This year, God has used Southern Equip to train hundreds of thousands of pastors, missionaries, counselors, and other gospel leaders – both current and future – for more faithful service. Here is a collection of our most popular resources from 2018.
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Seminary Hill Press is the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, publishing books, pamphlets, tracts, and other Christian resources by the institution’s faculty and alumni. In 2018, the press produced multiple titles that would make great Christmas gifts for theologians and laypersons alike. Here are the year’s top five must-have books:
1. Mobilize to Evangelize: The Pastor and Effective Congregational Evangelism, by Matt Queen
Based on his own pastoral experience in the local church, Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor Matt Queen has written a practical guide for pastors who want to champion evangelism in their congregations. Mobilize to Evangelize provides pastors with tools they need to understand and to assess how evangelism is conceived, practiced, and perceived in their congregations. It offers realistic ideas they can implement to mobilize their congregations to evangelize. (Available here.)
2. Let the Text Talk: Preaching that Treats the Text on its Own Terms, by Kyle Walker
God desires His text to do the talking in your sermons. Are you willing to let the text talk? This volume aspires to show you how. It is a humble attempt to help preachers do their best to present themselves approved and unashamed as they handle the Word of God. (Available here.)
3. 31 Truths to Shape Your Youth Ministry, by Richard Ross
Designed to guide adults who value teenagers into a deeper walk with King Jesus, this devotional book aims to shape the hearts of youth leaders so that they, in turn, may shape the hearts of teenagers, turning them into lifetimes disciples of Jesus. The book champions teenagers who adore King Jesus in the power of the Spirit for the glory of God; parents who embrace their call to be the primary spiritual leaders to their children; teenagers who have heart connections with all the generations in the congregation; and churches that equip teenagers and then mobilize them to be the church today. (Available here.)
4. Christian Education on the Plains of Texas, by Jack D. Terry, Jr.
In 1915 on the plains of Texas, Southwestern Seminary established the Department of Religious Pedagogy, which became the first school of religious education anywhere in the world of academia. Founded specifically “to touch the lives not only of the special educational students who will come to study Sunday School work but also the lives of all the students who come to study here,” the school, over the next 100 years, developed into a crucial piece not only of Southwestern Seminary, but of the eternal Kingdom work that would be accomplished by its students.
This volume recounts the first 100 years of this school’s history, covering how the budding department ultimately developed into the Terry School of Church and Family Ministries, as it is known today. (Available here.)
5. In Praise of a God who Saves: 110 Stories of Everyday Evangelism, edited by Alex Sibley
Since Southwestern Seminary was founded in 1908, its students, faculty, and alumni have strived to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This volume comprises 110 stories—one for each year since the seminary’s founding—of the Gospel going forth through the witness of these Southwesterners, with many of them seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. These stories will both encourage and convict readers in their evangelism, and above all, the stories will inspire them to praise our amazing God for being a God who saves. (Available here.)
To learn more about these and other Seminary Hill Press titles, visit SeminaryHillPress.com.
Trained instincts — that’s how fighter pilots can react immediately to rapidly changing situations as they operate $27 million war machines. When a threat aircraft is closing in, there’s no time for pilots to reason through what to do. They have to rely on instinct, but not just natural instinct. They need instincts shaped deep within them through years of regiment. The countless little decisions they make in the cockpit are automatic, but that doesn’t mean they’re involuntary. The pilot voluntarily trained for them, and in the cockpit he reaps the instinctive benefits of that training.
This is a good illustration of how unintentional sin works. Can we be guilty for sinful responses that seem to erupt in us automatically? Can we really consider sin voluntary if it is not consciously chosen?
Scripture’s view of human experience is complex enough to answer, “yes.” Scripture speaks of involuntary sins as including three characteristics: they are (1) from ignorance of God’s will and therefore (2) not deliberately chosen as hostile acts against God, yet (3) they are disobedient nonetheless. Leviticus 5:17 describes unintentional sin as “doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it.” Peter told his law-celebrating Jewish brothers they “killed the Author of life” because they “acted in ignorance” (Acts 3:15, 17). Paul told his idol-loving Greek audience their long artistic history was actually “the times of ignorance” that God had overlooked (Acts 17:30).
