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Conferences

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 05:29
Future Kingdom: Perspectives on the Millennial Reign of Christ Listen to the lectures and Q and A from the Future Kingdom Conference sessions below. You can also check out Brandon Smiths live-blog of the event here. Don Preston, Preterism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/1-Don_Preston-_Preterist_audio.mp3 Wayne House, Traditional Dispensationalism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/2-Wayne_House_-_Traditional_Dispensationalist_audio.mp3 Kenneth Gentry, Postmillennialism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/3-Kenneth_Gentry_-_Postmillennialist_audio.mp3 Craig Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/4-Craig_Blaising_-_Progressive_Dispensationalist_audio.mp3 G. K. Beale, Amillennialism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/5-Gregory_Beale_-_Amillennialist_audio.mp3 Craig Blomberg, Historical Premillennialism http://www.criswell.edu/audio/6-Craig_Blomberg_-_Historical_Premillennialist_audio.mp3 Q and A Panel Discussion http://www.criswell.edu/audio/7-Millennial_Conference_Q_and_A_audio.mp3 … Continue reading →
Categories: Seminary Blog

Books & Articles

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 05:28
Books authored by or contributed to by Criswell professors: Heaven On Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God In the Here and Now Heaven On Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God In the Here and Now is popularly written and aimed at an audience of informed laypeople, theological students, and pastors. In it, I present the Kingdom of God as the grand narrative of the Bible (from Genesis 1 to Revelation … Continue reading →
Categories: Seminary Blog

Regular Contributors

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 05:28
Everett Berry Dr. Berry, Professor of Theology, has been on faculty at Criswell College since 2004.He completedhis Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Southern Seminary and pastored a church in Kentucky for five years.Heand his wife Tabitha havetwo children, Elaina and Brian. Dr. Berrys areas of interest include Patristics, theological method, Christology, and Eschatology. Follow him on Twitter: @berry_everett. Barry Creamer Dr. Creamer is President and Professor of Humanities at Criswell … Continue reading →
Categories: Seminary Blog

Guest Contributors

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 05:28
These friends of Criswell College have been kind enough to contribute to this blog: -David Henderson, MD Board-certified psychiatrist Department Chair of Counseling and Psychology at Criswell College Blogger atPurpose Beyond Pain -Bruce Ashford Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Seminary Fellow for the Bush Center for Faith and Culture Blogger at Between the Times -Owen Strachan Assistant Professorof Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College … Continue reading →
Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Reviews

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 05:28
Winston Churchill: Some Agnostic, Some Atheist (Part 1) *Posted by Dr. Jerry A. Johnson *This post is the first part of an extended commentary on Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 , the last volume in the epic series The Last Lion by William Manchester and Paul Reid. You can read the second and third posts here and here. Was Winston Churchill a humanist with a godless ethic, … Continue reading →
Categories: Seminary Blog

Pastor, don’t neglect the least of these

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/24/2019 - 10:15

“Dad, they acted like they didn’t even see us,” one of my children said. The words still ring in my ears to this day.

She made the remark at large church in the suburbs where I was invited to speak. As we waited several minutes to enter the worship hall, we were surrounded by hundreds of people who were excitedly conversing among themselves. But for some reason, no one spoke to us. Maybe it was because we were visitors, or maybe it was because we’re a large family of seven, or maybe it was because of something else. Maybe it was because we were different. Different because we had a child who obviously had special needs.

Thankfully, experiences like that are far and few in between—at least for me. But as I speak to other families who are living with disabilities, the experience of being overlooked is all too common. In fact, for many, it’s their normal experience, even in their own church. Because I know their pain, I am intentionally more sensitive to those in my church (and those who visit my church) who are affected by disabilities.

As a church leader, revitalizer, or church-planter the desire to be faithful at shepherding Christ’s flock must include that no group ever feels overlooked or rejected because they’re different. Unfortunately, too many pastors have not yet seen the need to be intentional at reaching out to the oft-slighted disabled people among them as part of their church growth strategy.

Most church leaders would never deny that the local church should be a ministry of inclusion for all who profess faith in Christ. I’m sure most pastors would embrace the vision of the church as a gospel banquet, which not only includes the typical, but the atypical as well (Luke 14:12-14). But there seems to be a glaring gap between notional gospel rightness and applicational gospel practice, especially when it comes to the disabled.

Pastors can change the landscape of congregations to better reflect the heart of God toward those suffering from and living with disabilities. As a fellow under-shepherd, I offer five pleas to pastors to help assist in reaching out and connecting with those who often feel the most neglected in the church. 

  1. Seek out those in your congregation who are living with and caring for the disabled.

Many Christians living with a disability stay on the fringes of the church. Like Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet (2 Samuel 9), they live in exile in the land of Lo-debar (which means ‘no pasture’) because they don’t feel welcomed to the greener pastures of the church and its corporate body life. Pastors must be intentional in going after them like all the other sheep who need to sense the inclusive and enfolding love and care of Christ (Luke 15:4).

