Calling All SBC Students: Join Us for Crossover Baltimore 2014

In May of 1991 I graduated with my PhD. At the time I served the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as the head of evangelism. The next month the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting came to Indianapolis, and with it a great opportunity for our city called Crossover. For over two decades now Southern Baptists have help the host city in reaching people during the days before the annual meeting.

In 2014, the annual SBC will meet in Baltimore, a great city teeming with multitudes of people who do not know Jesus. Baltimore sits only a five hour drive from Southeastern, offering us a great opportunity to help penetrate the lostness in that urban center. This is why we see this is a great chance  to allow students to learn about evangelism in an urban context and to participate daily for a week in intentional evangelism there.

In the Acts we read of the remarkable spread of the gospel across the Roman Empire. The term “daily” is used over ten times in the book of Acts. We read at the end of chapter 2 how the Lord aded daily to their number. In Acts 16:5 we read of  the strengthening of churches and the daily increase of new believers. We see Paul shifting to a daily gospel ministry in the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus as recorded in Acts 19. As we go to Baltimore we have the chance to give ourselves daily to spreading the gospel and to seeing people saved daily, like we read in the Acts.

Here is the skinny on the Baltimore trip. This is a phenomenal opportunity and will likely be the largest single mission trip in our history. Why sign up for this trip?

1. In one week (the trip is June 1-7, from Monday morning through Saturday afternoon) you will be immersed in sharing Christ in a great city. The trip is set up so you can participate in the class without missing a Sunday AM at your church.

2. You will earn 3 hours credit. And because of Southeastern’s commitment to missions tuition is WAIVED for this trip.

3. Because of the North American Mission Board’s commitment to our students and those at other schools, room and board is PAID for the week.

A few other features:

-You do have to get there and back, but we will be meeting in the spring to help organize car pools and other aids for those who need it.

-We will be interacting with other seminary students and profs. Each morning we will have a prof from the various participating schools teaching us. Then, we will hear from a local pastor, church planter, or other leader who will give us personal insight into the world of urban ministry. After that we will meet for a session with just our students to pray and prepare for the day. After lunch we will spend the rest of the day telling people about Jesus!

-We will participate in a variety of outreach opportunities from block parties to door-to-door, from serving others to street witnessing. We will involve students with talents in hip-hop and other artistic ways to demonstrate the gospel as we proclaim it. A lot of this has yet to be set in stone, so sign up sooner versus later!

The actual cost of the trip is a big fat $10. This will get you registered for the class, and provide a T Shirt and water bottle.

Other profs will be joining me in going into the communities of Baltimore with you. There is really nothing greater as a prof at Southeastern than going with students on mission through trips like this. It will be life changing, and you will be glad you came.

You can register for the class here. For questions please email Dayna White at dwhite@sebts.edu. Or drop by the CGCS in Jacumin-Simmons. Join the missions movement at SEBTS!

Equipping Pastors Part 11: The Pastor and the Southern Baptist Convention–Why Get Involved?

[Note: this article by SEBTS President Danny Akin is the 11th in a semester-long series on Mondays focusing on the equipping of pastors at Southeastern. President Akin has been a leader in the SBC in calling for a Great Commission Resurgence and in challenging younger leaders to be engaged in the SBC.]

I have been a Southern Baptist all my life.  I have no reason to believe I will not die as one.  I probably know as well as anyone our weaknesses and shortcomings.  Still, my love and support for this Convention of churches has never been stronger.  I believe our future is bright and hopeful, and I want to encourage a younger generation of ministers to jump aboard and help us reach the unreached and the underserved with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ.  From the associational level to the state level, to the national level, I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is worthy of your time, energy and investment.  Why?  Let me offer three compelling reasons.

First, there is a passion for international missions.  Southern Baptists believe heaven and hell are real and that a personal relationship with Jesus makes all the difference where one will spend eternity.  That is why we give hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support almost 5,000 missionaries around the world.  We do not do international missions perfectly, but we do it well.  And, we are willing to adapt and change our methods with changing times.  I know this first hand as two of my own sons and their families served with the IMB.  I know this personally because I am on the international field every year seeing the life-changing results of our efforts.  I know this experientially because the leadership at the IMB are some of my dearest friends and heroes.  Reinvent the wheel if you want, or climb on this gospel spreading train and enjoy being a part of one of the greatest rides this side of heaven.