The Jews killed Jesus. The Greeks crafted idols. Both of these actions were instinctive expressions of hearts not conditioned by God’s revealed Word, but by differing (yet equally sinful) sets of beliefs and values. The Jews believed in a legalistic god of their own making and valued their cultural version of righteousness; the Greeks believed in their human-crafted gods and valued the beauty of their own imaginings. Their actions simply expressed these deeper structures of ignorance. The Jews did not intend the killing of Jesus to be a hostile act against God, and the Greeks did not intend their pursuit of earthly pleasure to be a direct rebellion against Him. But they were nonetheless.
So it is with us. Our responses flow from somewhere — from the deeper realities of the hearts we’re stewards of. We are stewards of the deeper realities just as much as we are of the surface expressions. So, we can sin without deliberate choice because we are always acting intuitively out of hearts conditioned by inherited sin. Jesus gave us the general paradigm for this when he told us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
Like the fighter pilot’s hours of training, our hearts are under a regimen that gives shape to our intuitive responses — a regimen of beliefs and values that don’t align with Scripture, drilled into us through what we put in our heads, what we receive as wisdom from other sources, what we accept as normal from culture. All of these shape our unintentional sin.
Think of the way sins such as partiality (James 2:1), jealousy (3:14), or harshness (4:2) function in real life. Rarely do people intentionally decide to show partiality. Yet, they’re instinctively drawn to a beautiful person who comes into the room. Why? Because of their established perception of what is attractive. Jealousy is the automatic impulse that arises when my deep value for a certain thing meets my hidden assumption of personal entitlement to it. Harshness is the result of the quiet desires of my heart smacking up against a person I perceive as withholding those desires from me.
These sins tend not to have a moment of decisive action; they sort of emanate from our vitality. And in case that’s not bad enough, these basic unintentional sins can emanate in more complex forms, too: Partiality can express itself as racism, jealousy as workaholism, harshness as manipulation.
Sins of ignorance can only be remedied with knowledge. Far from being an excuse for sin, ignorance is the thing that keeps us in it. We become aware of unintentional sins—and more than that, are given the ability to do something about them—only by an external word from God. In Leviticus, this is a man “realizing his guilt” by knowing the will of God as laid down in Scripture (5:17). Peter’s solution to the Jews’ ignorant murder of Jesus is to refer them to Scripture’s prophecies about Him (Acts 3:18). Paul speaks to the Greeks’ idolatry about the one God not made of gold or silver (17:29). Only then, with this new awareness of truth, can they possibly take the proper action against their unintentional sin: “Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (3:19).
If we’re using it rightly, Scripture is that uncomfortable knife — a sword, in fact — that cuts deep (Heb. 4:12). But as deeply as it cuts, it is for the purpose of God’s sculpting that glorious, instinctive design He put in us when He saved us. When a person believes God’s Word, he is given a mind characterized by the righteousness of Christ, out of which flows new understanding (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The same design that makes human beings able to sin instinctively is now used for good. When people come to faith in Christ, they receive His righteousness—not just as a declaration of right standing before God (justification), but also as a living power that reshapes their core beliefs and values, and therefore the instinctive responses that flow from them (sanctification). Their automatic responses are characterized by greater righteousness. Trained instincts, but now under a new regimen.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published at Ligonier.
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In recent days, several authors have received attention in the media for proclaiming that the “evangelical purity culture” has harmed young people. One of those authors, a former pastor, invites adults to send her their discarded purity rings so she can melt them and form a sculpture of female genitalia. The sculpture will be used to promote her new book.
Since (humanly speaking) I am considered a cofounder of True Love Waits, I must consider the possibility that this movement harmed rather than blessed a young generation. Ignoring the criticisms that sincere writers have raised would be intellectually dishonest.
