Have We Left the Rapture Behind?

The Apostle Paul says of the believers who will be living when Jesus returns: “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17). We generally refer to the “catching up” as the Rapture. Does this event occur before the Tribulation? During? After? On Sept. 4th the Bush Center for Faith and Culture will host the Day of Prophecy conference, in which the arguments for a pre-tribulational rapture will be examined.

The speakers include Craig Blaising, Provost of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ed Hindson, Dean of the School of Religion at Liberty University, Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute; and William Watson, Professor of History at Colorado Christian University.

The schedule is as follows:

  • 10 am: Ed Hindson (Binkley Chapel) — “Can we still believe in the Rapture?”
  • 1 pm: William Watson (Bush Center) — “The Rapture before Darby”
  • 2 pm: Michael Rydelnik (Bush Center) — “Israel, the Church, and the Tribulation”
  • 3 pm: Panel Discussion (Bush Center) with Danny Akin, Craig Blaising, Ed Hindson, William Watson, and Michael Rydelnik
  • 7 pm: Craig Blaising (Wake Forest Baptist Church) — “The Rapture and the Day of the Lord”

More information about the conference (including registration) can be found here.

This September Join the Movement #30daysofgoing

The first week of June this year I had the joy of joining with some of my colleagues at Southeastern and about 130 of our great students–along with scores of students from other schools–as part of Crossover Baltimore. This evangelism effort before the annual SBC gave our students a chance to share Christ daily for six days. We had a remarkable time and saw much fruit.

Sharing Christ every day––even in a culture like ours filled with people who do not know our Savior––can prove to be quite daunting. The Great Commission of our Lord does not in its text give such daily specificity to the call to make disciples; but if we are a great commission people, and in particular if Southeastern Seminary is a great commission seminary with every classroom being a great commission classroom, the idea of taking the gospel to the nations should not negate our passion to reach our neighbors, should it?

Last week at opening convocation our president Danny Akin exhorted us at the start of our fall semester on the importance of sharing Christ personally. We are a Great Commission school. This is why at Southeastern we will embark on an effort this fall to bring to a sharp focus the importance of sharing Christ personally. We call it “30 days of going.” You will see the hashtag #30daysofgoing on a variety of twitter feeds in the coming days. What do we mean by this?

WHAT IT IS:

September has 30 days. We look to see faculty, students, staff and administrators praying, seeking, and attempting to share Christ daily for these 30 days. It’s a call for everyone at Southeastern (and anyone else who wants to join) to ATTEMPT to SHARE CHRIST with at least ONE PERSON DAILY for 30 days through the month of SEPTEMBER. The focus is an attempt to share Christ; some days you may not be able to share Christ (we are not encouraging you to force the gospel on someone for a goal) but by consciously attempting to share Christ daily you will have many opportunities throughout the month. We are confident a more gospel-focused daily perspective is a good thing.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

—A daily awareness of our call to fulfill the great commission;
—Thinking strategically of people and places we can communicate the gospel, such as:
–Social media
–Setting appointments with friends we know who are not believers to speak to them about Christ
–Local church outreach
–Sharing Christ with those we meet daily—servers in restaurants, neighbors, coworkers, etc
–Planning specific times to reach out individually or with another believer
—Developing the daily mindset of seeing the lostness around you and taking advantage of opportunities to seek divine appointments
—Going door-to-door with another believer
–Praying with those we meet
–Giving out evangelistic literature

WHAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN:
—You have to share the whole gospel every day with someone (but we pray that most days you will!)
—You have to radically alter your days; instead, simply see your day through the eyes of Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38)

PRACTICAL HELPS:

–Carry gospel booklets with you like The Story or the LIFE: 3 Circles Conversation Guide to give to those you meet
–Each morning utter this 3fold prayer: “God, today give me an opportunity to share Christ, give me the wisdom to see it, and the courage to take it.”
–Remember the definition of boldness from my friend Preston Nix: Going one step beyond my comfort zone for Christ. This month’s commitment may be just that!
–Look for opportunities to ask to pray for someone, to share your testimony, or to have conversations you can include the gospel
–Think of people you know who do not know Christ and with whom you have not shared Christ lately and speak to them
–Post your testimony online; engage someone online in a gospel conversation
Just Imagine:

Imagine what classes will be like as we enter and share together about opportunities we have seen that week?
Imagine the worship in chapel (which is already great) when come in buzzing with gospel stories?
Imagine how simple things like prayer at the start of class can come alive as our hearts break for those around us?
Imagine how God might use this to heighten our focus as SBC President Ronnie Floyd joins us on September 18 for a day of prayer?

