and the crucified life, we begin to think and then live in a manner that is foreign to the clear teachings of scripture.  Nothing will be more valuable in avoiding this danger than a steady diet of biblical exposition, whereby we are continually exposed to the totality of God’s revealed truth.  What we believe will determine how we live.  Belief and behavior always go together.

6)      Guard your integrity with the model of ministry you pursue.  God calls us to be shepherds of His sheep.  We are not called to be CEO’s or drill sergeants.  We are not called to be ranchers or dictators.  We are certainly not called to be spiritual superstars or celebrities.  A word of caution is in order at this point. The greater your natural gifts and abilities, the more susceptible you are to entrapment by these seducing sirens of the world.  Men, and women, with charismatic personalities and a commanding presence can too easily operate in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit.  They can be deceived into believing their own press and the accolades showered on them by adoring followers (fans!).  If they are not careful, they can begin to believe they have the right to operate by a different standard.  This is the way of foolishness.  This is the way that leads to the damage, and potential destruction, of a ministry.

     Brothers and sisters, there is no place for spiritual superstars in the church, who like proud Diotrephes, love to have the preeminence (3 John 9). No, preeminence is rightfully reserved for only one and His name is Jesus (Col. 1:18).  Let us not lose sight of who we are, sinners saved by grace.  Let us not lose sight of who really matters, it is Jesus.  Let us not lose sight of how we serve, it is with integrity as we imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) in every sphere of our lives.

     I love you each and every one, and I pray for you.  Please pray for me, that I will both run well and finish well, all for the glory of Jesus.

Daniel L. Akin

President

Southeastern Seminary

Examining Fidelity Through An “Emerging” Lens

I like the plans and purposes of God.  However, getting on board and staying on board with those purposes is not always an easy process.  Like Job, it usually takes us time to recognize God’s superior wisdom, and we, like the man from Uz, must receive a healthy dose of His perspective to bring us to our senses.  When it comes to advancing His Kingdom, God has one plan. That plan is the church.   

When Jesus walked with his disciples he spoke to them these weighty words: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)  It is in the assurance of Christ’s promise that we as leaders and laymen work to serve the bride of Christ.  However, too often we miscalculate the importance of examining our fidelity to God’s revealed plan for the Church. The question beckoning our constant attention remains, “Are we serving in absolute biblical faithfulness to God’s revealed design for His church?”  While this question is freighted with countless aspects to consider, one key component involves how we reach the postmodern culture.  

A recent movement, known as the Emerging Church, is particularly focused on the relationship between the church and culture.  It is important for the evangelical world (including Southern Baptists) to gain a sense of what this complex movement is about in order to think clearly and biblically through the issues at hand. So what are the key issues? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this movement or as emerging leaders call it, this “conversation?”  The movement has a wide scope of adherents as diverse as “emerging” church pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, who identifies his church as “theologically conservative, but culturally liberal,” to “emergent” leader Brian McLaren, who is no longer interested in penal substitutionary atonement, the reality of eternal torment in hell, or the sinfulness of homosexuality. (There is a distinction between what is “emerging” and “emergent.” – See article links below.)  

Our friends at Nine Marks have done us a favor with their September newsletter. They have provided a great resource that covers and assesses many key characteristics of the Emerging Church.  Justin Taylor’s article “An Emerging Church Primer” and the “Pastor’s and Theologian’s Forum on the Emerging Church” (including perspectives from D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, and others) are two resources that provide needed insight.  Other beneficial articles are available as well.    

It is my hope that we will humbly join the “conversation” for two reasons. First, we have much to examine in the area of ecclesiology and our own faithfulness to the biblical text.  Therefore, many issues are worthy of our consideration and ongoing conversation.  The emerging church exposes some crucial areas of investigation for churches seeking to fulfill Christ's mission.  Secondly, we must join the conversation to lovingly speak truth concerning “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)  Yes, we need to talk further about certain ecclesiastical issues, but we also need to realize certain things have already been talked about.  In other words, if God has already spoken clearly on the matter, there is nothing more to talk about; there is only something to proclaim. 