If I were a woodworker and if my daughter loved playing softball, I might use a lathe to create a custom bat for her. However, what if a mugger stole that bat and then bashed a girl while taking her purse? I would deeply grieve that something I made was used to harm someone. I would grieve, but I would not feel guilty.
Inviting teenagers into a lifetime of sexual holiness and purity, if consistent with Scripture, is a beautiful thing. When someone takes that message, twists it, and then uses it to bash the young, I grieve—probably more than anyone. But I do not feel guilty, nor do I second-guess the rightness of the original message.
I am well aware that, using the words “True Love Waits,” some leaders twist the beauty of sexuality and present it as dirty and ugly. Others proclaim that all the responsibility for chastity rests with girls and that they alone bear the shame for all sexual failures. Others want to banish all those who stumble to a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing.
I have spent 49 years seeking to bless a young generation. I grieve that distorted messages have harmed some teenagers. And I doubly grieve when I learn that some have carried pain into their adult years. But that grief does not cause me to doubt the beauty and the rightness of the original True Love Waits (TLW) message.
In 1992–1993, Jimmy Hester and I were employees at LifeWay Christian Resources. In those days, the culture was focused on reducing the social and personal consequences of teenage sexual involvement. In the faith community, teenagers and their parents and leaders were looking for something positive and proactive rather than only reactive.
The idea for TLW came to Jimmy and me during several coffee break conversations. Because we were on break, all we had on which to record our ideas were cafeteria napkins.
At the same time, I was serving as a part-time youth pastor. Jimmy and I agreed that I would present the core TLW message to the teenagers and parents in my church. Fifty-three teenagers responded positively to the original message and indicated that they wanted to be identified with a new movement. No one could have guessed that the movement would sweep through 100 denominations and national student organizations in the U.S. and 100 countries worldwide.
If you strip away the distortions, here is the original TLW message:
- TLW is an invitation to sexual purity and holiness among teenagers who believe that God exists, that He defines ultimate truth, that He is the author of the Bible, and that the Bible communicates ultimate truth without error.
- TLW is an invitation to teenagers who believe that God came to earth in human form, that He died on the cross to pay the cost for sin, and that He now offers forgiveness to all because of His sacrifice.
- TLW is an invitation to teenagers who have accepted the forgiveness Christ now offers by faith, repenting of their sins and turning from a life centered on self to a life centered on Him.
- TLW affirms the biblical standard that all sexual expression should take place only between a husband and wife in a biblical marriage. Expressions that involve sexual organs are sexual expressions.
- TLW affirms that Christ-followers embrace and follow biblical standards related to sexual expression because they love, respect and adore Him; because they have decided to follow Him; and because they are full of gratitude for His sacrifice on the cross.
- TLW affirms that a life of sexual purity and holiness is prompted by the greatness of Christ and the power of the Gospel and not by moralistic instruction or behavior modification.
- TLW affirms that children need to hear from birth about the goodness of sex as one of God’s best creations.
- TLW affirms the biblical standard that Christ-followers do not dwell on lustful thoughts toward someone to whom they are not married.
- TLW affirms that boys and girls have an equal responsibility to follow biblical standards in all relationships.
- TLW affirms that no one follows God’s callings perfectly, including the leaders and participants in the TLW movement. We serve a God of second chances.
- TLW affirms that Christ’s death on the cross makes forgiveness for sexual sins possible. God continually picks up His children, dusts them off, and sets them on their way again without shame.
- TLW affirms that Christ-followers who never marry can have rich and full lives and exalt Christ as they live a lifetime without sexual expression.
Multitudes of adults report that the TLW message was an important factor in their sidestepping sexual sin in their teenage years. Multitudes of single adults continue to embrace and live out that message. Multitudes of married adults report that the absence of scarring from their teenage years is a major factor contributing to the beauty and joy of their current sexual expressions. Christ be praised.
Something that my wife and I constantly tell our children is that giftedness and intelligence are vastly overrated. We also tell them that hard work, discipline, and convictional courage is vastly underrated. We tend to misjudge what is most valuable in almost every aspect of our lives — including our spiritual lives.
