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You Need to Listen to This!

Dr. Robert Smith, Professor of Preaching at Beeson Divinity School, preached twice here this week at SEBTS. Both sermons were incredible! The first text he preached was Jeremiah 20:7-18, entitled "Two Inescapable Realities." 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 was his second message entitled, "The Awful Grace of God."  Those titles should be enough to grab your attention. Awful grace? oh yeah. The audio will not do justice to the actual delivery. Nevertheless, you will be blessed by both the content and example of faithful preaching. As an African-American preacher, Smith chooses his words deliberately with much imagery and imagination (I say this because I am persuaded that the African-American pulpit normally excels in utilizing vivid, descript language in an effective manner). He preached extemporaneously (without notes), which was amazing considering the amount of Scripture and various poems and hymns he quoted. Moreover, Smith not only was faithful to the text he preached (immediate context), but also communicated the overarching message of Scripture (the canonical context). Along these lines, in his first sermon, Smith preached Christ from Jeremiah 20 in an exemplary fashion. Download these sermons for your mp3 player or listen online. You won't be disappointed!

Andrew Fuller on Theological Education

As far as I'm concerned, it would be nearly impossible for someone to be a Baptist historian and not have a favorite historical Baptist. I actually have a handful of favorites. As far as American Baptists go, I have a soft spot for Jesse Mercer because of the scope of his influence and our common Georgia Baptist roots. I also am continually inspired by the examples of missionary pioneers William Carey and Adoniram Judson. But my all-time favorite Baptist is probably Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), the famed pastor, theologian and missions advocate.

I resonate with Fuller on many levels, especially theologically, and I am thrilled that there has been a revival of scholarly interest in Fuller in recent years. That scholarly interest is culminating in a forthcoming multi-volume Works of Fuller, to be published by Paternoster Press. Michael Haykin will be the series editor, and a cadre of scholars will edit the individual volumes. I look forward to the various volumes and the chance to delve deeper into Fuller's thought.

But the real point of this post is to share this gem from one of Fuller's letters. Fuller is addressing theological education, and I find it interesting how similar his context was to contemporary Southern Baptist life:

As to academic education, the far greater part of our ministers have it not. Carey was a shoemaker years after he engaged in the ministry and I was a farmer. I have sometimes, however, regretted my want of learning. On the other hand, brother Sutcliff and brother Pearce have both been at Bristol Academy]. We all live in love without any distinctions in those matters. We do no consider an Academy as any qualification for membership or preaching, any farther than as a person may there improve his talents. Those who go to ours [academies] must be members of a church and recommended by them as possessing gifts adapted to the ministry (Fuller letter to Mr. McLean, 20 April 1796, in Michael A. G. Haykin, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, 151-52).

It is remarkable how these circumstances speak to our present context. Most Southern Baptist pastors do not have seminary training, including many of our most effective men. Bivocational pastors are still quite common, and often unrecognized for their faithful gospel labors. It is still the case that a theological education, though useful and even preferrable, is not necessary for one to be a pastor; what ultimately matters is God's call on a man's life. At every Southern Baptist seminary, it is necessary for a potential student to receive an endorsement from their local church that includes a recognition and affirmation of the prospective student's call to and giftedness for the work of the ministry.

As someone who is in the "culture" of theological education, I am thankful for seminaries (and colleges) that better equip men and women for ministry. But as a Baptist, I am also thankful that God's call is not limited to the educated alone. Andrew Fuller did not have the benefit of a college or seminary education, and he did just fine in his ministry. And praise God, so do many among us now.

