BtT Interview: Matt Rogers

[Editor’s Note: In this Between the Times Interview we talk with Matt Rogers, Pastor at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, SC, about his new book Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church for the Church (Seed Publishing Group, 2014)Matt is a SEBTS M.Div. grad and PhD Student, so he talks about his book and how the training he received at SEBTS prepared him to write it.]

Aspire pic1. What is the main idea of Aspire?

Church leaders must do more than simply affirm the Great Commission. We also have to do the hard work to finding practical ways to empower all of God’s people to meaningfully participate in this grand mission. For too long the church has grown increasingly dependent on vocational pastors to do the work of disciple-making while the majority of the church remains passive. Pastors are equally complicit in this process as we have often failed to do the hard work of training our people to know how to make disciples themselves. Aspire was written to provide the church with a path for one-on-one relational discipleship undertaken over the course of at least one year. The book is divided into three, 12-week sections: Gospel, Ministry, and Mission. Section 1 aims to provide a robust, gospel framework derived from God’s Word that moves through God’s redemptive work from creation to consummation. Section 2 focuses on the process of spiritual formation and growth that results from heartfelt worship and is demonstrated in practices such as prayer and Bible reading. The final section pushes the disciple to live all of life on mission as they seek to declare and demonstrate the gospel to a watching world.

2. What makes Aspire different from other books on discipleship, church, etc?

I began Aspire with the premise that the churches who would find the book helpful did not need to be convinced of the disciple-making mandate that Jesus has given to his church. My desire was to spend more time addressing the “how” question of disciple-making. How can the men and women who fill our churches take a younger believer through an intentional process of disciple-making? The answer requires a book that is more than a theological textbook or a Bible-study. The book is designed in a workbook-like fashion that will allow the disciple-maker and the disciple space for reflective journaling on the topic under consideration. Ideally, the pair would meet each week discuss how God was transforming them through His Word. Books alone will not make disciples, but my prayer is that a book like Aspire will make it easier for churches to both affirm and live the Great Commission.

3. How much of the book (or the idea for it) emerged from your ministry as a pastor?

The best books are forged in the fires of local church ministry. Church planting actually forced me to write this book. I knew that I was planting a church to make disciples, but I, like many pastors, had never been discipled myself. Week after week I was challenging my people to make disciples, but I found that I was increasingly relying on my sermons and the church’s programs to do the work of disciple-making. As a result, I was nervous that the church was doing the same. They heard the call to disciple-making and knew this was the measure of our church’s health. Increasingly, however, I had well-meaning, long-time Christians who seemed insecure and discouraged by their lack of clarity on how to go about the task that I was calling them to. Most of those who were active in disciple-making had developed a plan through a parachurch ministry while in college through ministries like Cru or Navigators. I was burdened by the fact that many of the adults in our church who had been walking with Jesus for several decades seemed to lack a clear plan for discipleship, though they are the ones who often have the most to offer.

4. How did your time at SEBTS prepare you to write such a book?

I came to SEBTS to get an education and I got much more than that. I also fell in love with the local church and her God-given mission to make disciples of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. My time as a Master’s, and now a PhD student, allowed me to develop a robust understanding of God’s mission in the world and a contextual application of the Great Commission for the church who God entrusted to my care in Greenville, SC. The faculty provided exemplary models of leaders who were shaped by God’s mission and fostered an environment that was theological rich while still practically applicable. The seminary provided a tangible conduit of God’s grace to me and the lasting value of Aspire will be a testimony to the training, support, and encouragement that I found at Southeastern.

Order your copy of Aspire at Amazon, or Seed Publishing Group, where you can get 10% off orders of 25 or more copies. For info on the faculty, programs, and students of SEBTS, check out sebts.edu.

 

Southeastern Seminary (2): A Mission Centered on our Lord’s Great Commission

[Note: This blogpost is the second installment in a five-part series which articulates and expounds Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s mission to be a Great Commission seminary.]