Think with me for a moment about how we often view evangelism and missions. We tend to think that the reason some people seem to be really good at evangelism is that they are gifted with charisma or have had the right training. But neither of those things are true. The main ingredient that makes a good evangelist is Christ-centered courage. Faithful courage. Without courage, you will use your giftedness, your charisma, your intelligence for self-protection. Thus, hindering the spread of the Gospel. Your giftedness, without courage, is a waste.
In Acts 7, we find a man with convictional courage. His name was Stephen. He was the first Christian martyr. And yet, the focus of the text is not on the fact that Stephen was martyred, but rather on the results of Stephen’s courageous willingness to die for Christ.
The courage to live the right story
Something we need to know about Stephen is that he was a deacon in the church. Stephen was known as a servant, not a teacher. And yet, we find him giving a detailed biblical history account that he then applies to his interrogators. Stephen was arrested on trumped-up charges of speaking against the Law and the Temple. And when he was given his opportunity to defend himself, his defense was not really a defense of himself, but rather a defense of Christ. He explains the whole history of Israel and at the end, he backloads the application. “You may know the events,” Stephen is saying to them, “but you do not know what they mean.” Stephen is telling them that all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ.
What is absolutely amazing is that Stephen does all of this from memory. He’s not pulling out his Greek Standard Version Study Scroll and using the study notes to make all these connections. He doesn’t need to. Why? That’s the story he lives. If you were to ask me questions about my family, I’m not going to need to go do some research and get back to you. That’s my life. The story Stephen recounts is his story. It’s part of him.
His interrogators lived a different story. They believed the Law was a means to gain righteousness. They believed the Temple contained the glory of God. But Stephen is saying, “I live a different story.” You get the story wrong if you don’t see Jesus as the center and the goal. But when you get it right, you understand, as Stephen did, that suffering makes sense. For even our Lord and Master was crucified. Why would we expect comfort and ease? Stephen understood that his proclamation was not likely to end with him being carried off to cheers and adoration. He knew that persecution was coming as a result. But that made sense to him within the story he was living.
The courage to choose mercy over judgment
The response to Stephen’s exhortation was hate. They were “enraged” and “ground their teeth.” And as they were stoning him, Stephen makes two statements that should sound familiar to us. First, he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” That sounds a lot like Jesus on the cross, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Second, Stephen says “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Again, this sounds like what Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). While they are bashing Stephen’s head in with rocks, he is pleading for the mercy of God on their behalf.
The power of mercy and love is much stronger than the power of hate. And love and mercy will reign forever when hate is cast away into outer darkness. Stephen loved his enemies. He wants them to know mercy, not judgment. He is dying, literally, so that they would know the Gospel truth.
There is a powerful word for us in his example. If you merely hate your cultural enemies, you are imaging Satan. We must stand against many things in our culture because we love our neighbors and know the truth of scripture, but our goal, in the end, is not the destruction of our cultural opponents, it is their salvation. You will not be on gospel mission for someone that you hate. Love your enemies. That’s not a religious cliché, that’s a life purpose. It is not dependent on giftedness and intelligence but it is dependent on gospel courage.
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They wanted to talk about my preaching. I hadn’t been at the church very long, but they had some concerns. A few single women recently left the church, and these deacons were convinced it was my fault. My sermons, they insisted, must be too “masculine.” I didn’t know what they meant — I still don’t! I certainly had no intention of preaching masculine or feminine sermons. Nonetheless, they weren’t pleased.
Several months later, an older couple wanted to talk. They, too, had some concerns. It was about my family. They offered constructive criticism, especially for my wife. In public, they were quite friendly and seemed to like us very much. Privately, they had reservations about us as a ministry team.
Around this time, another member told me something was wrong with the morning service. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He seemed glad I preached the Bible, but he wanted something a little less serious and a little more joyful. He said our gatherings didn’t have a “sense” of worship.
