The organgey, stone-laced landscape of the southwest already screams that you’re somewhere different from the dense green of the Bible Belt. For Nate Millican, the desert of Arizona represents a mission field. His family, he says, is thriving in their new home of Phoenix. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s 1,700 miles away from his native Kentucky, two timezones away from extended family and his home church.
The church Millican leads provides rich community, and that’s been a saving grace for his family.
“Our community is life-giving to me,” he said, talking about his own participation in a community group. This is important for him and his family, because God’s call to Phoenix was clear — but that doesn’t make it easy.
“What makes it hard for me personally is being removed from family and friends,” he said. “I’m 1,717 miles away.”A Call to the Desert
To call Millican a Kentucky native isn’t quite accurate. And in many ways, he was born to live wherever God leads. “My dad was a pilot, so I was nomadic,” he said. “Where am I from? It’s a great question.”
By the time Millican was 16 years old, he’d already lived in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Delaware, Rhode Island, Washington state, Delaware again, and finally Kentucky.
By the end of his high school years, the Millicans lived in Louisville. Despite initial plans to go to the Air Force Academy and join the family business, Millican enrolled to study marketing at the state’s Big Blue university. He liked that Lexington is fully 70 miles away from Louisville, and he liked that it is only 70 miles away from home.
He explained, “I could have my own life, I could come home when I needed to.”
Plus, he was “getting really involved” at his Louisville church, Highview Baptist. The student pastor there, a seminary student named Jimmy Scroggins, discipled and mentored Millican. And even after he moved to Lexington, he drove back to Highview almost every weekend. By the time he came to the end of college, Millican knew his future lay neither in a military plane nor a marketing firm. The relationship with Scroggins and experience of the ministry at Highview fostered in Millican a sense of God’s call toward ministry; he wanted to replicate for others the kind of hands-on mentorship he received.
During his senior year, Millican did manage to stay in Lexington one weekend. He attended a surprise birthday party, where he met a girl named Lauren. He enrolled in the master of divinity degree program at Southern Seminary immediately after college and, in April of 2003, Millican used his first spring break to take a honeymoon.
Though Millican said it didn’t feel this way at the time, the life of ministry began to move quickly for the newlyweds.
Before long, Millican worked on staff at Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington and then at Highview as a college pastor. And before he graduated from the seminary, Millican got in contact with a church in Orlando, Florida, and soon after accepted a job as a discipleship pastor at the megachurch Aloma Baptist. After three years there, he came back to the Louisville area, taking a senior pastor role at Oak Park Baptist Church in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The church grew steadily, from about 150 members to almost 350. Then Kevin Ezell, who had been Millican’s pastor at Highview and by then was the president of the North American Mission Board, sent him a text message: “Hey, would you be interested in pastoring in Phoenix?”The Pre-Christian Valley
The Phoenix metro area houses around 4 million people. You’ve heard that western society is post-Christian. If you talk to Millican about it, he’ll tell you the western United States isn’t — but not because of revival or some gospel preservation or lasting, cultural Christian appeal. No, Millican will tell you the west isn’t post-Christian because it was never “Christian” to begin with: The American west is a pre-Christian society.
“There’s never really been a Christian presence in the West,” he said, not like in the American South or the Northeast.
So when Ezell reached out, Millican said, “Phoenix, wow. That sounds kind of exciting. If Kevin is taking the time to text me about it, I’m intrigued.”
The church Ezell talked about was Foothills Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church nestled in the neighborhood of Ahwatukee, an upwardly mobile community full of families, just southwest of the Phoenix city center. After Millican preached in-view of a call, the members of Foothills voted 300 to 1 to call Millican as senior pastor.
Millican, Lauren, and their then-three kids — Luciann (9), Lydia Grace (8), and Samuel (6) — moved west. (Their 17-month old, Laureleigh Joy, was born in Phoenix.)
“We live in a very affluent area,” he described. “People have very little margin with their money or with their time. … We have M.D.s and Ph.D.s and people who are entrepreneurs — that’s the demographic at Foothills.”
Because of that, he says, many of the people with whom he interacts have no space for faith at all, much less Christianity. And, what’s more, they don’t see the value of making space for spiritual things. It’s a hyper-individualistic culture, one where sports like hiking and kayaking get more traction than team sports — a massive collection of people devoid of community.
That’s what Millican is doing at Foothills: He’s trying to build a church culture that compels the people in Ahwatukee looking for connection, and a church that connects them to the gospel. When he arrived, Millican led the church through a year-long process of discovering and shaping the church’s mission: Engage people to put Jesus first for the sake of others.Foothills Baptist Church in Ahwatukee, Arizona.
And the congregation is buying in. Millican says moving the culture in this direction isn’t happening fast, but it is happening. And he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s a beneficiary.The Lessons of Emergency Surgery
Millican’s mom, back in 2009, was at an audition for a church choir special when she collapsed. She’d suffered an aneurysm that “leaked,” and doctors rushed her into emergency brain surgery. In the realm of brain issues, what Mrs. Millican went through was considered mild, and she recovered well.
Then in 2013, Millican’s father also suffered an aneurysm rupture in the same part of his brain, a much more severe condition. After being rushed to the hospital and undergoing his own emergency brain surgery for between five and six hours, he too recovered.
Both of the elder Millicans joined the 50 percent of those who suffer aneurysms and survive. The odds, Millican said, of two people each having the same brain problem in the same lobe are wildly low.
Doctors and specialists warned the Millican children that this increased their own risk of bleeding on the brain. Millican, along with his brother and sister, each got checked.
