In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week at his personal blog, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared a glimpse into the life of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as a “Great Commission” Seminary. Dr. Ashford writes:

Southeastern possesses a clear identity, confession, and mission. The seminary is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. Its faculty members confess the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and covenant to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith & Message. They further affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Together with the Board of Trustees and the administration, faculty members share a mission in which “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Mt 28:1920).” In summary, Southeastern is a confessional seminary in the Southern Baptist stream of historic Christianity whose mission is to be a Great Commission seminary.

 

Karen Swallow Prior published an article on the challenge of entertainment at First Things: “Delight in the Good.”

I’m tempted to concur with the diagnosis of our current malaise offered by Carl Trueman: “[E]ntertainment is not simply a part of our world. It is arguably the dominant essence of our world. … [E]ntertainment is now ontology.”

 

I’ve been teaching college students for nearly thirty years, and I can affirm, with Neil Postman, that entertainment has been “the dominant essence” for students for at least that long. I’ve been a member of the body of Christ for even longer, and can attest to a similar attitude of careless consumption in too many pews (and a good number of podiums). Yet the problem, I think, is not that entertainment is ontology. Rather, it is that we don’t know what place to accord entertainment within our ontology. We should beware giving it too low a place, as well as too high.

 

Our human ability to delight in the world means that entertainment is part of human nature. Today, technology makes entertainment so ubiquitous that our only options may seem to be to consume it mindlessly or to reject it mindlessly.

 

Keelan Cook shared some tips on how to map your church members in Google for local outreach. Keelan writes:

We talk a lot about hospitality today. There is no end lately to the blog posts and articles circulating the internet concerning the importance of hospitality in outreach and missions. I have several on this site.

 

Hospitality is an important aspect of ministry that Western Christians often struggle to incorporate into their lives. Compared to other areas of the world, we love our privacy, and  our home easily becomes our fortress of solitude. While homes should be a place for rest, the Bible challenges us to view them as tools for ministry. Can we honestly say we are stewarding God’s gifts well when our single, biggest purchase is never used for outreach?

 

We should change this paradigm in our churches. Homes are not caves. They are not fortresses to protect us from the hectic world outside. They are gracious gifts from our Heavenly Father to be used, in turn, for his glory. This means opening your home up to others. Yes, it means having others from your church over, but it means even more than that. Use it as a staging ground for the Great Commission.

 

When was the last time you invited unbelieving neighbors into your home?

 

Krystal Wilson posted at The Intersect Project on Colin Kaepernick: Looking Past the Outrage.

Athletes: the only people who can go from “pent house to outhouse in seconds.”

 

As a former division one athlete, I’ve heard these words a thousand times, particularly from my father. He too was a former collegiate athlete, recruited by the likes of the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, and he had become all too familiar with the unique plight of an athlete.

 

Athletes know it is far too easy to fall from the high graces of fans. One moment people are singing your praises, and the next they’re burning your jersey. Knowing the fragileness of the pedestal upon which many athletes sit, it is genuinely surprising when they risk it all for something they believe in. To take such a risk, they must find that their belief or stance is worthy of the consequences of a loss of fan base and endorsements.

 

Which brings us to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick (and several other NFL players) have decided to silently protest racial injustice in America by kneeling or raising a fist during the playing of the national anthem.

 

Kaepernick isn’t the first athlete to use his platform and take a form of silent protest on behalf of the voiceless. Kaepernick joins the likes of Muhammad Ali and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos who protested societal ills.

 

As we consider Kaepernick’s stance, let’s look past the distractions and consider some gospel implications and a way forward.

 

Sarah Rainer shared seven tips to address mental health issues in the church. Sarah writes:

One in five people in your church will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime.

 

You will have few people who have not been directly or indirectly impacted by mental health issues. With so many individuals impacted, church leaders need basic knowledge to handle these issues effectively.

 

Church leaders do not need to be experts in psychological functioning, but they do need some basic knowledge in order to offer support to individuals struggling in the church. Here are seven basic pointers that every church leader should consider when dealing with mental health issues.

 

In a recent roundtable discussion posted by The Gospel Coalition, Miguel Núñez, Danny Akin, and Bill Kynes got together to discuss their biggest fear in ministry.

 

In Case You Missed It

Dr. George Robinson posted at the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing how the SBC has a baptism problem, and it’s not what you think. Dr. Robinson writes:

The SBC has a baptism problem – and it’s not what you think it is.  For several years Southern Baptist leaders have noted and lamented a decline in baptisms.  To the degree that baptism signifies life transformation by the power of the gospel, that is a problem.  However, the real problem may actually be hidden under the surface of current stats.  The real problem may in fact be what we’ve been counting all along.