Welcome to ministry.Helpful criticism
If you are a pastor, criticism comes with the territory. These examples are from my early years of ministry. A decade in, the church I serve has more unity than ever before. Still, there’s always criticism. Just the other day a brother said the first point of my sermon was too long. He was right! I strive to heed godly criticism.
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (Prov. 15:31). Everybody needs correction, and a good leader will receive it well. “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right” (Prov. 16:13). It is right to be exhorted to change when change is necessary. It is good to be told you’re doing something wrong when you are, in fact, doing something wrong. Criticism may sting in the short-term but, if it’s true, we can embrace it as a gift from the Lord. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Prov. 19:20).Can we keep it at a minimum?
The mature pastor knows criticism is helpful, but he’d like it kept to a minimum. This is because criticism hurts. Heap too many coals on the fire, and the steak is likely to burn. Heap too much criticism on the pastor, and he’ll likely burnout. Criticism, however well-intentioned, can be harmful in large doses. No one will thrive in a perpetual state of discouragement. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Prov. 12:25).
Unfortunately, pastors can control neither the rate nor the quality of the criticism that comes their way. Some of it is wonderful, helpful, and life-giving. Other criticism is simply unfair, unjust, and unkind. A batter can’t demand his favorite pitch, and a pastor can’t make a member be compassionate. Sometimes people say things that just aren’t true.
- “You care more about membership than people.”
- “You’ve never said a kind word to me, I don’t think you like me.”
- “You just want people to obey your commands, you aren’t really looking for input.”
- “You don’t love the older people, you just care about the young folks.”
- “You’re an okay preacher, but not much of a shepherd.”
Criticism like this may be completely unhitched to reality. Or it may have a grain of truth but be flung at you in a spiteful, hurtful way. Sheep have been known to bite their shepherd. How should pastors respond in the face of unjust criticism?
In a nutshell: don’t be thin-skinned and be sure to be tender-hearted.Get some alligator hide
The thin-skinned pastor won’t last very long in ministry because he will take every question about the direction of the church as a personal slight. Each member leaving feels like a dagger in his back. He has a hard time discerning between fair and unjust criticism. Spider-Man has “spider sense” — he always knows when danger is nearby. Thin-skinned pastors always seem to sense a word of criticism is around the corner.
Some thin-skinned pastors demonize their critics. They see themselves as truth-warriors and wonder why the rest of the troops aren’t falling into line. When people probe into the reasoning behind a decision, voice opposition, or simply and quietly disagree, a thin-skinned pastor takes it as a personal affront. A thin-skinned pastor may not change course, but he’s disappointed and pained by any confrontation.
Other thin-skinned pastors are so nervous that they question every decision they make. When people oppose their leadership, such pastors quickly assume they must be steering the ship in the wrong direction. They base the quality of their leadership on the noise of the crowd instead of the Word of the Lord.
Either way, the thin-skinned pastor cares too deeply about what others think. Their opinion casts a long and disheartening shadow over his ministry. He always feels the need to prove himself. (See Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry) Pastors like this build walls that keep people away. This is a dark and lonely place to be.
Simply put, thin-skinned pastors should probably not be in ministry because they will not last.Let the sheep chew on you
A thick-skinned pastor cares more about approval from the God he worships than approval from the church he serves. He can usually sleep well on Sunday night, because he knows the kingdom of God is not shaken by his less-than-stellar sermon. He can hear bad news in the afternoon — the cancer is back, my wife has left me — and still be emotionally available for his kid’s soccer game that evening. The thick-skinned pastor finds profound comfort and strength in the reality of God’s sovereign goodness.