One of them indeed had a brain problem: Nate.
“I was found to have a small, like one-to-two-millimeter aneurysm,” he said. “It was just there; they don’t know how it happened.”
Doctors told him the issue seemed manageable and he should just make sure to have a scan every five years to monitor it.
Nate MillicanFast forward to 2017, seven years later, and Millican went in to get his brain scanned. A neurologist in Phoenix said basically the same thing as the doctors in Louisville. But as a final check, the doctor referred him to an aneurysm specialist.
The specialist who looked at Millican confirmed: “You do have an aneurysm; it’s one to two millimeters.” But his diagnosis of the problem was life-changingly different: “But given your parents history, I’m quite certain we’re going to [take action]. … The only way to treat an aneurysm is brain surgery.”
Another specialist, who happened to be one of the world’s most prominent brain surgeons, explained: “If you had an aneurysm and they found it today, they would say, You’re at a one percent chance it’ll rupture or bleed.” But because both of his parents suffered aneurysms in the same lobe, the doctor explained he was actually sitting at more like a 20 percent probability of a “rupture or bleed.”
“It would be medical malpractice for us not to do brain surgery,” he said.
“I was stunned,” Millican said. “I got in my car and I wept.”
He had a craniotomy — a surgical opening of the skull — two weeks later to fix his aneurysm. Millican now says this surgery taught him perhaps more than anything else in his life. He is quick to list four main lessons.
“I learned gratitude and compassion,” he explained. “I think I’m more apt to listen, to be empathetic and sympathetic to sufferers.
“I learned finiteness,” he said. “I couldn’t walk from here to the other side of the room without being completely exhausted; I didn’t have the energy. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even pray. I stuttered and had a hard time collecting my thoughts.
“I had a work ethic that wasn’t sustainable, and, worse than that, I don’t think it honored Jesus. I learned rest. ”
The lessons of Millican’s brain surgery have made a lasting impression on him and on his ministry, according to him. He can point to myriad ways those four main things he learned have shaped who he is on the other side of the craniotomy. It also helped form community in Phoenix, as people he’d only been pastoring for about a year rallied to support him and his family.
It also made him more grateful for the community he has spread around the country.
“Dr. Mohler has a saying: I’m not going to get it exactly right, but basically it’s ‘Do ministry with a band of brothers’,” Millican said. “And Southern Seminary was formative in that it gave me a group of guys; I have a band of brothers who have made an indelible impression on me.”
He talks about guys leading ministries all around the world and how the bonds they formed at Southern Seminary still hold them together. He speaks just as fluidly about how some of the professors gave him a vision for Scripture that he still holds onto, particularly New Testament professor Brian Vickers.
“I remember Brian Vickers’ talking about where Jesus says, “believe in me and streams of eternal life are going to swell up in you,” Millican remembers. “His imagery and how he walked through that with so much passion was contagious, and I’ll never forget it.”
For the whole Millican family, Southern Seminary holds a special place.
The elder Millican, General Nat Millican, has been on the seminary’s Foundation Board, and is this year starting a term on the Board of Trustees. The family relationship with Southern goes back to a connection with the Mohlers.
“My mom and Mary Mohler are close friends,” he explained. “Dr. Mohler was teaching pastor at Highview when we came, and my dad has been involved in leadership at Highview since then. The Mohlers have just been friends of the family. My family legitimately loves the Mohlers.”
The kind of community Millican experienced in Kentucky, at Highview and at Southern Seminary, inform the very reason he moved his family those 1,700 miles away: Because he owns a vision for how the gospel shapes the lives of believers and how compelling that kind of “life-giving” community can be to a culture that has never experienced it.
Aaron Cline Hanbury is the director of news and information at Southern Seminary.
When you attend Southern Seminary, you expect a lot of things: top-notch theological education, thriving church life, deep relationships with others called to ministry. And all these can be found. But students usually graduate from Southern Seminary having also fallen in love with the community beyond the beech trees on the front lawn of our historic campus.
Surrounding the campus are numerous rich and diverse neighborhoods. This issue of Towers will give you a sampling of those neighborhoods … along with a few nudges to minister while you’re here.Old Louisville
Founded in 1925, the Speed Art Museum (known colloquially simply as “Speed”) is the oldest museum of art in the state of Kentucky.
Old Louisville is an official historic district — the third-largest in the United States — and its architecture will take you to a different time. It also boasts the largest collection of Victorian-era homes in the United States. It is a diverse and densely populated urban community now, but when it was originally built in the 1870s, it was suburban. In the 20th century, many of the extravagant old homes were divided into apartments for college students, bringing a younger demographic to the area.
The historic St. James Court hosts a free, public annual art show that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each fall.
Crescent Hill is lined by 19th century railroad tracks that once were a vital connection between Louisville and Frankfort, the Kentucky state capital. They now provide a central feature of a thriving urban neighborhood just a short walk from the seminary. The Crescent Hill Reservoir, pictured above, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features some unique Gothic architecture. It’s a popular spot for runners.
Founded in 2009, Comfy Cow is one of Louisville’s most popular ice cream shops.
Get away from seminary studies for a little while and check out a book or movie from one of nine different branches of the Louisville Free Public Library.
Germantown & Shelby Park
Founded by Southern Seminary grads who liked home coffee roasting, Sunergos is a favorite coffee shop for locals. It is located in Germantown.
Settled by German immigrants in the 1800s not long after the city’s founding, Germantown is now lined with shotgun houses and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Louisville. Neighboring Shelby Park was built in 1907 and is home to the Scarlet Hope ministry.