 

The following quote from a 2014 Christianity Today article reveals the real problem few people are talking about.

 

“In last year’s (2013) Annual Church Profile, 60 percent of the more than 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reported no youth baptisms (ages 12 to 17) in 2012, and 80 percent reported only one or zero baptisms among young adults (ages 18 to 29). One in four Southern Baptist churches reported zero baptisms overall in 2012, while the ‘only consistently growing’ baptism group was children under five years old.”

 

Yes, it is sad when churches go an entire year without baptizing anyone.  But it is even more sad when many of the churches that are seeing baptism seem to be abandoning a key distinctive of what it means to be Baptist in the first place – regenerate church membership.  In our clamor to address one problem, we may actually be creating a larger one!  Timothy George refers to this as “the downgrading of baptism” in SBC circles.  He goes on to hit the proverbial nail on the head stating, “One can mount a robust biblical defense of believers’ baptism as a conscientious act of repentance and faith, and there are well-reasoned arguments in support of infant baptism, but ‘toddler’ or preschool baptism is something different, and relatively new in Baptist circles.”

The questions we ask will drive the response and subsequent strategy we follow.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next door asking: “Is your church part of the movement?

There is a growing movement concerning local missions in North America, and I saw evidence of it this past weekend.

 

The Reaching the Nations in North America summit was a high-water mark for me, because it demonstrated a swell of concern for what can only be seen as the providence of God providing Great Commission opportunities to our churches. The nations are in North America. People from all over the world are moving into our communities, approximately 45 million of them. So many of these people are coming from places where there is little-to-no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

It is no coincidence that God is plucking up millions from the hardest-to-reach places and placing them in the shadow of your church steeple.

 

Dr. Danny Akin posted at his personal blog explaining that changing the world begins with prayer. Dr. Akin writes:

The work of reaching and changing the world is, indeed, a work done on our knees. And, it is a work that takes on the nature of fierce and intense warfare. After all, one of Satan’s chief weapons is to cut off communication with God, communication that takes place in prayer. John Piper is certainly correct when he writes, “Prayer is meant by God to be a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom … not for the enhancement of our comforts but for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.”

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article earlier this week giving four principles for political witness in our American Babylon.

The past decade has made one thing clear to evangelicals: the social, cultural, and political ground is shifting beneath us. We are not “winning the day” with our vision of the good life. Although we have seen some incremental progress on the pro-life issue, we are experiencing consistent regression on other issues that matter most to us, such as religious liberty, human dignity, gender and sexuality, and free speech.

 

In this moment of uncertainty as we find ourselves marginalized in an increasingly pagan public square, the Old Testament offers important lessons for us. Especially prescient is the story in Daniel 3 about three Jewish men—Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego—who are Babylonian captives under King Nebuchadnezzar. From these mid-level government officials, we learn four significant lessons about being faithful witnesses in a pagan public square.

 

Dr. Ashford also spoke last weekend in Nashville at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference. Dr. Ashford’s speech was quoted in an article from The Tennessean:

A Southern Baptist seminary professor called the current election cycle a “nearly unmitigated disaster” and a “colossal dumpster fire,” but he’s found a silver lining.

 

The polarizing 2016 presidential election has pushed some evangelical Christians to care less about what political parties and news outlets say they should believe and care more about how their views reflect the gospel, said Bruce Ashford, of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. Ashford shared his frank but hopeful remarks Thursday during the national conference for the public policy arm of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention.

 

“I say nearly unmitigated because I think it has taken something of this magnitude maybe to awaken many of us or most of us to the fact that we should not be beholden to any narrative,” Ashford said. “As I see it, every modern political ideology has idols working underneath it … I think this election has been unsettling enough that we might once again realize the gospel transcends and calls into question all of those things.”

 

Finally, last but not least, be sure to check out The College at Southeastern’s new website!

THE COLLEGE AT SOUTHEASTERN IS MORE THAN JUST A COLLEGE—IT’S A CALLING. Whether you become a lawyer, business professional, English teacher, missionary or pastor, God has a plan for you to be involved in his mission. This is a place where you can be trained both theologically and vocationally. Whatever you choose to study, we can equip you to live out the gospel in any career path.