Because the thick-skinned pastor knows the future of his church depends on the power of the Spirit and not himself, he makes decisions that serve him and his family well. He takes the time off he needs—even if a few members may question his priorities — because he knows his family and his church need a well-rested shepherd. He’ll say no to some church functions to spend quality time with his wife and kids. He recognizes some may want him to be more available, but he proves with his schedule his family comes first. (See Brian Croft’s The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry)
Most importantly, a thick-skinned pastor lets the sheep chew on him because he knows, after all, they’re sheep! Christians who have received a steady diet of topical preaching for decades may bristle at the idea of going through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter. The thick-skinned pastor isn’t offended by their opposition; he patiently explains why he thinks expositional preaching is more helpful. A thick-skinned pastor may be criticized for leading a church away from special music to more congregational singing. But he doesn’t get upset when people wrongly conclude he doesn’t like music; he humbly explains why the moves he’s suggesting are for the long-term good of the congregation’s corporate worship of God.
In other words, every pastor will inevitably face a barrage of criticism. This isn’t heaven. But the thick-skinned pastor will keep his eyes on the cross, his heart in the Lord, and his hand to the plough.
And because of that, he’s more likely to last in ministry.Be tender-hearted
The skin of an elephant can withstand the sun of the Sahara Desert but, let’s face it, who wants to hug an elephant? If a thick-skinned pastor isn’t careful, he’ll seem unapproachable. He may pit fidelity to God’s Word against compassion toward God’s people.
The apostle Paul is such a good example for us here. The same man who told the Galatians he did not seek the “approval of man” likened himself to a “nursing mother taking care of her own children” when he described his ministry to the Thessalonians. Thick-skinned: Galatians 1:10. Tender-hearted: 1 Thessalonians 2:7.
Even better is the example of Jesus. He demonstrated remarkable tenderness toward those who would reject him. The Savior described himself as a “hen [who] gathers her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34). If our King could be so gentle to Jerusalem, then shouldn’t we be compassionate to the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15)?
Being thick-skinned has its dangers. We can be slow to accept good criticism. We can appear stern, detached, or uninterested in others. We can assume those around us are as thick-skinned as us and give criticism in a brusque, unhelpful manner. We can speak with a force, clarity, and abrasiveness that hurts the very sheep God has entrusted to our care. (See John Crotts, Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love)
Let’s work hard to avoid such pitfalls. The members of our church are precious in God’s sight, even when they bite. If we’re too thin-skinned, we’ll cave under the weight of their disappointment in us. If we’re too thick-skinned, we’ll push away the brothers and sisters God has called us to serve and lead. Therefore, be sure to be tender-hearted. The thick-skinned and tender-hearted pastor is best positioned to minister for the long haul.
¿Qué otras implicaciones podrían extraerse de la narrativa de Babel (Gén 11:1-9), además de saber que es el evento que causó la confusión de los idiomas? Bueno, una aplicación puede ser dirigida a los ministros, que no deben hacerse un nombre famoso, ni construir torres, sino que se les anima a edificar el reino de Dios. Génesis 11:1-9 continúa la demostración profunda de la naturaleza pecaminosa de los hombres al resaltar su intención de construir una ciudad y una torre tan grande que se hagan un nombre por sí mismos. Uno puede preguntarse por qué construir una ciudad y hacerse un nombre famoso es tan malo. Bueno, este evento demuestra el problema del hombre, que continuamente desea una vida aparte de Dios. El hecho es que si esta antigua ciudad hubiese sido construida, habría ido contra el mandato de Dios al hombre en Gén 1:28. En Gén 1:28 el hombre es bendecido y se le ordena, “llenen la tierra.” La idea de promulgar la raza humana sobre la faz de la tierra es la implicación que se desprende de estas tres palabras en Génesis 1. Sin embargo, en Gén 11:4, se lee de la rebelión del hombre contra el mandato de Dios de extenderse sobre la faz de la tierra.