Directly across the street from Sojourn Church Midtown in the Shelby Park neighborhood, Scarlet’s Bakery is a business connected with Scarlet Hope, a ministry that offers women trapped in the sex industry a fresh start. Several female students and student wives have volunteered for the ministry.
Next to “The Beeches” itself, there is perhaps no more historically meaningful location for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary than Cave Hill Cemetery. Beautiful trees and very old gravestones mark this cemetery. Trustee-elected professors at Southern Seminary have the option of being buried here, and many have: James Boyce, John Broadus, A.T. Robertson, Duke McCall, and many other SBTS luminaries are here.
Populated by wealthy suburbanites until the 1960s, Highlands has since been known as an artsy and eclectic community surrounded by classic, Victorian-era homes. One of the hallmarks of the Highlands neighborhood is the many local restaurants and shops lining Bardstown Road. You are likely to find just about any local eats you’re looking for in this foodie hub.
While it’s still warm, get away from your dorm or library cubicle and find a quiet spot at Cherokee Park, one of the original Louisville public parks. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also laid out the grounds for New York City’s Central Park. The 2.5-mile Scenic Loop at Cherokee is a popular running location.
Ask someone who has never been to Louisville what they associate the city with, and they will almost certainly refer to something downtown. The Muhammad Ali Center and Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory are at the top of most people’s to-do list when they visit, and the KFC Yum! Center is the home of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team. Founded in the late 1700s when the city was first developed on the banks of the Ohio River (you’ll notice it’s actually older than the so-called “Old Louisville”), Downtown Louisville is a diverse place where old meets new.
Recuerdo que hace algún tiempo un profesor amigo, excelente académico en su área, fue invitado a dar ciertas conferencias en el seminario donde yo trabajaba en Latinoamérica. Como era su amigo y profesor allí me ofrecí a ayudarlo en la traducción del material que traía para compartir. El se había adelantado, y queriendo ayudarme, había pasado todo el contenido de su conferencia a través de google. Me escribió emocionado, pensando que me había hecho un favor. Era mi primera vez en tratar de ¨retraducir¨ a google, luche con la traducción como nunca. Entre frases mal elaboradas, algunas peligrosamente cómicas y otras tantas que no hacían ningún sentido, después de una lucha desesperada y llena de frustración me tuve que dar por rendido. ¡No quiero ni imaginarme qué hubiera pasado si esa traducción se hubiera leído tal como estaba!
¡Cuánta necesidad tenemos de aprender de verdad otros idiomas! Las máquinas por sofisticadas que sean nunca podrán remplazar a las personas, especialmente en el proceso de comunicar el evangelio. Es triste que muchos de aquellos que están en el ministerio cristiano y que están en contacto con otras culturas simplemente no quieren o piensan que es innecesario conocer el idioma del otro. ¡Al fin de cuenta siempre habrá google!
La Escritura siempre debe ser nuestro modelo para hacer ministerio inclusive en este sentido. Existen suficientes trazos en los escritos del Nuevo Testamento, por ejemplo, que revelan que sus autores era políglotas. No cabe duda de que el griego era la lengua franca del tiempo, pero además de ella, ellos podían comunicarse en la lengua del pueblo de la gran palestina, el arameo. Sabían hablar y leer el lenguaje de la sinagoga, el hebreo. De la misma forma, en el AT encontramos grandes ejemplos de hombres y mujeres usados por Dios por su habilidad de comunicarse en varios idiomas (Moisés, José, Daniel, etc.). De acuerdo con muchos historiadores, Jesús mismo hablaba varios idiomas. ¡No hay sorpresa en esto! El es la palabra de Dios que comunica esa palabra dentro de contextos humanos, sociales, y lingüísticos específicos. (Juan 1:14-18).
Por otro lado, hace muchos años cuando llegué al seminario, me enseñaron que era necesario que yo estudiara el griego, el hebreo y el arameo para poder entender mejor los escritos bíblicos. Nadie ponía o pone en duda, creo yo, que hacerlo es necesario a fin de que no dependamos solamente de lo que otros han traducido. Algunos, sin embargo, aun haciendo todo este trabajo, terminan distorsionando el mensaje bíblico al estar satisfechos con que se haga una traducción mediocre o descuidada de su enseñanza. Hace apenas unos días alguien me pasó un librito de evangelismo que estaba siendo traducido al español, me bastó leer un par de párrafos iniciales para darme cuenta de que ¡no hacía sentido! ¡Y cuando les pregunté por qué no esperábamos a corregirlo, me contestaron que había prisa pues lo tenían que entregar en sólo unos días! ¡Si comunicaba mal o no comunicaba parecía no ser importante!
Dice don Samuel Escobar que la gran bendición de la revelación bíblica es que sea traducible y que eso significa, por un lado, que todo lenguaje humano ha sido dignificado y desacralizado al mismo tiempo (The New Global Mission, IVP 2013, p.12). Ningún lenguaje es más sagrado que otro y todos los lenguajes deben tratarse con el mismo respeto, especialmente cuando comunicamos el evangelio.
Existe algo que google o cualquier otro traductor mecánico le sería muy difícil, si no imposible, corregir. Esto es la sensibilidad cultural con la que normalmente un idioma va asociado. La traducción mecánica de modismos, por ejemplo, produce un horrible resultado en la traducción. ¿Cómo puede una traducción a otra cultura traducir lo que significa “meterse en camisa de once varas” en español? El asunto no es sencillo porque no se trata de comunicar sólo el concepto significado sino también la fuerza íntima y familiar que frases como éstas comunican a la mente del oyente, y también a sus sentimientos e identidad. Ayer mismo, un pastor de una iglesia hispana importante en Dallas Fort Worth me compartió cómo algunos de sus predicadores invitados han creído que traducir es solo una cosa de transliterar a la google: “¡No problemo! ““¿Está buena hermana?” ¡Muchos y horrorosos ejemplos para compartir aquí!