  1. Make them as much a part of the congregation as any other group in your church.

The thought of coming out of the shadows can be intimidating for families with disability. They’ve had to navigate the various roads of discrimination, rejection, avoidance, and patronization almost everywhere they go.

So, they need a different experience with their family of faith—an experience in which believing will, in fact, lead to belonging because their shepherds see them with the eyes of compassion (Matthew 9:36). A simple luncheon on a Sunday afternoon can communicate volumes of your commitment to them as their caring shepherd. 
 

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  1. Cast a vision for your church of the power of weakness for the full display of God’s redemptive glory.

Until a congregation is led to the reality that God’s transforming power is displayed most fully in the weak and broken, few will make the connection between gospel truths and those suffering with disabilities. Our gospel beckons all “who are weary and heavy laden” to come to Christ for rest (Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 14:16-24).

Fostering an effective disability ministry and culture in your church starts from the top and works its it way down into the lifeblood of the church. There’s more to be gained by doing a series on Jesus’ interactions with the disabled in the Gospels than by simply having wider bathroom stalls (although that’s important too). 

  1. Mobilize those who have a heart to serve to meet the particular needs of those living with disability.

Like all ministries in a local church, servant-volunteers are of the utmost importance. Disability ministry in the church is no different. To faithfully shepherd your families and members with disability, you will need to rally your congregation to crush the barriers of ignorance, indifference and fear. Understandably, many people in the church are uniformed about the lives of those with disabilities and are afraid to broach the conversation for fear of saying or doing something wrong. Pastors can provide forums for discussion and training to make the world of disability more understandable and accessible to the whole congregation.

  1. Model compassion for your congregation by spending time with the disabled of your church.

To walk in the steps of the Chief Shepherd is to spend time with those who are diseased, lame, and blind (Matthew 4:23-24; 15:29-31). Leaders who show this commitment will inspire others to follow their example. Like King David of old, who displayed the covenant love of God by bringing the disabled son of Jonathan into his home to eat at his table regularly (2 Samuel 9:7-13), Christlike pastors will shape and stir the hearts of many by their time commitments and shepherding efforts to the disabled among them.

Pastors’ plates are already full. I know that.  I pray no hardworking church leader will feel any unnecessary guilt after reading this article. God’s grace covers not only our sins, but our weaknesses that may give rise to neglecting certain people in our churches. But we cannot fully glorify our great God if we continue to marginalize those who are the weakest and most needy among us.

Jesus calls us to reach out to all who come to Him in faith and hope. May we have the courage to cross whatever barriers that might exist in order to love and care for the disabled minority within the walls of our churches so the one from whom and through whom and to whom are all things will receive greater glory through us.

The post Pastor, don’t neglect the least of these appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Generic Jesus can’t do anything for helpless sinners

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 15:51

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name? ’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’”Matthew 7:21-23 (CSB)   

Every person in the city of Cincinnati is a Christian.

That’s at least how it felt when I went to the Great American Ballpark to see the Reds play on a hot summer afternoon. The stadium was full of fans who had shown up to watch the Reds take on the Chicago Cubs. There was loud applause after the national anthem was sung, and a fifth-inning home run brought the hometown fans to their feet as the Reds took the lead against their division rivals. But the cheers after that towering home run to center field were nothing compared to the crowd’s reaction in the middle of the seventh inning.

One of my favorite parts of any Major League Baseball game is called the “seventh-inning stretch.” This is where the fans from both teams stand up and stretch their arms and legs while singing the classic song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It is a great tradition that brings families and friends together to sing loudly, without a care in the world. For just a moment, all fans are supporting the same thing—the great game of baseball. Legend claims the song first played at a ballpark at a high school in Los Angeles in 1934. The song became synonymous with the seventh inning stretch when broadcaster Harry Caray would lead the fans in singing the song during Chicago White Sox games (and later in his career, with the crosstown rival, Chicago Cubs).

But this particular day at the Reds game, the seventh inning stretch did not deliver quite the nostalgia I was hoping for from my past experiences. This happened to be a Sunday, and ever since the terror attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001, Major League ballparks have a new seventh inning tradition. On Sundays, singing about peanuts and crackerjacks gets set aside for a more somber display. During the middle of the seventh inning on any Sunday game, every Major League ballpark pauses, brings out the players from each team to stand in a line with their hats removed, and plays the song “God Bless America” for all to sing. (The New York Yankees practice this tradition at each home game, but the other Major League teams observe this as a Sunday tradition.) This Sunday in Cincinnati, 45,000 people stood and sang at the top of their lungs, asking God to bless America.

I’ve been to Christian conferences that filled arenas and nobody sang about God this loudly and cheered so passionately at the conclusion. I stood there and wondered if the ovation after the final note was louder than when the Reds upset the Oakland A’s by sweeping them in the 1990 World Series. As soon as the song was over, we went into “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and I felt my favorite part of being a fan had the thunder stolen in the name of God blessing our nation.