El propósito de construir una gran ciudad y una torre en la tierra de Sinar era para obtener fama (Gén 11:4). La expresión, “nos haremos famosos” es otra forma de buscar el reconocimiento. Hoy los ministros, luchan con este problema. Los cristianos normalmente tienden a pensar en la fama en relación con las estrellas de cine, conducir autos exóticos y vivir en mansiones. Sin embargo, hoy en día la fama o el deseo de reconocimiento debido al éxito ministerial ha crecido considerablemente. Años después de una cruzada en Corea donde un millón de personas escucharon el evangelio, el Rev. Billy Kim vino a los Estados Unidos para visitar al Rev. Billy Graham. El Rev. Kim fue el traductor del Rev. Graham en Corea. El Rev. Graham le preguntó: “¿Deseas tener un ministerio exitoso?” El Rev. Kim respondió: “¡Sí!” Entonces el Rev. Graham le dijo: “Nunca hables de ti mismo.” Vivimos en una sociedad done el ser humano está más preocupado por hablar sobre sus logros, habilidades, capacidades, y el auto-promoción que por elevar el nombre de Cristo.
¿Es válido hacernos famoso como ministros del Evangelio? La respuesta a esta pregunta se puede encontrar en Génesis 12. La historia introduce un nuevo personaje: Abram. De las muchas bendiciones de Dios sobre Abram una de ellas fue que Dios hará su nombre famoso (Gén 12:2). Como resultado Abram llego a ser conocido como el padre de las naciones (Abraham), Gén 17:5. Entonces, ¿Qué diferencia hay entre los hombres de Sinar (Génesis 11) y Abram (Génesis 12)? Claramente, Dios es el que otorga grandeza. Abraham no buscó tener un gran nombre, pero se le concedió debido a su temor y obediencia a Dios (Gén 22:12, 18). ¡Qué verdad tan relevante para nuestro tiempo! Como ministros del Evangelio, nuestro propósito es temer y obedecer a Dios. Desafortunadamente, hoy en día muchos desean construir torres como los hombres de Sinar, para el reconocimiento. Qué gran tentación está a la puerta de cada ministro del Evangelio. Cada hombre y mujer de Dios se enfrentará con el reto de edificar el reino de Dios o construir su babel. El reto en si es ¿Quién se lleva la gloria? Que el Señor ayude a cada ministro a considerar el propósito de edificar el reino de Dios en lugar de sus propias torres.
What implications can be drawn from the narrative of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9, apart from knowing that it is the event that caused the confusion of languages? Well, one application can be directed toward ministers, that they are not to make a name for themselves, nor build towers, but are encouraged to build God’s Kingdom. Genesis 11:1-9 continues the deep-seated demonstration of the sinful nature of men by highlighting their intention of building a city and a tower so grand that they would make a name for themselves. One may ask why building a city and making a name for oneself is so wrong. Well, this event demonstrates the problem of man, that he continually desires a life apart from God. The fact is if this ancient city would have been built, it would have cut against God’s command to man in Genesis 1:28, where man is blessed and commanded to “fill the earth.” The idea of promulgating the human race across the face of the earth is the implication drawn from these three words in Genesis 1. Yet, in Genesis 11:4, one reads of man’s rebellion against God’s command of spreading over the face of the earth.
The purpose of building a grand city and tower in the land of Shinar (Gen 11:1) was to obtain fame. The expression in Genesis 11:4—“let us make for ourselves a name”—is another way of saying, “Let us become famous.” Fame is one of the struggles that ministers face today. Christians normally tend to think of fame in relation to movie stars, driving exotic cars, and living in mansions. However, fame or the desire for recognition because of ministerial success continually creeps up. Years after a crusade in Korea where a million people heard the Gospel, Rev. Billy Kim came to the states to visit Rev. Billy Graham. Rev. Kim was Rev. Graham’s translator in Korea. Rev. Graham asked him, “Do you desire to have a successful ministry?” Rev. Kim replied, “Yes!” Then Rev. Graham told him, “Never speak about yourself.” We live in a world where many are preoccupied with speaking more about their accomplishments and seeking self-promotion than they are with lifting up the name of Christ.
