Christmas in August @ SEBTS

Dear SEBTS Family,

Words are not adequate to express my excitement as we look forward to the fall 2009 semester. I am so excited about so many things that will take place this semester, some of which we will experience as unexpected surprises from our great God! I want to remind you that in chapel on both August 25 and 27 we will be taking our “Christmas in August” offering for the International Mission Board. Amazingly, not everyone in the SBC thinks this is a good idea. This genuinely breaks my heart. However, I think heaven is pleased when God’s people give sacrificially to reach the nations with the gospel, regardless of when they do it! How urgent is the need? Just read the August 14th IMB press release below and decide for yourself. 1.6 billion people have yet to hear. We must pray. We must go. We must give. The worship of King Jesus demands it. The heart cry of the nations requires it. I love you and count it an honor to serve you at this Great Commission seminary.

Danny Akin

Lottie Moon shortfall limits Gospel access, leaves missionaries on hold


By Don Graham

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–They had said goodbyes to their neighbors, friends and church family. They had sold their home and furniture. They had resigned from their jobs. They had even given away the family dog, a miniature collie named Q-tip.

When Tim and Audrey Shepard* decided to answer God’s call to share Jesus in Asia as Southern Baptist missionaries, they knew there could be obstacles. But the couple never expected that the obstacle would be lack of funds from Southern Baptists.

The Shepards are two of the 69 candidates in the pipeline to serve as long-term missionaries through IMB (International Mission Board) who have been told they can’t be sent to the field at this time. That’s in addition to an estimated 350 short-term candidates who also have been turned away from missionary service this year.

In May IMB announced it would severely limit the number of missionaries sent in 2009 due to reduced giving through the Cooperative Program and a $29 million dollar shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. More than half of IMB’s annual budget comes from the Lottie Moon offering, 100 percent of which is used to send and sustain the more than 5,600 Southern Baptist missionaries serving overseas. The goal for the 2008 offering (which funds the 2009 budget) was $170 million, but only $141 million was received, $9 million less than received for the 2007 offering.

The Shepards previously served 15 years with IMB but left the field in 2004 and moved to Jacksonville, Fla., so their daughter, Nora,* could attend high school in the United States. They planned to return to the mission field when she entered college and began that process in the fall of 2008. They were on track to arrive in Asia by the end of 2009 to partner with another IMB missionary couple working to spread the Gospel among some of Asia’s minority people groups.

But all that came to a screeching halt July 27 when an IMB representative called the Shepards to explain that their missionary appointment had been put on hold because there wasn’t enough money to send them.

Audrey says the news has left the family discouraged and confused.

“You feel sort of directionless – we really don’t know what to do now,” she says. “It’s tragic that money is holding back God’s work around the world. … There are people dying every day that are not going to have the opportunity to hear about Jesus because so many missionaries are being held up.”

So far the Shepards haven’t been given a firm date when they will head to the mission field. Spring 2010 has been mentioned, but no promises have been made. That means the Shepards will be on hold for at least six months. Right now they don’t know where they’ll live or what they’ll do. They’ve decided to stay temporarily in their church’s mission house. They’re not even sure where to register their 8-year-old son, Eric,* for school this fall because that depends on where they’ll live.

There’s a chance Tim and Audrey will be able to keep their jobs in Jacksonville, but since they didn’t renew their contracts, there’s no guarantee. Tim taught middle school math and science; Audrey was a school psychologist.

“We’re ready to go to the field,” Tim says. “My mind is already on ministry and going back to secular jobs just to pay the bills doesn’t excite us too much.”

The Shepards’ delay also is having serious repercussions in Asia, at least for the team they were set to join.

Sam and Elizabeth Hughes* are Southern Baptist missionaries on the edge of exhaustion. They run a handful of ministries focusing on 24 minority people groups, 18 of which are untouched by the Gospel. Without the Shepards, that’s more than a million lost people divided between one husband-and-wife team with three young children at home.

Sam was counting on the Shepards’ arrival to provide some much-needed relief – helping with ministry logistics, training national partners and following up with new believers or those who’ve expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus. God has blessed the work to the point where it is more than Sam can handle alone. He says news of the Shepards’ delay – and of the Lottie Moon offering shortfall – hurts morale.

“It’s time for a gut check. Are we serious about reaching the world or not?” he says. “I’ve got a list as long as I am tall of things I need them (the Shepards) to be doing.”

Though it’s a serious inconvenience and fraught with logistical nightmares, the Shepards say the delay hasn’t subdued their passion for reaching Asia. In fact, they’re so committed to their calling to be Southern Baptist missionaries they’re considering moving to Asia on their own dime so they can start learning the language and be more prepared when they begin their assignment.