In Case You Missed It

At SBC Voices, Alan Cross interviewed out Seminary President, Dr. Danny Akin on the Great Commission, immigration, and rejecting fear.

The next When Heaven and Earth Collide podcast interview is up with Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Akin and I have a wide-ranging conversation about how loving and ministering to immigrants coming to America relates to Scriptural commands involving the Great Commission and loving our neighbor. Dr. Akin calls upon Christians to engage immigrants with the gospel, with service and sacrificial love, and to put aside fear of others and trust Christ in what God is doing in the people movements around the world.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Laura Thigpen posted a helpful article discussing how as Christians, our spiritual disciplines are on display on social media. Laura writes:

As a freshman at a secular college I took on the daunting task of writing a paper arguing a counter-cultural idea: That technology, in an effort to promote communication and human interaction, would in fact complicate it.

 

At that time, Facebook was exclusive to Harvard students, Myspace was the dominant social network and the first iPhone had not been released. Ten years later, the world is more connected than ever — and, yes, communication is more complicated than ever.

 

Here’s what I mean, fellow Christians: Much of our engagement on social media is guided by our ill-informed, uninstructed and unchallenged spiritual minds. We often cave to the temptation to use social media as a platform to spread spiritually malnourished thoughts, ideas and convictions. I often recall C. S. Lewis’ words inThe Weight of Glory:

 

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

 

There is a severe lack of the spiritual disciplines in our approach to and engagement with social media that contributes to the elimination of critical thinking and genuine human interaction on this platform.

 

Dr. Jamie Dew continues his series of posts on Anselm’s Proslogion with a post titled “The God of Inaccessible Light.”

“Truly, Lord, this is the inaccessible light in which You dwell. For truly there is nothing else which can penetrate through it so that is might discover You there.”(Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, ch. 15)

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve highlighted a few nuggets from Anselm’s Proslogion. This first 7 chapters are probably the best known from the work, but here, before ending the series on Anselm, I want to highlight a few other parts of the work that are either helpful, interesting, or edifying for us. Throughout the remaining 19 chapters, Anselm reminds us of a few important things.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax interacts with 4 ways which Dr. Danny Akin feels that the world will pressure you to conform.

Many older evangelicals view the USA in ways that resemble Israel in the Old Testament: God has chosen to pour His blessing on this nation and to commission it for His purposes of extending freedom throughout the world. 

 

Many younger evangelicals view the USA in ways that resemble ancient Babylon: we live in a society that is increasingly hostile to God’s truth and God’s people.

 

Neither framing of our current situation fully captures the reality. The United States is neither Israel nor Babylon, and both frameworks face problems when applied too closely to today’s situation. Still, the metaphor of “exile” remains an apt description of Christians who are sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

 

We are exiles in every age, in every country, but perhaps we sense that reality more powerfully in places where Christians are marginalized, with privileges stripped and penalties imposed as a way of pressuring us toward cultural compromise.

 

I recently edited several Gospel Project sessions from Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. His sessions cover the book of Daniel, which describes the time when Jews who were exiled to Babylon showed incredible courage and faithfulness.

 

Akin lays out four ways in which the Babylonian empire sought to bring the Jewish exiles in line with their pagan ways. These strategies show us how the world, in every era, can pressure Christians to conform.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article at his personal blog sharing eight writers which have shaped him spiritually. Dr. Ashford writes:

Over the course of the past two years, I have had occasion to reflect on the various ways the Lord has discipled me and disciplined me since I came to saving faith during high school. The catalyst for those reflections was my 40th birthday and the recognition that, although God has graciously worked in my heart in many ways to conform me to his will, there is yet a lot of work to be done.

 

God has worked in my heart in many ways, using my parents, churches, friends, critics, students, bosses, and colleagues. He has taught me and challenged me through Scripture reading and memory. He has convicted me and comforted me in prayer.

 

But he has also fostered spiritual growth is through certain books I have read. Among the many authors whose books have shaped my walk with God, I have distilled the list down to eight. Now, this list of eight is not especially sophisticated. It is not a “balanced” list of “all the right authors” a person should read to help them in the course of their spiritual formation. It is not a list of people with whom I agree theologically on all of the particulars. It is not a list for snobs who find it beneath them to read the writings of authors not as highbrow as they might prefer. Instead, it is simply this list of some of the books the Lord has used most powerfully in my life over the course of the past several decades.

 

In case these books might be helpful in somebody else’s spiritual formation, I have listed them here in chronological order of when I discovered them in my own journey and provided a brief explanation of why you might want to read them also.