As one who has much to learn, I'm excited to study these issues in ecclesiology.  What do you perceive to be some strengths and weaknesses in the emerging church movement? Join me as we pursue absolute biblical faithfulness in service of Christ's bride. 

Which Lee Quote Is Your Favorite?

Upcoming Baptist Identity Conferences at Union University

I wanted to inform you of two more upcoming conferences that will help us think more clearly as Southern Baptists continue to wrestle with issues of identity and cooperation. Union University is hosting two conferences this academic year that will address issues related to Baptist identity. The first is a one day symposium on October 16 called "Baptists in America: Baptist Way or Baptist Ways?” The speakers will be Greg Wills, professor of church history at Southern Seminary, and Bill Leonard, dean and professor of church history at the Wake Forest University Divinity School. The cost of the event is $5.00, which covers lunch.

The second conference is slated for February 15-17, 2007. The conference, called “Convention, Cooperation and Controversy,” is a follow-up to Union's 2004 conference on Baptist Identity [you can find the audio from the 2004 conference here]. The speakers at the 2007 conference will include Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School; Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.; Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Russell Moore, senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources; Ed Stetzer, missiologist and research team director at the North American Mission Board; and Mike Day, director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, Tenn., as well as Union University President David S. Dockery and Thornbury.

Union will also host conferences this year on the topics of “Evangelicals and Global Warming: A Formal Debate” and “One Bible, One Gospel: Exploring the Unity of Scripture.” For more information about all of Union's 2006-2007 conferences, read the news release here.  

Faith of our Fathers: RG Lee Quotes

LeeRG Lee's preaching is meant to be heard, not read. So, for the final post on RG Lee (for a while) I thought it would be great to get a flavor of Lee's preaching. Below are several clips from his preaching. Please listen to several of them and comment on which ones are your favorites. Also, please include any thoughts that you have on Lee's impact on the SBC or your ministry.

1. Lee on the Invitation
2. Lee on Christian Duty
3. Lee on the Foolishness of Rejecting Christ
4. Lee on Jesus
5. Lee on the Bible
6. Lee on Jesus as the Theme of the Bible
7. Lee on Jesus' sacrifice
8. Lee on Resurrection
9. Lee on his own Death
10. Lee on Prayer
11. Lee on Righteous Indignation
12. Lee on Evangelism
13. Lee on Alcohol
14. Lee on the Bible and the SBC
15. Lee on Liberalism
16. Lee on the Unpunished Sin of Ahab and Jezebel
17. Lee on Ahab's Encounter with Elijah
18. Lee on Ahab's Death and God's Judgment
19. Lee on Payday

RG Lee was a Southern Baptist preacher. He served the Lord for over 5 decades of ministry. I pray that God will use these spotlights to awaken a new generation to his preaching, but most of all I pray God will raise up preachers like Lee who will stand before congregations week after week and year after year delivering God's Word in power under the anointing of the Spirit.

Chapel Messages Online

The Fall semester has commenced at our seminaries and that means chapel messages will be available online.  Not only will quality preaching be available from each faculty, but also brothers like John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Andy Davis, Robert Smith, Gardner Taylor, Jerry Vines, James Merritt, Stephen Rummage, Johnny Hunt, Frank Page, and many more will be heralding truth, "which is able to save [our] souls." (James 1:21)  You can access the sermons online at the following sites:  SEBTS, SBTS, SWBTS, MABTS, MBTS, and I'm not sure about NOBTS and GGBTS .  While all seminaries students have heard the occasional flop, dud, sorry sermon, homiletical wreck, or whatever you want to call it, those are few and far between.  Accessing a sermon every now and again can be a healthy spiritual exercise to help you love Christ more and more as "He works in us what is pleasing to Him." (Heb. 13.21)  

Does anybody have any favorites that they would recommend on the archives list?  Here are two of my favorites: Jimmy Scroggins, "Credentials for Ministry "-1 Cor. 11.16-29 on April 28, 2005 at SBTS and Andy Davis, "The Love of God Poured Out"-  Rom. 5:1-11 on March 10, 2005 at SEBTS. (You may have to search to find them.) 