After the game, I had plans to meet up with some local church planters from my denomination, as is customary for me when I travel. I find that connecting with other church planters is always inspiring, and it is probably nice for them to have someone treat them to a meal or dessert, as church planting can be very difficult. These particular church planters came to Cincinnati because the North American Mission Board (NAMB) had identified it as a “Send City.”

NAMB’s church planting strategy emphasizes highly populated areas with a low number of evangelical churches per capita. Knowing this, I had been so caught off guard by the crowd’s enthusiasm during the seventh inning festivities. I actually paused during the game to “research” NAMB’s evaluation of Cincinnati. Apparently, I thought, there wasn’t a need for church planting in this city because nothing got the crowd more excited than singing about God and asking Him to bless America.

To my surprise, the “Send Cincinnati” information revealed that just 13.7 percent of metro Cincinnati residents were affiliated with an evangelical church. 13.7 percent. That rate is bad even when we’re talking tips at a cheap diner. But as a percentage of people affiliated with a local evangelical church? No wonder NAMB had identified this as a mission field.

So, then, who were all of these people singing so loudly?

That day in Ohio, I was reminded that Cultural Christianity isn’t just an epidemic of the American South. I had just witnessed thousands of people worshiping enthusiastically in the church of civic religion.

The reality of civic religion

Civic religion is practiced from the high school football locker room, where teams incorporate a prayer before the game, to the grand stages of Hollywood, where you can find a celebrity thanking God during an acceptance speech. It is rampant in American politics and is expected from national leaders, though the reasoning for that falls somewhere between tradition and sentimentality. Of course, there are those who go bananas over “God language” in the name of separation of church and state, but that hasn’t yet been able to kill the American practice of sprinkling in sentimental religious language when needed. Has a modern-day sitting president of the United States ever failed to say “God Bless America” as the closing in a major address to the nation? While it is certainly a nice gesture (and I’m sure some have had sincere Christian faith), these small nods to God keep civic religion and Cultural Christianity alive.

Civic religion promotes a god without any definition and a generic faith that means, demands, and asks nothing of its followers. Participants stretch across the cultural spectrum in terms of geography and socioeconomic status. In some areas, civic religion is even proudly theistic and likes the idea of Jesus. Selective words spoken by Jesus in the New Testament will be used and cited when the political cause of the day needs a rally cry. Whether it is government-run healthcare, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, or immigration, Jesus is positioned as having an opinion that can suit one’s side, regardless of one’s adherence to the authority of Scripture as a whole.

A religion of “good people”

When asked to indicate their religion on an application or form, many Americans, without hesitation, would check “Christian.” By this, they mean to say that they are “good people” who believe in God but aren’t Jewish or Muslim. Many people who are comfortable with the idea of God and familiar with some image of Jesus have no concept of what the gospel of Christ actually is.

There is a perception among Cultural Christians that the gospel is for more extreme, perhaps “born again” people. Mainstream cultural Christians aren’t wrapped up in promoting some kind of gospel message. They are simply trying to be nice to others, pursue their idea of personal happiness, pray when something bad happens, and rest in the belief that they are going to heaven after they die. What is missing from their perceived Christianity is the actual gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s unmask the generic Jesus

The question that must be answered is how do we reach people who identify as Christians, and simply are not? Perhaps this is the largest mission field in America, but we don’t even realize it because we don’t have a category for a generic theist with a sentimental faith that has nothing to do with the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I have written The Unsaved Christian to help the church understand that this is not a discipleship issue. It is not that people need to get more serious about their faith. I argue, rather, that this is an evangelism issue, and cultural Christians need to be reached with the good news of the gospel. My prayer is we will awaken ourselves to the need, realize this is the state of people in our own families, neighborhoods, and even churches, and get to work pointing people away from a Christianity by culture and toward a Christianity of conviction.

Editors’ note: This article is an adapted excerpt from Dean Inserra’s book, The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel (Moody).

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Is Pastoral “Desire” a Qualification for Ministry?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 13:56
The question of a pastoral “call to ministry,” reminiscent of God’s call of biblical prophets and apostles, has long been a issue with which ordination councils have been concerned. Many operate on the assumption that no one aspiring to the ministry may proceed without such a “call.” I concede, of course, that God’s Spirit is... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

8 reasons the resurrection matters more than you think

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/19/2019 - 17:45

I had a conversation with a close friend a few years ago, and he asked me a question that I chewed on for days afterward: Do those of us who adhere to the doctrines of grace tend to downplay the resurrection of Christ? Do we, in our drive to make everything gospel-centered and cross-saturated unintentionally underemphasize the final miracle in the doctrines of grace, the vindication of the Son by the Father in the empty tomb?

The more I have thought about it, the more I wonder if perhaps there is not some subtle truth in this notion, though there is no way to empirically substantiate it. As adherents to historic evangelical orthodoxy, we love to proclaim Good Friday and its staggering implications for fallen humanity. Rightly, we cherish the great truth of Christ’s substitutionary, effectual death on behalf of His people. We exalt His propitiating the wrath of the Father—the wrath that we deserved to bear, Christ bore. How could we not exult in so glorious a truth?