“Communism has destroyed souls of the people – there’s no hope,” Audrey says. “We want to be a part of sharing Christ where there are so many who are dying without Him.”

The Shepards say that if their delay, and the delay of 67 others in going to the mission field, helps Southern Baptists realize the importance of lost souls overseas, “so be it.

“I’m happy if that’s what will come of this,” Audrey says. “That people wake up and realize that they need to give their money to support missions.”

*Names changed

Don Graham is a writer with IMB.

Copyright © 2006 – 2009 International Mission Board. All Rights Reserved.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 22: A Great Commission Seminary

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence is a series of articles by faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that seeks to offer some definitions of what constitutes a GCR, why we believe the SBC is in need of such a movement, and what such a movement might look like in SBC life. The series addresses biblical, theological, historical and practical issues related to a GCR with the hope that God will use our finite and flawed efforts for His glory and the good of the people called Southern Baptist.

Looking for a Great Commission Seminary?

By Danny Akin

Why Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary exists is made plain in our mission statement: “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).” This is who we are plain and simple. Let me take the opportunity to unwrap that statement.

Southeastern Seminary exists to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is our passion and our priority. It is all about Him. If that ever changes, it would be best for us to disappear from planet earth! Our goal is to fulfill Colossians 1:18, that “He might come to have first place in everything.” Our hearts desire is to see Philippians 2:10-11 come to pass “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Southeastern Seminary aspires to be a Jesus-intoxicated seminary. We will be satisfied with nothing less.

Southeastern Seminary exists to equip students to serve the Church. We see ourselves as a servant to the churches who entrust their men and women, sons and daughters, to our care. Our reason for existing is “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:12-13). Equipping students means teaching them what to believe and how to live. Southeastern Seminary is proudly confessional. We want people to know where we stand without apology or compromise. An outstanding faculty with well-trained minds and a missionary heart gladly teach in accordance with and not contrary to: 1) The Abstract of Principles; 2) The Baptist Faith and Message; 3) The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy; 4) The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Southern Baptists, the evangelical community, and for that matter the whole world can be certain of the biblical and theological instruction taking place in Wake Forest, North Carolina. They can also be confident that we are not interested in creating ivory tower theological eggheads who are disconnected from real persons and real life. We work hard to wed the head, the heart and the hands in fulfilling the Great Commission. We believe theology and missions go hand in hand. What we teach must be translated and transferred to where people live. Biblical truth is not only concerned with what we believe, it is also concerned with what we do.

Finally, Southeastern Seminary exists to fulfill the Great Commission. We are consumed with a passion to be a Great Commission Seminary. The call to take the gospel to the lost is a consistent drumbeat at Southeastern put before every student day after day after day.

Do our students need a reason to go to the nations? No! They need a reason to stay home! That is the heartbeat of Southeastern. 1.6 billion people have yet to hear the name of Jesus. Millions more have only a nominal witness. Our seminary exists to correct this problem! We believe there is no greater joy than seeing new believers place their faith in the Lord Jesus as they identify themselves with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. And, God has promised that they would be found in every nation and from all the peoples of the earth! What a gospel! What a mission! What an assignment! This is an awesome calling given to us by an awesome God!

Jerry Rankin is a dear friend to me and he is president of the International Mission Board. This is what he has said about Southeastern Seminary:

The increasing number and consistent flow of missionary candidates coming from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for service with the International Mission Board indicates a passion for missions that permeates the campus. Southeastern has emerged as a preeminent equipper for Great Commission fulfillment, and not only in the training of future missionaries. Those who go to pastor, serve on church staffs and in other areas of ministry are impacted and influenced by a focus on missions through studies in every department and academic discipline.

I believe in Southeastern Seminary. My calling to serve here is one of pure grace and goodness. I believe we are doing well, but I am also convinced our precious Lord wants us to do even more! My constant prayer is that God will raise up William Carey’s, Adoniram and Ann Judson’s, Bill Wallace’s, and Lottie Moon’s from the students who come to our campus. Do we need a reason to train students to take the gospel to the nations? Do we need a reason, as a seminary, to train a new generation of Great Commission Christians both at home and around the world? No, the commission is plain, and the need is self-evident.

Let me close with a personal word of appreciation that I hope will go out far and wide. Southeastern Seminary is particularly grateful for the faithful and generous support of Southern Baptists. They make it possible for us to provide the finest theological education at the lowest cost anywhere in the world. If you doubt this, just do a little cost comparison. You will be shocked at the difference! During this time of economic struggle, this commitment on the part of Southern Baptists is especially appreciated and it has never been more important. Southern Baptists make it possible for us to train Great Commission Christians. Thank you. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for believing in what we do. It is a joy to partner with you in glorifying Jesus and fulfilling His Great Commission.