¡Y todavía hay algunos que no creen que haya necesidad de buenas traducciones, y no sólo de estas, si no de artículos y libros cristianos escritos en el idioma vernáculo del lector! ¡Todas estas cosas son sumamente necesarias cuando comunicas el evangelio del Señor!
Mucho del retraso y literario y misional de América Latina en los círculos evangélicos se debe, entre otras cosas, a que hemos estado acostumbrados a leer literatura superficial, ¡traducida de otros contextos, y muchas veces mal traducida!
Tratar de leer a Shakespeare en español obviamente es posible. ¡Pero, no es igual a poder leerlo en inglés! Existe un “algo” que se pierde, algo que yo sospecho es “mucho.” Es como creer que no se pierde nada al leer el Quijote en inglés. Lo he leído y parece tan insípido como “papas sin sal.”
Así como les pido a mis estudiantes que aprendan inglés para poder leer obras teológicas y comentarios bíblicos que puedan ayudarlos aun más en su fe evangélica, así invito a aquellos que leen sólo inglés a que aprendan a leer y comunicarse en otro lenguaje, especialmente con el que están en más contacto. Hacerlo amplía nuestros horizontes y nos libera del provincialismo que nos impide ser fieles comunicadores del evangelio.
Quiero alabar a Dios por la oportunidad de poder escribir estas líneas en español y espero que los lectores de “Theological Matters” puedan disfrutar de estos “Asuntos Teológicos” en el lenguaje de Gabriel García Márquez, de Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz y Sallarue. Quiera Dios usar todos los artículos escritos en español de este blog para comunicar mejor el mensaje eterno del evangelio.
Muchas gracias google, pero prefiero aprender el idioma original, prefiero escribir en español… ¿o en inglés?
I remember that some time ago a friend of mine, an excellent scholar in his area, was invited to give certain lectures at the seminary where I used to work in Latin America. Since I was his friend and professor there, I volunteered to help him in the translation of the material he would share and read with the students. Wanting to help me, he had gone ahead and translated all the content of his conference with Google. He wrote to me excited, thinking that he had done me a big favor. It was my first time trying to “re-translate” Google. I struggled with that translation like never before. Between badly elaborated phrases, some dangerously comical ones and many others that did not make any sense at all, after a desperate fight in full frustration, I gave up. I do not even want to imagine what would have happened if that translation had been read as it was!
How much need do we have to really learn other languages! Engines, as sophisticated as they may be, can never replace people, especially in the process of communicating the Gospel. However, it is sad that many of those who are in Christian ministry and who are in contact with other cultures simply do not want to know the language of their neighbors; or simply put, they do not think it is important enough. At the end of the day, there is always Google!
The Scriptures should always be our model for ministry even in this regard. There are enough traces in the New Testament writings, for example, revealing that their authors were polyglots. There is no doubt that Greek was the lingua franca of the time, but in addition to it, they could communicate in the language of the people of the great Palestinian region, Aramaic. They also knew how to read and speak the language of the synagogue, Hebrew. In the same way, in the Old Testament we find great examples of men and women used by God for their ability to communicate in several languages (Moses, Joseph, Daniel, etc.). According to some historians, Jesus Himself was fluent in several languages. No surprise! He is the Word of God that communicates God´s Word within specific human, social and linguistic contexts (John 1:14-18).
Many years ago, when I arrived at the seminary, I was taught that it was necessary for me to study Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in order to better understand the biblical writings. Nobody doubts, I believe, that doing so is necessary so that we do not depend only on someone else’s translations. Some, however, even doing all this work, end up distorting the biblical message when they are happy with a mediocre or careless translation of their teaching. Just a few days ago, someone handed me a booklet of evangelism that was being translated into Spanish; it was enough for me to read a couple of initial paragraphs to realize that it did not make sense! And when I asked them why we did not wait to correct it, they replied that they were in a hurry–they had to deliver it in just a few days! That the booklet communicated badly or not at all was not important!
Don Samuel Escobar says that the great blessing of biblical revelation is that it is translatable, and that this means all human languages have been dignified and desacralized at the same time (The New Global Mission, IVP 2013, p.12). No language is more sacred than another, and all languages must be treated with the same respect, especially when we communicate the Gospel.
There is something that for Google or for any other mechanical translator would be very difficult, if not impossible, to correct. This is the cultural sensitivity with which a language is normally associated. The mechanical translation of idioms, for example, produces a horrible result in translation. How can another culture understand what it means to “meterse en camisa de once varas” if Google just translates it, “get into an eleven-yard shirt,” from the Spanish? The issue is a complex one, for communicating is more than handing over memorized formulas. Also, it has to do with doing it with intimate and familiar energy that only those phrases are able to convey. In them, the listener finds not only familiar feelings but the identity to which he can relate.
Yesterday, a pastor of a major Hispanic church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area shared with me illustrations of how some of his guest preachers have committed all kinds of mistakes when simply thinking that the issue of translation is just transliteration. “No problemo” “¿Está buena hermana?” Too many, too horrible to share here!
Much of Latin America’s literary and missional incompetence in evangelical circles is due, among other things, to the fact that we have been accustomed to reading superficial literature, translated from other contexts, and often poorly!