Centrality of preaching the cross

We speak often of Christ’s active and passive obedience and the application of both for the imputation of His righteousness to sinners: “God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” That may be the Olympus of theological truths.

As I thought of these things and my friend’s question, I realized that in my own speaking of the gospel, I always frame as the “person and work of Christ” or His substitutionary atonement, but invariably, I (unintentionally, of course, I’m not suggesting any of us does this on purpose), leave off the resurrection.  In the past few days, I have found myself saying “Christ’s death…and resurrection in our place.” After all, his resurrection secured our resurrection and Paul tells us that we are raised in him.

The resurrection has been the focal point of attack from atheists and liberals throughout the history of the church. Jesus contended with the Sadducees whose central theological thrust was a denial of the resurrection. In the Enlightenment, British empiricist David Hume virtually made a career out of attacking the validity of Christ’s resurrection in his assault on the Christian faith. Hume, the Sadducees and all skeptics know that if one proves the resurrection of Christ false, then the Christian faith and its supernatural power collapses like a house of cards.

8 devastating results if we lose the empty tomb

Of course, we who cherish sound evangelical doctrine certainly also cherish the resurrection of Christ, for without it, the cross is void of significance. With Good Friday looming in a matter of days, Paul’s exposition of the centrality of the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 serves as a good reminder for us all of the catastrophic consequences for our fallen world if Christ “be not raised.” If the resurrection is not true, then Paul says eight awful truths emerge that renders false the Christian faith. If Christ is not raised, then:

1. Not even Christ is raised.

This is the first and most obvious consequence. This is nuclear fallout. If there is no resurrection from the dead, as Hume and the Sadducees claim, then Christ’s body was eaten by dogs or taken by thieves or secretly removed by Jesus’s disciples or there exists another naturalistic explanation for the claim by hundreds of witnesses to have seen the risen Lord.

2. The preaching of the gospel is useless.

The good news is then no news. Actually, it is bad news. For, apart from the resurrection, Jesus has not conquered suffering, sin or death and these three evils will forever be our conquerors. As Barney Fife always loved to tell people while dispersing a crowd in Mayberry, there is nothing to see here.

3. Faith in Christ is worthless.

Faith in a lifeless corpse buried somewhere in the Middle East will save no one. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Hebrews 11 would better be dubbed the “hall of fools” instead of the hall of faith.

4. Every witness to the resurrection and all preachers of the resurrection are liars.

To deny the resurrection is to call the apostles and every other New Testament leader liars. They are not simply mistaken, but are peddling a whopper of a myth. Jesus, too, is a liar, for it was He who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

5. Christianity is a fairy tale

Scripture is nothing but a book of history comingled with superstition and myths. Missions and evangelism are a colossal waste of time, energy and money. We do not waste effort and resources peddling Mother Goose and we should not waste our time on this ancient myth.

6. All of humanity is still in its sins.

What Paul says remains true, “The wages of sin is death.” Our world is still fallen, still captive to sin, still enslaved to death.

7. Everyone who died is in hell.

There remains no sacrifice for sins, if Christ be not raised. This consequence follows from the sixth one and means that every human being will face the full, unmediated wrath of God for all eternity.

8. Christians are the most pathetic people on earth.

Paul puts it this way, “If Christ be not raised, then we are of most men to be pitied.” Indeed. And this is why the world, as Paul says so well in 1 Corinthians 1, sees the cross of Christ as foolishness. If every part of the Gospel is not true, then we will have spent our days pursuing a God who will not be able to benefit us beyond the grave. Not only are we objects of pity, the skeptics around us are correct. Blaise Pascal’s famous “wager” will do little to make us feel better in eternity.

Soon, the Christian world will celebrate both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In all the teaching, talking and theologizing we who march behind the banner emblazoned with the five solas tend to do, let us remember that we cannot have the one without the other.

The post 8 reasons the resurrection matters more than you think appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Without the Resurrection, there is no Salvation

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/19/2019 - 10:12
The point indicated in the title to this post is ably defended by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. There, Paul indicates that if there is no resurrection, then Jesus is not raised, and if Jesus is not raised, then we are still in our sins. Such an argument makes little sense to some, for the... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

2 pleas to perseverance in revitalization

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 14:52

I suspect most readers have heard the story of Louis Zamperini from either the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand or the major motion picture that chronicles his life. Both are titled Unbroken. Zamperini enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1941 and was stationed in the south Pacific as a bombardier. While on a mission searching for a lost bomber, his plane crashed killing eight of the eleven men onboard. After surviving the crash, Zamperini and two others drifted on two small rafts in the open ocean for more than a month and half. During that time, they drank only small amounts of rainwater and ate small fish and birds that landed on their raft. They fended off numerous shark attacks, nearly capsized in a storm, and were strafed multiple times by Japanese bombers. One of the three men died on the 33rd day of the ordeal.