The mission of God, depicted in the previous blogpost, is one in which he redeems his imagers and restores his good creation. However, we find ourselves living “between the times,” as it were. We live in an era between the first and second comings of our Lord, an era in which Christ’s reign has been initiated but not fully realized. In this time between the times, the Lord commissions us to be signs and instruments of his kingdom, charging us to bring the totality of our lives under submission to his Lordship, and making disciples of all the ethne. One of the purest distillations of this mission is found in the Matthean account of the Great Commission, to which the seminary’s mission statement refers. Matthew writes, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Mt 28:19-20). Matthew presupposes the mission of God and applies it to the mission of God’s people in a way that is uniquely helpful for articulating the seminary’s ministries. Arising from the main points of this text are three imperative characteristics of our seminary faculty:

1. At SEBTS, we will not take for granted the Lordship of Christ. Our Lord begins this passage by declaring that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth. This “heaven and earth” language points the reader back to the Genesis account, linking Christ the Redeemer with God the Creator. Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, is the one true and living God. This Jesus—Lord of creation and new creation—is the one who commands us and does so with universal authority. A healthy Great Commission seminary, therefore, will provide an environment in which students learn to bring all of life under submission to Christ’s Lordship. Christ is Lord over our personal, social, and cultural lives; Sovereign over our spiritual, moral, rational, creative, relational, and physical lives; King over our families, churches, workplaces, and communities.

2. At SEBTS, we will make disciple-making the focal point of our mission. Just as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sent them to others. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). His directive is missiological, extending beyond Jerusalem and the people of Israel to the uttermost reaches of the earth—to all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. It is proclamatory and prophetic, in that believer’s baptism by immersion serves as a proclamation and a picture of the gospel, and a preview of the coming Kingdom, when Christ the King will resurrect not only his anthropos but also his cosmos. It is ecclesiological, as baptism precedes and leads to fellowship with a local church. It is personal and spiritual, as baptism signifies one’s personal profession of allegiance to the Triune God.  Finally, it is deeply pedagogical and theological as it involves teaching everything that Christ commanded, a charge that ultimately involves us in teaching the entirety of the Christian Scripture, in whom Christ is the towering actor and of whom Christ is the ultimate author. A Great Commission seminary, therefore, is one in which students learn to study and to teach the Scriptures in their entirety; one which encourages personal and spiritual renewal and corporate spiritual vitality; one which understands its mission as arising from the church and in turn serving the church; one which pulses with the heartbeat of world mission, recognizing that we live in a time—between the times—when God is searching for servants who will say “Here I am” in willingness to take the gospel to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

3. At SEBTS we will engender trust in Christ, who alone can empower our mission. In our mission to make disciples, the Lord will always be with us. He undergirds the mission with his presence and power, and will do so until the end. Because of his resurrection, the world has a deeply joyful ending, one in which the Lord redeems for himself worshipers from among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and he dwells with them forever in a renewed heaven and earth. A Great Commission seminary, therefore, is one which engenders confidence in God, the gospel, and our mission. The task is daunting, considering that opposition to the gospel has never been more formidable than in the twenty-first century. The magnitude of our task, however, is matched and exceeded by the magnitude of our biblical convictions: that God is a missionary God; that a central theme in the Scriptures is God’s desire to win the nations unto himself; that God will do so through the gospel of his incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son; that the church’s task in each generation is to proclaim the gospel, make disciples of the nations, and bring God glory in every conceivable manner; and that God has promised and will secure the final triumph of his gospel, even to the ends of the earth.

What Does it Mean to be a World Christian?

I don’t read very many books more than once. One book that I’ve read several times in the past few years is Don Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, 2nd ed. (Baker, 2004). I recently had cause to read Carson’s fine book once again, this time with a Southeastern student and fellow First Baptist Durham member whom I’m discipling. The final chapter, an exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:19–27, is titled “The Cross and the World Christian.” In that chapter, Carson provides an excellent short summary of what it means to be world Christians:

Their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom is self-consciously set above all national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances.
Their commitment to the church, Jesus’ messianic community, is to the church everywhere, wherever the church is truly manifest, and not only to its manifestation on home turf.
They see themselves first and foremost as citizens of the heavenly kingdom and therefore consider all other citizenship a secondary matter.
As a result, they are single-minded and sacrificial when it comes to the paramount mandate to evangelize and make disciples (p. 117).

I appreciate Carson’s summary, which very much resonates with what I hope to communicate in my teaching and preaching ministry (however imperfectly). It also fits nicely with our ethos at Southeastern Seminary, where our mission statement is “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.” We want to be a “world seminary” equipping “world Christians” to make disciples of all peoples.

I think the only point I would add to Carson’s thoughts, and it’s a complementary one that I’m quite certain he’d affirm, is that being a world Christian begins by being covenantally united with a particular congregation, which is a local outpost of the one universal church that includes all Christians everywhere. Healthy local churches should be “world churches” that embody on a corporate level the priorities that Carson outlined above. It is through the local church that we learn to become and ultimately embrace all that it means to be a world Christian who lives, loves, and serves for the sake of the world that God so loves.online mobile game