Trying to read Shakespeare in Spanish is obviously possible. But it’s not the same as being able to read it in English! There is a “something” that is lost, something I suspect is “a lot.” It is like believing that nothing is lost when reading Don Quixote in English. I’ve read it, and it seems as insipid as potatoes without salt.
I ask my students to learn English in order to read solid theological works and biblical commentaries that can help them even more in their evangelical faith. Most evangelical translations, with few exceptions, are poor translations of superficial works. Most of our good books come from other contexts via Spaniard Roman Catholic translators using an esoteric Spanish and translating works that are ideologically attune with them.
In the same way, I invite those who read only English to learn to read and communicate in another language, especially with the one with which they are in more contact. Doing so expands our horizons and frees us from the provincialism and ethnocentrism that prevent us from being faithful communicators of the Gospel.
I want to praise God for the opportunity to write these lines in Spanish, and I hope that the readers of “Theological Matters” can enjoy these “Asuntos Teológicos” in the language of Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz and Sallarue. May God use all the articles written in Spanish on this blog to better communicate the eternal message of the Gospel.
Muchas gracias, Google, but I´d rather learn English… ¿o Español?
“Pray ye for the peace and increase of the church, they shall prosper that love her.”
On October 2, 1792, fourteen Baptist ministers gathered in the home of Martha Wallis and committed their lives and resources to spreading the gospel among the unreached people of the world. It was a small beginning that, in the eyes of those present, could hardly have foretold the wide-ranging impact their fellowship would have. A year later, the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen sent out their first missionary — their dear friend, fellow pastor and founding member, William Carey.Carey was the spark
At a gathering of ministers in 1791, Carey had disputed the prevailing idea that only a Pentecost-like outpouring of the Holy Spirit could usher in the salvation of the unreached peoples of the world. In May of 1792, Carey powerfully argued that the clear teaching of the New Testament was that Christ had accomplished everything necessary for the ingathering of the nations — and that Christians, therefore, ought to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.”
The gathered ministers were overwhelmed by the strength of his argument, as Carey’s close friend, John Ryland Jr., wrote, “so clearly did he prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God.” The ministers immediately agreed to meet again in October to form a society dedicated to such an effort. These shared convictions were clearly displayed in the letter sent by the Society to fellow Baptists at the end of 1792:
Do we, indeed, believe the gospel? Do we receive it in reality not as the word of man, but of God? Do we admit into our minds the representations therein given of the state of man? Have we experienced the remedy in any measure, and can we be willing this remedy for perishing souls should remain so very much unknown to the greater part of the world? Or rather, if we have experienced its healing influence, shall we not be concerned that this gospel, with all its treasures and consolations, should be universally known?Intelligence was the fuel
The rapid expansion of global trade in the eighteenth century coupled with the publication of popular travel journals like those of James Cook, provided new intelligence about the progress of the gospel among foreign cultures. Carey began keeping a detailed account of global population and the state of churches in foreign lands—notes which he used to inspire his fellow ministers to form a society dedicated to global missions.
The Society understood that they were neither the first nor the only Protestants to care about global evangelism. Their letter recognized the remarkable work God seemed to be doing among the nations in their own day—Danish missionaries in the East Indies, the Dutch in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Presbyterian ministers like John Brainerd building on the legacy of John Eliot among Native Americans in the United States, the Moravians in remote Greenland and Labrador, the Wesleyans in the Caribbean and West Indies, and Baptist African-American George Liele’s work in Jamaica. In fact, it was “the success of our worthy brethren, who have thus hazarded their lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus,” the Society wrote, that “may serve at once as a reproof to our indolence.” Thus, they concluded, “Let, then, every Christian who loves the gospel and to whom the souls of men are dear come forward in this noble cause.”Prayer catalyzed and sustained the vision
But it was prayer, not evangelistic zeal or humanistic pity, that prepared the ground and fanned the cause into flame.
Some years earlier, in 1784, Ryland had received a package from a Scottish pastor containing New England Congregationalist Jonathan Edwards’s An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer. Edwards had published the Attempt nearly four decades earlier, urging congregations in the British Empire to engage in monthly concerted prayer for worldwide revival. Ryland eagerly shared the pamphlet among fellow pastors with the result that Baptist churches across Northamptonshire began meeting on the first Monday of every month to pray for revival at home and “the spread of the gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe.” The effect among the churches was astonishing. By the following year, the pattern of monthly prayer meetings was well established. Soon churches throughout England began to take part.
And it was at one of these prayer meetings in 1784, as believers earnestly sought the face of God for the salvation of the lost, that William Carey was first arrested by the gospel’s urgent call. “As to the immediate origin of a Baptist mission,” Ryland later wrote, “I believe God himself infused into the mind of Carey that solicitude for the salvation of the heathen, which cannot fairly be traced to any other source.”Pray Ye for the Increase
Just as it was with the earliest church (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:31), prayer was the catalyst in the eighteenth century for an evangelical missionary movement which reached more people with the gospel than all previous centuries, combined. Might God be pleased to bring about another bold, missionary effort in our own day? Let us heed the Baptist Missionary Society’s 1792 exhortation:
Many Christian societies have, for some years back, united in extraordinary prayer for the enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom—and may not this be considered as a certain harbinger of success? Let us persist and we shall prevail. Pray ye for the peace and increase of the church, they shall prosper that love her. Ye that mention the name of the Lord keep not silence yourselves, nor let him rest in silence, until he establish and until he render Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
I clicked on her Facebook page with eager anticipation of seeing her husband again — an old friend — and their two children, now grown and likely with families of their own. Our two families had been among the up-and-coming leaders in our church many years ago. I viewed them both as spiritual giants. They struck me as humble. They knew Scripture deeply and walked daily with God. We left the church for seminary, they for another city and a higher rung on the corporate ladder. Surely, God had big plans for us all.