After 47 days, Zamperini and the other man, Russell Phillips, landed in the Marshall Islands, but their story of survival was just beginning. Immediately captured by the Japanese, they were held in torturous POW camps for the next two years. Zamperini endured horrific mental and physical abuse throughout his imprisonment and unconscionable torment at the hands of one of Japan’s most notorious war criminals, Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe. As the war came to an end, he was released in August 1945 and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Zamperini’s story doesn’t end here and the spiritual renewal that followed exceeds his physical endurance. But I stop here to reflect on a comparison. If we’re honest, his story is as far away as it is fascinating. At no point in reading it did I think I could replicate it. I can’t imagine spending one night on the open ocean, spending one day in a POW camp, or spending one minute on the sharp side of an executioner’s sword. His story might make the hair on my neck stand up, but it doesn’t make me think I could walk in his shoes. I love the story, but it is more likely to embarrass me than it is to motivate me. It makes me want to look in the mirror and say, “Hey cry baby, until they rip out your fingernails, you need to quit whining.” The harrowing tale illustrates perseverance in a way that only highlights my weakness.

It might seem odd to compare the extraordinary story of Louis Zamperini with that of a pastor. Certainly his story is very different than ours in a variety of ways. As a pastor, I’m ill-equipped to prepare you for a survival in a life raft or in a prison camp. My keyboard fingers look more like they’ve had a manicure than done manual labor. (Just so we’re clear, I’ve never had a manicure). Most years I suffer more paper cuts on my hands than work blisters. My neck and back pain have more to do with the way I rest my arms on the mousepad than from lifting, carrying, or swinging a heavy tool. I have little to nothing in common with Louis from a physical standpoint.

Yet despite the obvious differences, his story compares well with what we’re called to do in pastoral ministry. As a pastor you probably won’t float in a raft until you nearly starve to death, but you might find yourself adrift amid the tumultuous waters of financial stress, wondering how you’ll feed your family. You probably won’t face torturers who try to break you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but you will suffer the physical effects of the emotional and mental weight of ministry burdens. And your leadership efforts will, at times, chum the waters within a local congregation drawing predators to the surface.

You probably won’t face all manner of insults… oh wait… you likely will face that one. You probably won’t face constant threats on your life, but you will be attacked. At times these assaults will come from those in obvious opposition to you and your leadership, but other times, they’ll arrive in the form of friends. The experiences are miles apart, but they correlate.

Take nothing away from Louis and his remarkable story, but endurance is as necessary for pastors as it is for POWs. I’m not diminishing the gravity of what he faced or presuming to know what he suffered, but pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart. Surviving four decades in pastoral ministry is just as miraculous as surviving four years in a prison camp. Neither is humanly possible; both require God’s grace and power. One could even argue that surviving in ministry is more remarkable because the battle behind it is supernatural and not natural. I’m not going to argue this with a POW, but I think you get the point.

The difficulties in pastoral ministry combine to call for a word to encourage and equip a generation of pastors to labor with endurance in all fields, but especially in the difficult ones of church revitalization. In these contexts, God’s Word is often not very popular and endurance in ministry is not humanly possible. Shepherding in these fields will mirror Isaiah’s experience of preaching to deaf ears in seasons of stagnation and even decline. These pastors will empathize with Paul’s description of his ministry in Macedonia: “fighting without and fear within.” Yet, hope is not lost, and perseverance is possible. If you know this struggle firsthand, receive two words of encouragement.

  1. Persevere through the trials

First, the trials associated with pastoral ministry are not new and you’re not alone. Throughout the scriptures and church history, faithful pastors have labored under the weight of hostility, apathy, and adversity. These three categories encompass most every specific circumstance in one way or another. Hostility or active aggression toward God, his word, and/or the pastor confronts most who lead a church toward change. Apathy or indifference toward God, his word, and/or the pastor awaits those who lead in places where the status quo is comfortable. Adversity or a wide variety of personal and family burdens, church-related emergencies, and community catastrophes will inevitably arise. Thousands of faithful brothers – some well-known and most entirely obscure – have labored through hostility, apathy, and adversity. None have faced your specific trial or circumstance, but they’ve preached to blank stares, dodged grenades from opponents, taken friendly fire, and persisted amid internal strife.

 

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  1. Persevere through the seasons

Every season and every trial comes by the sovereign and gracious hand of God. Each is instruments for his work in you. God progressively sanctifies each one of his children – including pastors – shaping us into the image of His Son. The struggles of pastoral ministry, therefore, are key tools for this work in us. He will use even these hostile members, apathetic listeners, and adverse circumstances for your good and His glory. To borrow from James 1, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet [these] trials” knowing that they will produce a harvest of fruit in you.

Imagine your average Monday morning. How would you describe your state of mind? Feel like you’re lying in a raft in the middle of the ocean clinging to life? Did you barely manage to escape the strafing by the enemy and the “friendly fire” yesterday? Feel like their prepping for another attack? Do you feel alone? On an island surrounded by people, but without a friend? Feel like a complete failure? Disappointed in yourself because of yet another subpar sermon? Do you feel beaten and battered? Overwhelmed with stress that has nothing to do with the previous day?