A Plea for Trinitarian Baptist Worship

Holy TrinityWhen I was in high school and early college, I dated a girl whose father was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. It always irritated him that I was a Baptist preacher boy instead of a faithful Presbyterian. One day my girlfriend asked her dad if he did not like the Baptists because of immersion baptism. He said that he disagreed with Baptists on the issue of Baptism, but that his real problem with Baptists is that they overemphasize Jesus to the detriment of the Father and the Spirit. When she told me this, I was appalled. After all, Jesus is the one who saves us. Jesus is the one we accept as Lord and Savior. Jesus is the one who paid the penalty for sin. Christianity is about Jesus. Right?

As the years have gone by, I find myself more appreciative of this man's critique. Though he and I disagree on many theological issues, I have to concede he was right on this one. In many Baptist churches we talk so much about Jesus (normally in the context of salvation) that God the Father is little more than a distant deity or kindly grandfather and the Spirit is that guy that gets all the Pentecostals so wired up. While I am obviously exaggerating a little, I think many of you would agree that Baptists are not deliberately Trinitarian enough in our worship ministries. And to not be explicitly Trinitarian is to be sub-Christian.

I am not a music minister and I am certainly not a "worship leader" (a term I detest). What I am is a Baptist preacher who has been in enough worship services to know that we too often have a major gap in our theology of worship. The saints may be gathered down at the meeting house, but the Trinity is MIA. To be fair, in any given worship service all three members of the Trinity may be mentioned, but I have met enough Baptists who believe the Holy Spirit is an "it" and not a "He" to know that merely mentioning the members of the Godhead is not the same as teaching people about the Godhead. And in a strange twist of irony, the very mainline churches who so often deny the Trinity are, because of their liturgy, much more Trinitarian in their worship than we orthodox types who still believe that the Lord is "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." So this is a plea for Trinitarian Baptist worship, which by the way, I do not believe necessitates the use of liturgy.

I want to encourage regular preachers and teachers of God's Word to be tireless in your efforts to present God as he really is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In your preaching, highlight the doctrine when you come across appropriate texts. Take a Sunday a year to preach a doctrinal sermon devoted to the Trinity. Read some of the fine works on the Trinity that have recently been published by evangelical scholars like Bruce Ware and Robert Letham. I would also encourage you to read some of the classic works on the Trinity by great saints who have gone before us. Learn about the Trinity and teach your people about the Trinity. Preach Trinitarian sermons.

I want to encourage those who lead the music ministries of local churches to select songs that emphasize God as the Almighty Three-in-One. Some of the greatest hymns of the faith are explicitly Trinitarian. Many of the newest hymns and choruses emphasize this crucial doctrine. Remember that the songs we sing are as much about catechesis (teaching) as doxology (worship), so pick songs that both exalt the living God and instruct and edify his saints. Sing Trinitarian songs.

I want to encourage those who pray in public services of worship to work hard to make your prayers Trinitarian. When you pray, thank the Father for being the sovereign Lord of life and the Architect of the redemption of this fallen world. Thank the Son for being the promised Messiah, the once-sacrificed Redeemer of the lost and the still to come King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank the Holy Spirit for being the one who has sealed us in Christ, who has endued us with spiritual gifts and who empowers us for Kingdom ministry. When you pray, be sure to pray to our Sovereign Lord, the Father, in the power of our great Enabler, the Spirit, through the name of our gracious Mediator, Jesus Christ. Pray Trinitarian prayers.

My prayer is that, whatever your church's "worship style" may be, it will be deliberately Trinitarian, fully reflecting the greatness and majesty of our God. And I make that prayer in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.