That was 20 years ago.
The pictures that stared back left me in stone cold silence. The husband was MIA. Another man stood in his place, a sight that brought instant queasiness to the pit of my stomach. The children were absent, too. Her philosophy of life was there, but it mentioned neither Christ nor any other god: “If you want to be somebody, you’ve got to grab life by the throat before it grabs you.” The lone sign of religion was a linked article from a popular prosperity preacher, titled “Finding the Better You.”
Two clicks later, I located her husband’s Facebook page. Same thing. New woman, new worldview. No kids, no God — nothing I recognized from the family I once knew.
What happened? Where are the kids? What destroyed their marriage? What shipwrecked their faith — assuming they’ve left it behind? It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
Then it hit me: This could have been me. It could have been my family. By no means do I presume to know the true condition of their hearts. Perhaps they will repent and return to Jesus. But it struck me that there is only one difference between my story and theirs. God has granted my wife and me persevering grace.
In my prayers, I rarely fail to be grateful for God’s saving grace in Christ, but I realized that I seldom thank him for the daily grace that keeps me saved. Since making that discovery, I have prayed for our former friends, but I have also thanked the Lord for continuing to send daily waves of grace onto the shore of my life.Preserved to persevere
When was the last time you rejoiced over God’s preserving grace? In preaching on James 4 recently, I landed on verse 6: “But he gives more grace.” I am continuing to believe, to repent of daily sins, to read the Bible, to preach and teach God’s Word, to write about the things of God, to love my family for one reason: God continues his work in my heart.
Our debates over “once saved always saved” or the perseverance of the saints are often one-dimensional, with little nuance. I’ve argued elsewhere that true believers cannot lose their salvation, and I believe Scripture is clear on this matter. God’s Word also anticipates that the grinding mill of time and circumstances will eventually unmask pseudo-believers as false converts (e.g., 1 John 2:19 and the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4).Jesus the prayer warrior
I am persevering in God’s grace because God’s Son is praying for me. Right now, at this moment, as I type this sentence, Jesus is at the Father’s right hand praying for me — for all his people. Our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer gives a powerful sampling of how Jesus is interceding for his people:
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me … While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost … I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one … Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17)
Jesus also interceded for Peter, knowing that the Devil would sift him as wheat, but that he would return because Jesus prayed for him. The end of John’s Gospel recounts Peter’s restoration.
If you’re a discouraged believer, take courage that Jesus is praying for you at this moment. His prayers aren’t like ours; they’re not muddled, they don’t arise from mixed motives, they’re not fallible. He prays perfectly, and the Father answers. Every time. You are persevering in grace because of your great high priest’s prayers, for you, at the Father’s right hand.Delight in prevailing grace
This is not to say we are passive in our perseverance. We continue trusting Christ through many dangers, toils, and snares. It is fully biblical to say both that we are persevering and also that God is preserving us.
I see God’s sovereign hand as I reflect on some of the more difficult turning points in my life. There were college professors who tried to talk me out of my faith, but Christ was greater still. My father died without warning when I was 22, six weeks before my college graduation. It broke my heart, but Christ was greater still. My wife and I lost our first child to a miscarriage. We grieved profoundly, but Christ was greater still. My first pastorate was filled with trials and ended long before I had planned, but Christ was greater still.
Are you still following Jesus through struggles and hardships? Are you clinging to him in spite of a thousand voices telling you to grab on to the things you can see? If so, thank God for his preserving grace. He has preserved you, and he will preserve you, through any difficult days that lie ahead — until he completes the work he began and you see him face-to-face.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.
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1. What is your method of sermon preparation?
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor of Parkside Church
Whenever I am asked to summarize my own method of preparation, I mention the following points, which I learned from an old minister when I was still a theological student. Five steps or pointers that I like to keep in mind: think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, pray yourself hot, and be yourself, but don’t preach yourself. These pointers help keep me focused from beginning to end.
Aside from the essential empowering of the Holy Spirit, if there is one single aspect of sermon preparation that is most closely tied to fluency of speech and impact in delivery, it is this: Freedom of delivery in the pulpit depends upon careful organization in the study. A good teacher clears the way, declares the way, and then gets out of the way.
There is no change of fire in the pews if there is an iceberg in the pulpit; and without personal prayer and communion with God during the preparation stages, the pulpit will be cold. When the apostles did some reorganization of the early church, it was because they realized how crucial it was for them to give themselves continually to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). To borrow from the marriage ceremony, it is imperative that “what God has joined together, no man should put asunder.” We dare not divorce our preaching from our praying.3. Where do you prefer to study for sermons?
For the past twenty years, my study has been in the church building. As our pastoral team has grown and as the busyness of the office has increased, I have created what I refer to as “the cave.” Some of my colleagues seem able to study well for short periods of time. However, once I get airborne, I need to stay there for long stretches.
In 1956, while Duke McCall, former president of Southern Seminary, and Billy Graham, the famed evangelist, were playing a round of golf, Graham casually mentioned that Harvard University had expressed interest in housing his archival materials, but before the end of the round, McCall was able to persuade Graham to give his materials to SBTS. This plan did not fully come to fruition for another three years, at the completion of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library in 1959. Graham delivered a Baccalaureate address at SBTS on May 9, 1960, and formally dedicated the Billy Graham Room on the same day. This new facility — on the second floor of the library, where it has been ever since — was used to hold materials like crusade scrapbooks, photos, and other artifacts from Graham’s ministry.