Regardless of your state of mind, perseverance is possible because pastoral ministry is a Holy Spirit-empowered, God-honoring, Christ-exalting work. The Lord of Sunday is still the Lord on Monday. Your circumstance has come by His gracious and sovereign hand and these trials are for His purpose in you. He is building his Church and making you blameless at the same time. Don’t lose hope, for the One who has called you is faithful, and he will surely do it.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Neither Forsaken nor Estranged from God

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 14:51
Not long ago, I was able to attend a conference, where Dr. Mark Snoeberger presented on the question of what may rightly be said about the death of God in the death of Christ. This paper, published in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, is a written form of that presentation. I heartily encourage you... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

10 priorities for the busy pastor

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 10:54

Everyone is busy. This is the reality of our modern culture. There is work that needs to be done, a family to care for, a house and car to maintain, friendships to cultivate, doctors to visit.   There are kid’s activities to schedule and guests to host. For those of us who are Christians, you can add to the normal busyness of life attendance at church, possibly volunteering once a week. Life in the twenty-first century feels like an unending rat race. We only slow down when crisis and sickness force us to take a break.

Those who pastor God’s people experience many of the same pulls, pressures, demands, and responsibilities as other Christians. And because a pastor is called to be involved in the lives of the people in his congregation, he must learn to juggle his own schedule with the busy and hectic schedules of his church members as well. Their busy lives create additional tension in ministry, setting many pastors up for failure—even before they begin.

Two traps

Many pastors fall into two traps.

In some cases, a pastor quickly realizes that he cannot provide adequate care for his congregation, so he doesn’t. Even with a smaller congregation, it’s not possible to be at every surgery, ball game, funeral, doctor’s visit, home invitation, church work-day, and counseling request. Discouraged, some stop trying altogether. A pastor may choose to focus more broadly on administrating large activities, managing busy programs, and overseeing the general functioning of the local church, leaving the work of “ministry” to others—or neglecting it altogether.

On the other hand, some determined pastors recognize that they can’t do it all but they commit to pushing through the pain. They set an ambitious hand to the plow and hope that with enough effort they will at least please some people. This approach has its own dangers, though. The pastor is now enslaved to the demands and needs of his church. The congregation, whether directly or indirectly, largely determines how his time is spent. His ministry faithfulness and fruitfulness will be based on how happy his congregation is with his efforts, and while some will be pleased, there will always be people who can never be satisfied. Satisfying people becomes his way of measuring faithfulness, yet this will leave him feeling exhausted and empty.

 

His true calling 

A pastor is not called to run programs for the masses. Nor is he called to do it all and try to please everyone. God is the one who calls pastors to ministry, and the specifics of that calling are clearly outlined in God’s Word. The only way a pastor can avoid these pitfalls and remain steadfast throughout his life and ministry is to know what God has truly called him to do—and to do it! The Apostle Peter exhorts elders/pastors to be shepherds—to care for God’s people. He writes:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).

Peter’s exhortation to pastors can be summarized in a single sentence, “Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care until the Chief Shepherd appears.” And in case you missed it, Peter is pretty clear about the who, what, when, and how of a pastor’s biblical calling.

What: Be shepherds of God’s flock.

Who: The flock that is under your care.

How: Not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

When: Until the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, returns for his flock placed in your care.

A pastor’s true calling, then, is to shepherd the souls of God’s people humbly, willingly, and eagerly, and to do all of this on behalf of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. This has not changed from the time Peter wrote these words until today. Though our culture has changed and life is quite different today than it was in the first century, the basic responsibilities of pastoral ministry have not changed.

The word of God is sufficient to provide us with an outline of a pastor’s divine calling, and it is sufficient to instruct a pastor in how he should prioritize his daily schedule. God’s Word consistently highlights the priorities of faithful shepherds and affirms that these priorities revolve around the core calling—to “be shepherds of God’s flock under your care.”   God’s Word has the power to cut through the demands, pressures, and expectations that crush a pastor’s spirit.

Ten priorities for ministry

In my book from a few years back, The Pastor’s Ministry, I set forth ten key priorities that should be at the heart of every pastor’s ministry. Here they are:

1.      Guard the truth (2 Tim. 1:13-14)

A pastor must be committed to the Word of God and the apostles’ teachings and willing to preach, teach, and defend them when they are contrary to the culture.

2.     Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2)

A pastor must faithfully preach the whole counsel of God’s Word, carefully explaining the meaning of the text and applying it to the lives of those under his care.

3.     Pray for the flock (Eph. 6:18)

A pastor should be an intercessor, bringing the needs of his church before God and modeling prayer both publically and privately.

4.     Set an example (1 Tim. 4:12)

A pastor is an example to his flock and should always be aware that others are looking to him as a model. While a pastor should model righteous behavior, he must also model confession and repentance, acknowledging that he is also a sinner and teaching his people how to apply the gospel to life.