Week 4: Letdown Saturday

Last week was labeled by the experts Separation Saturday; I am going to label this week Letdown Saturday because of the unimpressive slate of games. Also, it is weeks like this that the upsets seem to pop up for those teams that had either big wins or big losses on a previous Saturday that was so important. Next week the standings up to this point will be released…

Criticisms, Assumptions and Gossip

I recently faced an uncomfortable situation, one that I suspect most of us have faced at one time or another. There is a Christian brother with whom I disagree about a number of things. I am also sometimes uncomfortable with the way this brother expresses himself. I have never met this gentlemen, though we have a number of mutual friends and acquaintances. I recently made a remark to one of those mutual acquaintances about my opinion of this brother. I criticized the man and implicitely questioned his motives, even though I have never met him. I gossiped. As often happens in situations like this, what I said eventually found its way to the brother I had gossiped about. "Your sins will find you out." The brother confronted me on the issue, expressing regret that these were the circumstances we found ourselves meeting under. I apologized for my sin and he graciously forgave me.

After talking with this man, I began to think about the many times I have recklessly criticized a person, church, denomination or institution. I thought about the many times I have made assumptions about or questioned the motives of those with whom I differ. I thought about how frighteningly often I vocalize these thoughts and gossip about others.

Most of the readers of SBC Witness are involved in some type of ministry, be it local church, seminary studies or missions. This ministry involvement means you know how easy it is to become harshly critical of others. How easy it is to assume things about others. How naturally it comes to our sinful natures to question the motives of others. How easy it is to gossip about others, whether in the form of sermon illustrations, prayer requests or just old-fashioned scuttlebutt and breeze-shooting.

Time and time again I have had conversations with seminarians where a particular church, theological movement, political conviction or individual Christian was harshly criticized. Not just the stated convictions of churches or people (which I believe are public record and fair game), but the churches or people themselves. Sometimes falsehoods were even spread. This pattern of unhealthy criticism is repeated in sermons, books, articles, message boards and weblogs. Surely this does not honor God.

So having recently looked in the mirror and seen the enemy, I want to encourage you to be careful what you say about others. Even better–be careful what you think about others. Police your thoughts, question your own motives, mortify your sin; when this happens, you are unlikely to vocalize your thoughts to others, further sinning. Its a lesson I have been trying to learn for years, and as I was so shamefully reminded recently, a lesson I still need to learn. So pray for me in this matter; I am still on the way, with a long way to go. And if you struggle with this sin like I do, then ask someone to pray for you, even as you face your sin head on and seek to subdue it through the power of the cross and for the glory of Christ.

Why the Pope is Preparing Baptists for the Future

The controversy surrounding the Pope is out of control. If you have absolutely any access to world events, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't know what's going on, buy a newspaper. Here's a short recap. In a speech delivered last Tuesday by the Pope he quoted a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. The quote came in the midst of several references to ways in which religion has used violence to advance its purposes. The Pope condemned all such attempts. The most controversial quote reads as follows:   Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached

The reaction to this sentence has been widespread and it has been fierce. All the talking heads have been running this story. They've been interviewing Catholics, Muslims, and all the rest, to get their perspective on the Pope's words. Also, many of these spokesmen have demanded a direct apology from the Pope. Some have said that the Pope's remarks are tantamount to the beginning of the Crusade against Islam. Some Muslims have taken their anger to the streets. All across the world there have been protests. These protests usually are accompanied with signs that call the Pope the devil, say he's going to hell, or speak of his need to have his throat slit. I saw that one protest featured a burning of the Pope in effigy. In the same spirit, several Christian churches have been burned and one nun has been killed. There's more to report, but you get the picture. 

And in all of the discussion surrounding these events, there are two main questions focused on by the networks and the clerics. First, was the Pope right to say what he said? Second, was the Pope's apology sufficient? To the first, there is almost universal agreement that the Pope should not have said what he said. Why? Well, for the most part, his comments hurt the potential for dialogue. To the second, most of the world is unsatisfied with the Pope's non-apology apology. You know what this is, it is the same kind of thing athletes and stars do all the time. They don't say that they are sorry for their actions or words. Rather, they say that they are sorry that their words or actions offended a group of people. And this is exactly what the Pope did. So now you're caught up.