This relationship continued until 1980, when Graham’s alma mater, Wheaton College, opened their own Billy Graham Center. Yet SBTS has retained much of what Graham had already donated. These materials are still available for research and study. After Billy Graham’s death in February, the collection at SBTS remains an important resource for learning about his life and ministry.
The seminary’s own archives were not formally organized until 1975, when the library hired a part-time worker, Clara McCartt, to bring order to its archival materials. This original archives office was located in a small room in the basement, and it held the papers of the past presidents, trustee reports, manuscripts, and studies related to seminary history, photographs, and seminary publications. During the 1978-1979 school year, the Archives office was relocated to the second floor of the library, near the Billy Graham Room, but still a separate facility.
For many years, a series of part-time workers were tasked with cataloging and indexing archival materials. The staff also funneled time and resources into restoring some of the seminary’s old portrait paintings and preparing exhibits and displays for the library. In 1985, archives workers helped install the Haldeman Bible Collection room in the first floor — a significant feature of the library even to this day.
It wasn’t until 1994 that the seminary hired a full-time, professional Archives and Special Collections Librarian: Gregory A. Wills. He led the effort to merge the Archives office with the Billy Graham Room, arranged the adjacent Rare Book Room, and expanded the staff to include additional full-time and part-time assistants. This move also involved taking responsibility over the library’s collection of Baptist Minutes, which at the time included materials from over 2,200 state and local Baptist associations. Wills’ team made great efforts to use better archival storage materials and practices, and they established a better system for organizing and cataloging the photograph collection, a system still in place today. Wills transitioned to teaching full-time in 1999.
The Archives’ current staff includes full-time archivists Adam Winters and Chris Fenner and a part-time assistant. Much of the same work continues that was started under Wills, but with more acquisitions and donations of materials and a greater emphasis on digitizing materials for an electronic, internet-driven generation. Starting around 2009, the Archives office took on the responsibility for preserving and digitizing the seminary’s extensive collection of audio and video media, and in 2012, it assumed oversight of the library’s rare music collection.
Currently, the Archives serve researchers of all kinds, including students, faculty, campus offices, alumni, Baptist churches seeking records, and genealogists studying family history. The office still receives historical donations of various kinds. Staff members give presentations to seminary classes, both in-office and in-classroom, and prepare historical displays for the library. The library’s two full-time archivists contribute to scholarly research and publication, represent the seminary at professional conferences, and digitize materials for the Boyce Digital Library.
Materials in the Archives and Special Collections are available for research Monday through Friday, 9-5, on the second floor of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.
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When I was a child, my two sisters shared a bedroom. It was larger than mine, and I wanted it. On one occasion, while my parents were gone, I convinced my sisters to switch rooms with me. “If you really love me,” I said, “you will switch rooms with me.” So they did. We moved my furniture into their room and their furniture into my room. It lasted for a couple of hours until my parents got home.
Giving me whatever I want is a common juvenile definition of love. “If you love me, you will buy me that game. If you don’t buy me that game, you don’t love me.”
Thankfully, I no longer operate from this defective, juvenile, manipulative definition of love. Yet what I abandoned as juvenile, society is in the process of affirming. Society tells us to follow your heart, trust your feelings, and embrace whatever comes naturally. For society, with ever-increasing scope, love means doing whatever it is that you want and supporting others in whatever they want. Affirming such decisions is love, while having the gall to do otherwise is hate.
This definition of love is probably most pervasive in discussions regarding sexuality. Supporting someone who chooses to live a homosexual or transgender lifestyle is portrayed as a sign of love, whereas disagreeing with such a decision is perceived as hate. Or perhaps it’s someone who wants to leave a spouse because he “loves” someone else. How could you possibly encourage him not to follow his heart? Or maybe it’s the 19-year-old who wants to sleep with her boyfriend because she “loves” him.
Following your heart sounds sensible unless you know that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Over and over again, Scripture affirms the sentiment of Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Jesus Himself declares, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).
Rather than following your heart, embracing what comes naturally, or supporting people in whatever they want, Jesus defines love as obedience. “If you love Me,” Jesus said, “you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus affirms this definition of love twice more in John 14. John must have thought the definition quite important, as he repeated the connection between love and obedience in 1 John 2:3-5 and 2 John 6. Additionally, while it is common to think of 1 Corinthians 13 as offering a romantic definition of love, I think we often miss Paul’s declaration that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Corinthians 13:6). This declaration affirms that there is, in fact, such a thing as unrighteousness. And what’s more, if we rejoice in any such activity, it’s not love!
If love involves keeping God’s commandments, then it is not possible to love God by means of breaking one of His commandments. Likewise, it is not possible to love fellow human beings by breaking one of God’s commandments with them. Furthermore, it is not possible to love people by supporting them in breaking one of God’s commandments.
Jesus’ discussion of causing others to sin should give us serious pause—“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Those are sobering words. When we affirm any sort of behavior that violates God’s commandments, we are helping the next generation to sin. That’s not love.
Imagine your relief, if you were concerned about cancer, to hear the doctor say that there was nothing wrong with you. Now imagine that he told you this despite the scans that showed cancer throughout your body. On your death bed, as you finally have an opportunity to ask him why he told you what he did, he tells you quite plainly, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
As ridiculous as that sounds, we are tempted to tell people what they want to hear because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. We have traded a flawed definition of “nice” for the truth. And thus we commit spiritual malpractice.
If we want to do God’s will, we must live by and tell people the truth. Hard truth. Cancer-doctor truth. The truth as God defines it.