5.      Visit the Sick (James 5:14)

Pastors should visit those who are sick and in need of care and encouragement, and they must train up others in the congregation to help care for others in need.

6.     Comfort the grieving (1 Thess. 4:18)

In the face of death, a pastor should grieve with those who grieve and should sensitively remind those who are grieving of the hope and encouragement of the gospel. This involves preaching gospel-focused messages at funerals and graveside services.

7.     Care for widows (1 Tim. 5:3)

A biblical teaching that is much neglected today, pastors are responsible for the widows of the church and should find creative ways to model care for widows by involving their families and other members of the church in caring for these special women.

8.     Confront sin (Matt. 18:15-17)

Pastors need to confront sin and lead the church in the exercise of discipline in the hope of repentance and restoration.

9.     Encourage the weaker sheep (1 Thess. 5:14)

 

Though it can be tempting to dismiss people who are slow to change, God calls pastors to model patience and persevering hope by working with those who are difficult, despairing, and challenging.

10.  Identify and train leaders (2 Tim. 2:2)

It is the primary responsibility of pastors to identify, raise up, train, and affirm leaders in the church. Every pastor should have a plan for how to do this in his local church and should be actively seeking out the next generation of leaders.

Each of the priorities listed above are grounded in God’s Word and then should be practically fleshed out in the context of life and ministry. We need to be biblically grounded in these pastoral imperatives before we can develop the practical tools to engage in these tasks.

 

Ultimately, I pray that every pastor who feels the burdens and pressures of ministry and who deals with the impossible expectations of shepherding people will be freed from the bondage of meeting every need, giving away time that is not available, trying to be at two places at once, and maintaining countless unappreciated head-spinning tasks. My hope is that the power of God’s Word will invigorate every pastor to see what God desires for his life and ministry and to better discern what he can do that will please the Chief Shepherd.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

1 Kings 18:17-40

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 10:00

The post 1 Kings 18:17-40 appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why Do Christians Believe in the Trinity? Is It Rational?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 11:22
Christians are people of the book, but the word “Trinity” is not found anywhere in the Bible. So, is the Trinity a biblical doctrine? And if so, is it rational? What Does the Bible Teach? Though the Bible does not contain one verse that sums up the Trinity, it gives at least three distinct truths... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

New Resource: KJVParallelBible.org

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:50
A unique resource has finally been fully completed, and I thought our readers should take note. Mark Ward, a graduate of BJU who now works at Logos, has worked for two years compiling a helpful resource for comparing the Greek text underlying the KJV (TR) with modern versions (UBS/NA).[1] The unique element is that the... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

What is the unpardonable sin?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 10:43

I still remember well, as a young Christian, listening to The Bible Answer Man radio show. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I distinctly recall the occasional poor troubled souls who’d call in hoping for consolation, despair in their voice, fearful they’d committed the unforgivable sin — blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Little did I know at the time, those late 2oth-century callers were only the latest in 2,000 years to worry about whether they’d indeed committed the blasphemy of the Spirit. We know this was an issue in the early church, and different branches of the church had different opinions. For many, it was understood that a falling away under persecution, for example, was this kind of unforgivable sin. And we know different portions of the church split over whether a relapsed Christian could re-enter the church.

Fast forwarding, we read in John Bunyan’s famous and influential tale his own wrestling with this issue. Indeed, in the last 300 years, probably the largest group of people who’d be anxious about this kind of question came from Puritan stock. We know of many stories including a most tragic one where an English Puritan named John Child actually took his own life, convinced in despair and melancholy he’d committed this unforgivable, unpardonable sin.

Texts and their reception

The “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” language comes directly from the Gospels and is found in parallel accounts in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:10. Beyond this threefold witness, it also appears in roughly the same form in the Didache (11:7), and it’s the 44th saying in the Gospel of Thomas. In all these cases the literary context varies slightly, but there’s a consistency in emphasizing the one greatest and unforgivable sin—the “speaking against” or “blaspheming” of the Holy Spirit.

Ambrose and the Didache understand the unforgivable sin to be opposing the Spirit’s work — not just in Jesus’ day, but continuing through his Spirit-inspired prophets in the contemporary church. Many in the church connected this saying with the “sin unto death” of 1 John 5:16, understood as an unforgivable post-conversion relapse, while others interpreted it more generally as a rejection of the gospel. Augustine, who dedicated at least one whole sermon to this topic, is typical and influential in arguing the blasphemy isn’t a specific act but a state of enmity and impenitence lasting unto death. It’s a hardness of heart that, if not repented of in this life, will prove to be unforgiven. In this sense, then, the blasphemy is understood simply as unbelief that persists throughout life.

Space doesn’t permit a fuller exploration of the nuances of these views nor, more importantly, a thorough examination of each of the Gospel passages in their literary and historical context—something essential for the wisest reading of these texts. This would include a sensitive reading that allows each Gospel writer to make his own nuanced interpretive application of the famous blasphemy saying. (For example, Luke’s witness to this saying seems most generic and less contextualized than Matthew’s and Mark’s.)