So is the aspect of “making a name for yourself” out of the question for ministers? The answer for this question can be found in the next chapter. Genesis 12 introduces a new individual, Abram. One reads of God’s many blessings upon Abram. Out of the many blessings directed toward Abram, one was that his name would become great. In time, Abram became Abraham, the father of nations (Gen 17:5). But what is the difference between the men of Shinar in Genesis 11 and Abram in Genesis 12? Clearly, God is the one who grants greatness. Abraham did not seek to have a great name, but it was granted to him because of his fear and obedience to God (Gen 22:12, 18). What an important point to drive home. As ministers of the Gospel, our aim is to fear and obey God. Unfortunately, today, many desire to build, as the men of Shinar, towers for themselves for recognition. What a great temptation crouching at the door of every minister of the Gospel. Every man and woman of God will face the reality of either decreasing in stature so that God’s name increases, or suppressing God’s work so that ministerial towers may be built that have no lasting effect, but are worthless babel before God. May the Lord help ministers to be mindful of building God’s Kingdom rather than one’s own towers. If you desire to accomplish great things for God, you must place your eyes upon Him and off yourself.
The Christian life begins with learning — learning the gospel. No one is made right with a God about whom he knows nothing. No one is made right with God unless he learns about him and his message to the world, a message of good news called the gospel. To know God, people must learn that there is a God (Heb. 11:6), that they have broken his law, and that they need to be reconciled to him. They must learn that God’s Son, Jesus, came to accomplish that reconciliation and that he did so by means of his sinless life and his death on the cross as a substitute for sinners. They must learn of his bodily resurrection and their need to repent of their sins and to believe in Jesus and what he has done. Apart from people learning these things, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14).
Intentional learning is implied in Jesus’ offer in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” So from the very start of discipleship, to follow Jesus implied learning from him, for as did Peter, John, and the others, anyone would certainly learn from Jesus if they would follow him. But Jesus is even more specific about learning from him in Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” To accept the yoke of a disciple of Jesus means to commit to a lifetime of learning about Jesus and from Jesus.
To emphasize learning as essential to following Jesus is not advocacy for egghead Christianity. Like Jesus, we want both a heart for God and a head for God. Remember that the Great Commandment emphasizes loving God both with all the heart and with all the mind, as well (Mark 12:29–30). As R. C. Sproul once wrote, “Burning hearts are not nourished by empty heads.” God’s truth — which must be learned — is the fuel for the spiritual fire that flames in the Christian heart.Lifelong learning
The Christian life not only begins with learning, it proceeds through a process of lifelong learning. This includes deeper discoveries of intimacy with God, an ever-growing grasp of the Bible and its doctrines, a greater awareness of our sin, and an increased knowledge of the person and work of Christ. A mature understanding of these things does not come quickly or without effort. Simply put, it is impossible to grow into Christlikeness one knows nothing about. By the Spirit’s power, we must learn what Christlikeness means and how Jesus wants us to follow him. We learn this through the Bible, of course, but it involves learning nonetheless.
Those whom the Bible considers wise and intelligent understand this. According to Scripture, “The wise lay up knowledge” and “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Prov. 10:14; 18:15). So the primary measurement of wisdom and intelligence is not your IQ or GPA but whether you pursue knowledge, that is, whether you discipline yourself to continue learning the things of God throughout your life.Intentional learning
A hunger to learn the Word of God, the ways of God, and the will of God expresses a hunger for God himself. Those who love God long to be taught about him and from him. That doesn’t mean all Christians are to manifest an affinity for learning exactly the same things and in identical ways. But it is true that apathy toward learning the things of God is a mark of those who do not know God.
We are blessed to live in a time when the means of and opportunities for expressing a love for God through learning greatly exceed our ability to take advantage of them. But all these profit little if a person doesn’t pursue them. This is why learning must always be a discipline, for a person can be surrounded by wisdom and knowledge yet live without their riches if he or she does not possess the discipline to learn them.
Thus, learning is indeed a gospel-driven spiritual discipline; those who are not exerting themselves to learn the things of God will gain spiritual and biblical knowledge only by accident or mere convenience. By contrast, intentional learners will seek to learn the things of God and will do so individually as well as with the church, disciplining themselves to learn from those who are gifted by God and recognized by the church as teachers.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published in Tabletalk.