For my purposes here, I just want to make a couple of quick points. First, the fact that Muslims have responded in violence to the Pope's comments, does not help the case they are trying to make that presents Islam as a religion of peace. It shows it for what it is, a religion that produces violence. Now sure, not all Muslims are violent. One of my best friends and basketball teammates in high school, was Muslim. Nevertheless, widespread violence has always accompanied this religion. Second, the disagreement over the Pope's comments as they relate to the "dialogue" between the faiths, will not be resolved. The reason this disagreement will not be resolved is because it is tied to a worldview issue. You see, there are those whose worldview says that the human problem is ignorance. These people push for education and dialogue because they believe that all of the world's problems can be solved by understanding. So, to hinder "dialogue" is to be evil. Therefore, as Rosie O'Donnell recently said, "Extreme Christians are just as bad as extreme Muslims". Christians cannot hold to this position. On the other hand, Christians believe that the world contains such things as sin and evil. And the only answer for these things is the cross of Christ. So, on the issue of religion, there is a way that is good and true and there is a way that is false and evil. And the Christian worldview recognizes that Muslims don't kill people because they are ignorant. They do this because they are sinful and in need of a Savior. This means that for the Christian worldview, dialogue is not the ultimate hope of peace. The ultimate hope for peace is Christ. 

And this ultimate hope for peace is found in a Christ who was humiliated, something fundamentally different than the peace offered by the world and Islam. This is why Christ can be ridiculed everday by the world, and Christians will not kill anyone. We are at the heart, a religion that advances through the humiliating death of Christ and the humiliating deaths of those who "are making up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col. 1:24). Islam, on the other hand, is a religion of honor. So when anything associated with Islam is humiliated, Muslims go crazy. You don't have to look far to see this. This past year saw violent Muslim riots break out in response to such things as a Koran being flushed down a toilet and a cartoon making fun of Muhammed being drawn. Islam is not strong enough to withstand embarrassment. Christianity thrives off the worst of humiliation. That's a difference that all the conversations in the world will not resolve and we need to remember this. 

Also, I think these events can teach us lessons that we need to learn so that we know how to act in the coming days. While this terror is somewhat contained (for those of us ministering in the U.S.), I fear that there is coming a day when it will be just outside of our houses. With the developments around the world from such countries as Iran, North Korea, and others, the prospect of America staying as it is, is growing dimmer and dimmer. Many Christians around the globe already know the crisis of decision this will bring. Will we confess Christ as THE only way, THE only truth, and THE life, when our families lives are on the line? Many men and women have made this decision and lost their lives. We need to remember these people in our prayers. Also, we need to prepare our families for this day. I'm afraid it's coming. 

And as we do this, I think it is important to realize what it's going to look like from the media's perspective. You'll notice that the talking heads are not focusing their stories on the fact that Muslims are calling for the death of the Pope. Of course not, anyone who hinders "dialogue" deserves death, right? Sorry. Instead, they are focusing on the Pope's statements and apology. It's almost as if the persecution that is being delivered by the hands of these Muslims isn't even happening. Well, I'm afraid, that in the coming days, if we do see greater Muslim persecution on our own soil, we'll see the same thing. Christians will continue to hinder dialogue by proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ and Muslims will kill them for it. And the story we can expect to see will be the story we see now, Christians are intolerant. We're not going to get a fair shake today and we're not going to get a fair shake in the future. But let's remember that we're not after a fair shake. We're after a New Creation filled with redeemed rebels brought out of every religion and race, singing the praises of the one who was humiliated, even to the point of death on a cross. There won't be any confusion or question asking found on the networks or in the streets of the Middle East then. There will only be answers. Well, there will only be one Answer. Jesus Christ is Lord.      

 

Dr. Mohler on Lite Preaching

picWe have been talking about preaching on Sbcwitness the past few days. Dr. Mohler’s past two blogs have covered some of the growing preaching trends and thoughts in the culture. The titles of these blogs are “Does God Want Us to Be Rich? TIME Looks at Prosperity Theology” and “The Problem of Preaching to Felt Needs”.  Check these out at Albert Mohler.com.