Nevertheless, we can highlight here what seems to be the overall meaning as well as note some common misinterpretations. On the latter score, it’s important to emphasize that however one interprets the blasphemy saying, it cannot be construed as the same thing as “grieving” or “quenching” the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). These instructions from Paul aren’t warnings of unbelief to Christ’s hard-hearted opponents (as in the Gospel accounts) but exhortations to Spirit-imbued believers to continue in Spirit-empowerment, not giving themselves over to bitterness and conflict. Paul makes it clear: Christians must resist prohibiting the mysterious work of God in the assembly of God’s people.

Another misinterpretation would be to understand the blasphemy too generically as meaning that anyone who at any point rejects Christ openly can’t be a true Christian later. While we may initially read these texts this way (especially in Luke’s least-explained version), the New Testament’s own retelling of key events belies this interpretation. Specifically, we see contrary evidence in both Peter and Paul. Paul’s conversion story wasn’t simply one of ignorance and then acceptance of Christ but rather one of hardened opposition to Christ and his followers preceding his conversion (Acts 9:1-19). Such open rejection of Jesus apparently wasn’t an unforgivable sin. Even more shocking, Peter himself — after following Jesus for some time — denies him openly (three times!), yet is restored not only to forgiveness but leadership in the early church (John 18:15-27; 21:15-19). Without question, this sin on Peter’s part, though equal parts serious and incontrovertible, cannot be construed as an unforgivable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Final choice

So what does the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit really mean, and how does it apply to us today? In short, I suggest it’s a specific, active, and final choice to declare the person and work of Jesus as being demonic in origin. The specificity of this charge is clearest in the most detailed version of the event we have, retold by Matthew (12:22-37). There it’s clear that, after a contracted series of interactions with Jesus, the Pharisees have made a final, declarative decision that Jesus is not from God and must be killed (12:14 is the turning point of Matthew’s narrative on this score). As a result, they have no choice but to openly interpret Jesus’ good works of healing and teaching as Satanic in origin. Jesus, in a showing of his incredible wisdom, reveals the terrible inconsistency of their logic (12:25-29). Instead, he argues, these godly works come from God’s Spirit. Therefore, to call the Spirit’s work through Jesus demonic is the greatest, unforgivable sin (12:31-32).

Augustine’s view that the unforgivable sin is a state of unrepentant enmity toward God isn’t wrong, but it doesn’t deal with the specificity to which the Gospel texts speak. It’s certainly a truism and a valid reading/application of these texts to argue that a state of unbelieving enmity toward Christ results in no forgiveness. But the first reading of the blasphemy of the Spirit in the Gospel texts is much more specific: it’s a hardened evaluation of Jesus’ work as being demonic in origin.

Matthew’s additional material in 12:33-37 both makes this reading clear and also shows interpreters have regularly misunderstood how 12:33-37 relates to 12:22-32. Despite our New Testament editions’ paragraph break at 12:33, these following verses aren’t a new, unrelated section but the culmination of Jesus’ conflict with his opponents and the explanation of what this blasphemy is. Continuing in his argument, Jesus forces the Pharisees to face their own position and make a choice—either declare that he’s a good tree or a bad one (12:33). It makes no sense to say he’s a bad tree (demonic in origin) producing good fruit (healings). This statement, which is regularly conflated with Matthew’s other uses of the tree analogy (3:10; 7:15-20), is actually the same argument he’s just made about the illogicality of his opponents’ position (12:25-29). Again, the blasphemy against the Spirit is saying that Jesus’ good works (by the Spirit) are the fruit of a bad (demonic) tree.

This in turn also explains the equally troubling saying in 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Rather than being a general statement indicating all of us will be faced at the pearly gates with an embarrassing video recording of all the stupid things we said in life, these verses directly address and complete the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit argument. Jesus is warning his opponents that these careless words (that Jesus’ work is demonic in origin) will result in their condemnation—another way of saying they won’t be forgiven for this hardened position of opposition to him.

His smiling, welcoming face

So when troubled souls come to us anxious about having committed the unpardonable sin, what shall we say?

It’s important to emphasize in the first instance that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a specific, hardened opposition to Jesus that entails deeming his work as demonic in origin. I doubt many of our parishioners will find themselves in such a position. It is not, again, any failure to obey a perceived leading of the Spirit in our lives.

This isn’t to minimize the pinch and pain of these strong words of Jesus. It’s a valid extension to warn people of a persistent hardness of heart in opposition to Jesus. But this is a message not for the tender conscience or the stumbling believer, but rather for the pseudo-religious who stands over against Jesus in smugness. The Peters and Pauls and millions of other believers through history have failed and fallen and have yet found Jesus’ smiling, welcoming face of forgiveness.

Editors’ note: This article was originally publishedat The Gospel Coalition.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Effective Witnessing

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 10:00

The post Effective Witnessing appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

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