The question then, for any behavior we endorse, is not if it comes naturally or if it makes us feel good, but if it meets God’s righteous standards. We must give thorough attention to the teachings of Scripture in order to determine if a certain behavior meets God’s standards. And when it doesn’t, we must not help others to walk down that road.
I have been following these long-tenured pastors for years. They have been at their present church at least ten years, often much longer. They have served multiple generations of the same families and have known the highs and lows of ministry. And they have not succumbed to the siren call of greener grass churches.
I have seen seven patterns that have consistently marked their lives and ministries. To be sure, these habits are not unique to long-tenured pastors. But they do seem to be most consistent among those pastors who have been at one church for at least ten years.
- They don’t skip a day in prayer and the ministry of the Word. They are truly Acts 6:4 pastors. They refuse to succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. They put prayer and Bible reading as a priority on their calendars, usually early in the morning. They are able to carry on because they are refueled every day.
- They realize gnats are gnats. So they are able to look beyond the momentary critics and nuisances. For more on this, see my earlier blog post on gnats and ministry.
- They pray for wisdom. I have been both amazed and encouraged to discover how many longer-tenured pastors include the prayer of James 1:5 in their prayer lives.
- They dream big. These pastors are not satisfied with the status quo. They truly believe they serve a God who has bigger plans than we can possibly imagine in our own strength.
- They intentionally seek to see the green grass in their own churches. That helps them not to fall for the trap that the green grass is always at the next church.
- They keep an outward focus. Pastors in a maintenance mode are either miserable pastors or pastors on their way out. Long-tenured pastors really take Paul’s admonition to Timothy seriously. They do the work of the evangelist (2 Tim 4:5).
- They take care of their families. They know their families are their first lines of ministry. In fact, they grasp clearly that they cannot lead their churches for the long haul unless they take care of their families (1 Tim 3:5).
The longer-term pastor is a step in the right direction for greater health and more fruitful ministry.
Spiritual Gifts: What they Are and Why they Matter by Thomas Schreiner, B&H, $16.99
Review by Sarah Haywood
“The true test of spiritual maturity is whether we live in love,” Tom Schreiner writes in his new book, Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter. Christians should be concerned with loving God and loving others, and spiritual gifts are God-given, specifically to make that happen.
Schreiner’s book is short and non-technical on the subject of spiritual gifts, from their definition to the understanding of the arguments for the cessation and continuation of the gifts. Each chapter includes chapter conclusions and a set of discussion questions, making the book a ready resource for individual or group study.
Schreiner describes spiritual gifts as manifestation of the Holy Spirit and gifts given by God. But these gifts are given for a purpose, he explains. There is a range of gifts represented in Scripture, and Schreiner details a few of them, including those that he, as a cessationist, believes to have ceased. The gifts listed include that of being an apostle, prophecy, teaching, miracles, healing, service, helping, administrating, leading, tongues, faith, giving.
Several chapters address gifts like prophecy and tongues more in-depth — the gifts that are more highly debated regarding whether they continue to today or not. He then provides his argument in favor of cessationism.
Aside from the controversy around sign gifts, Schreiner has one important lesson all Christians should learn about spiritual gifts: “Gifts are worthless without love,” he writes.
How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman, Thomas Nelson Publishing, $22.99
Review by Caleb Shaw
American politics is perhaps more fractured now than ever before, and it seems the church is often caught in the middle of the widening divide. In this difficult position, editorial director and SBTS alumnus Jonathan Leeman provides the church with a helpful book that rethinks the relationship of faith and politics. By exploring the role of politics theologically, Leeman explains that the role of the believer in politics is to represent the kingdom of Christ. How the Nations Rage will encourage and challenge you as you navigate this unprecedented political moment.
Kiss the Wave: embracing god in your trials by Dave Furman, Crossway, $14.99
Review by Sarah Haywood
In his new book, Dave Furman reflects on what it means to embrace God in times of trial. Furman, senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, has a debilitating nerve disease, bringing pain every day. And with his chronic pain comes depression. But Furman says that there is a purpose to his pain. Kiss the Wave is an encouraging read, especially for those who have experienced the wave of pain of all kinds.
ESV Archeology Study Bible: by John Currid and David Chapman, $49
Review by Ben Aho
The ESV Archeology Study Bible, edited by John Currid and David Chapman, invites readers into the world of the Bible. It comes with more than 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photos, and 200 maps and diagrams. Throughout the helps and articles, readers can also see a variety of artifacts and historical locations. The book is ideal for readers of all educational levels and will fortify their trust in the historicity of the Scriptures.
Acts 1-12 For You by R. Albert Mohler Jr., The Good Book Company 2018, $22.99
Review by Aaron Cline Hanbury
In a new popular-level book about the first half of the book of Acts, R. Albert Mohler Jr. suggests four primary emphases in the book. He proposes that the author, Luke, focuses on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, on the person of Jesus, on the church, and, finally, on the sovereignty of God.
These are not independent threads, writes Mohler, who is president of Southern Seminary. Instead, they’re interconnected, and even build on each other. Mohler argues that Jesus’ fulfilling the Old Testament provides the basis for believing Scripture in the first place.
“By focusing on the fact that Jesus has fulfilled the Old Testament, Luke is helping us to see that God’s Word never returns empty (see Isaiah 55:11), and that the basis of our Christian belief is found in the Scriptures.”
In Acts 1-12 For You, Mohler dedicates a chapter to each of the first 12 chapters of Acts. The writing style and format of the book make it not only accessible but equally useful for study or devotion.
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