 

week 3: Separation Saturday

helmets

This week there are seven games featuring top 25 teams squaring off against one another. It should be a lot of fun, I plan to make chilli dogs, drink diet coke, and pretend to get reading done while watching the games. Sorry about missing last weeks games, I hope that does not happen again, and after about week 5 I will begin to keep a running talley of records for those that post their picks on our website.

Ray Van Neste on Pastoral Plaigarism

Since we are talking about preaching this week, particularly our favorite preachers, I think it is a good idea to stop for a minute and note something we should never do: plaigarize our favorite (or any other) preacher. Plaigarizing the sermons of other preachers is lying and cheating, period. Witness readers should check out this recent article by Dr. Ray Van Neste, associate professor of Christian Studies at Union University. Dr. Van Neste has some sound words regarding the shamefully common practice of pirating someone else's sermon.

The Water, the Table, and the Finn

SBCWitness’s very own Nathan Finn just published a white paper entitled Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper, although he is probably too humble to promote himself here. This work is worth taking the time to download and read. Make sure to check out this valuable contribution to our denomination.

The Best Kept Secrets in the SBC

I've been thinking recently (always dangerous) that one of the reasons we started SBC Witness was to foster a healthy sense of cooperation among Southern Baptists, especially in the younger generation. The way I see it, you cannot have cooperation without conversation, so I thought I would throw out a topic for conversation and invite everyone else to enter that conversation. Think of this as an opportunity to stroke your inner Emergent. :-) Seriously, this should prove to be a healthy conversation and Lord willing its a conversation that will prove edifying to everyone who participates. Let's talk about your favorite preachers and why you like them so much.

Specifically, I would love to know who your favorite Southern Baptist preacher(s) is who "nobody" has ever heard of. Maybe he is the pastor of a small or relatively-unknown church. Maybe he is a professor. Maybe he is a uniquely gifted student. Maybe he has been a faithful servant who has spent his whole ministry out of the limelight. Maybe he is an up-and-coming leader who will not be unknown forever. But whoever he is, I would love to hear about him and what makes him such a good preacher. As far as the rules of the conversation go, they are pretty wide open: any suggestions are valued, though I ask that it not be an individual who has a wide following. No megachurch pastors, people with prominent media ministries or SBC institutional leaders; tell us about someone we may not know about.

I will go ahead and begin this conversation by telling you about three of my favorite preachers that nobody has ever heard of, at least nobody outside of this part of North Carolina or southeast Georgia. Allan Moseley and David Hogg are two professors at Southeastern Seminary. Dr. Moseley is the dean of students and teaches Old Testament. Dr. Hogg teaches church history. Both men are also members of Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh, where Dr. Moseley serves as senior pastor and Dr. Hogg serves as an elder and preaches on most Sunday evenings. Both of these brothers can flat preach. As an added bonus, their preaching styles are very different, providing Christ Baptist with both quality and variety in their pulpit. You can listen to their sermons here.

Another of the best preachers who nobody has ever heard of is John Clough, my childhood pastor at Central Baptist Church in Waycross, Georgia. Dr. Clough became the pastor of Central right before my family joined the church my freshman year of high school. Prior to that time we had been members of a liberal, mainline church where we were regularly fed "sermonettes for Christianettes." Things were not much better for Central: for several years they had teetered on the edge of becoming a moderate Baptist church. Until Dr. Clough came, that is. Dr. Clough preached expositionally through books of the Bible. He preached about sin. He taught that the Bible was totally truthful and absolutely sufficient. The church suffered numerical loss under Dr. Clough's leadership; 11 moderate/liberal families joined a sister church in town on the same Sunday and about 300 people left during his five year pastorate. But numbers never tell the whole story and God used Dr. Clough's preaching to cleanse Central Baptist of some unhealthy elements and to return the church to its roots as a Bible-believing, evangelistic Southern Baptist congregation.

So who are your favorite preachers who nobody has ever heard of?