I know this: without fail, every time in my life I set aside days like this to focus on soul winning, God does something in my heart.

There is no sacrifice of academic or scholarly pursuit to focus on simple obedience to our Lord’s clear command. There is on the contrary something thrilling, something stirring about being part of a movement like this.

Join the movement. 30 Days of Going. And, hey, you can start today!

Ant Greenham: Friendship and the Great Commission, Part 1

[Editor's Note: Dr. Ant Greenahm is Associate Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at Southeastern. A specialist on the Middle East, he is author of Muslim Conversions to Christ: An Investigation of Palestinian Converts Living in the Holy Land (WICU, 2011), and co-author (with David Black and Allan Bevere) of The Questioning God: An Inquiry for Muslims, Jews, and Christians (Areopagus, 2012). He is also passionate about helping students see the breadth of the Great Commission. To that end, he writes below about the nature of friendship in the Great Commission. This is the first post in a three-part series. Come back next Monday for part two.]

“What surprised you the most about your trip to . . .?” I love asking this when I speak to anyone on their return from an overseas visit. It was also the question I put to my twelve-year-old niece, Amy, at RDU airport in July 2012. She was about to go home to South Africa after spending a month with us in the U.S. Well, what surprised her most was the heat (it was the 3rd hottest summer on record), but she also exclaimed how friendly Americans are.

If you know the U.S., Amy’s second observation isn’t all that remarkable. It’s something that Moreau, Corwin and McGee note in their helpful textbook, Introducing World Missions.[1] In a discussion ranging across their 14th chapter, “Relating to People of Other Cultures,” they consider friendship from a missions’ point of view. First, they speak of the need in all cultures to reduce uncertainty when meeting someone for the first time. Americans typically counter such hesitancy “by being friendly (upbeat, smiling, ‘chipper’) . . . in meeting strangers” (p. 234). This was the characteristic that struck Amy repeatedly while she was here. That’s how Americans come across, and my niece appreciated it.

But does initial, spontaneous friendliness translate into something more—into the depth of relationship? Addressing this, Moreau and company write of American friendships developing quickly (as with a child enthusing about the “new best friend” he or she made on the first day of school), but remaining rather shallow. In particular, they point out that “American friendships are formed in shared activities. They like to do things together. They have church friends, school friends . . . hobby friends, and the like” (p. 242). However, such activity-based friendship (ABF) has a downside. When folks “become interested in new activities or lose interest in old ones, they add or drop friendships related to those activities” (p. 242). This doesn’t mean folks act in an unfriendly way when they bump into their old acquaintances. If they have time, they may well enthuse how great it was to work/graduate/play/travel/participate with the person concerned. Unfortunately though, when the activity ended, the substance of the relationship would have ended too.

Moreau, Corwin and McGee examine the ABF phenomenon within Christian circles. Typically, people band together for a particular activity (such as a book-study or an organizational program) but feel no compulsion to stay with the group once it’s done. This obviously has implications for ongoing church membership and involvement. And it’s something we care about at Southeastern, given our concern to see students serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. For now then, let’s compare ABF with the imperative of the Great Commission which, of course, is to make disciples.

Long before he captured and catapulted the essence of his mission on a Galilean hillside (Matt 28:16-20), Jesus showed how disciples are made. We see this in all four Gospels (and the rest of the New Testament too), but Luke and Mark help us on our way. Essentially, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40, ESV). Such likeness has to come from constant personal exposure. Thus, when Jesus chose his twelve disciples, he did so “that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14, emphasis added). The latter purpose, preaching, is an activity to be sure. But it follows (and draws its strength from) being with Jesus. In fact, the crucial disciple-making activity commanded in the Great Commission is vitally encouraged by Jesus’ ongoing presence: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).

Spending time with, being with his disciples, in the midst of all kinds of activities, was central to Jesus’ disciple-making strategy. The relationship did not end when a particular activity did. But since that’s the case, how can we make disciples (and so fulfill the Great Commission) any differently? Friendship for the long haul, across a range of changing activities, is the way to go. In other words, for disciple-making Christians, ABF has significant limitations.

If that is so, it seems ABF needs some fixing, which brings all kinds of cultural and behavioral implications into play. But I’ll have to explore this (and the broader question of friendship in America) more deeply in posts to follow.

______________________

[1] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin and Gary B, McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004).