Second, there is a new emphasis and focus on North American church planting and church revitalization.  This two-prong strategy was long overdue.  Today NAMB has targeted the exploding mega-cities for church planting.  NAMB has in its sights those underserved areas of North America where hardly a candle light is shining forth the good news of Jesus.  NAMB is leading the way in helping churches plant ethnically and racially diverse churches so that our Great Commission Convention of churches will look more and more like the eternal and heavenly bride of Christ.  And, while focusing on church planting, NAMB is also working hard to help plateaued and dying churches find new life in gospel preaching, personal evangelism, and effective ministry.  Both LifeWay and the six seminaries are gladly joining hands with our sister entity to reverse the downward spiral of baptism, church membership and worship attendance.  I will not deny that the pruning of our numbers might be helpful and more honest.  However, we have been losing ground with the North American population for over 50 years.  By God’s grace and for His glory, I am praying that the Lord of the harvest is sowing seed through faithful churches for a grand reversal and a great revival!

Third, there is an uncompromising commitment to biblical fidelity and theological integrity in the six Southern Baptist seminaries.  I again know this first hand because of the close working relationship I have with the other seminary presidents.  All of our schools gladly embrace as our confessional statement the BF&M 2000.  Our faculties, without exception, pledge to teach in accordance with and not contrary to, and without mental reservation or hesitation, this doctrinal formulation.  As a result, there is nothing less than substantial agreement on a body of theological truth that represents our united confessional identity.  Would you like a few examples?  Note the following and my list is not exhaustive!

We affirm the inerrancy, infallibility, authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

We affirm the Triune God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.

We affirm God as Creator and reject naturalistic evolution as nonsense.

We affirm both the dignity and depravity of man.

We affirm the full deity, perfect humanity and sinlessness of Jesus the Son of God.

We affirm the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement as foundational for understanding the cross work of our Savior.

We affirm the good news of the gospel as the exclusive and only means whereby any person is reconciled to God.

We affirm the biblical nature of a regenerate church witnessed in believer’s baptism by immersion.

We affirm salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

We affirm the reception of the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration/conversion and the blessing of spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.

We affirm the literal, visible and historical return of Jesus Christ to this earth when He will manifest fully His kingdom.

We affirm the reality of an eternal heaven and an eternal hell with Jesus as the only difference.

We affirm a “sanctity of life” ethic from conception to natural death.

We affirm the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, the goodness of sex in marriage and the gift of children, lots of them!

We affirm the complementary nature of male/female relationships rejoicing in the divine ordering of them for the home and the church; and the list could go on.

I believe the case has been made as to why ministers within the SBC should not just be a part, they should be involved!  We want you.  We need you.  I believe your investment will not be wasted!

Tell Me Your Story of Jesus: Testimonies and Church Membership

Southern Baptists have always treasured the doctrine of regenerate church membership. Insofar as it is humanly possible, a church’s membership should be comprised of authentic believers. Of course, there are a million different ways to undermine regenerate church membership, even in a congregation that affirms the doctrine in principle. It’s important that every church have certain policies and procedures in place to help gauge the spiritual state of prospective members, even if we never get it perfectly right on this side of eternity.

Over the years, I have been a part of a couple of churches where prospective members never had to share a conversion testimony as part of the membership process. In one of those churches, you literally just had to walk the aisle and verbalize to a decision counselor that you were a Christian who had been baptized. I eagerly acknowledged I was a baptized Christian, even though at that time I could not even explain a basic gospel summary. I just knew I had grown up in church, believed that God and Jesus were real, and hoped I would go to heaven when I die because I was a pretty moral kid.

In the ensuing years, I came to faith in Christ, was biblically baptized, and became a member of a healthy church that required all prospective members to share their conversion testimony. It wasn’t enough to answer a couple of questions; you had to tell your story of Jesus and summarize the good news. I can remember working as a decision counselor and being a bit embarrassed to be asking a seminary professor who wanted to join our church to share his personal testimony. I told him it felt a little awkward and apologized to him. He told me it wasn’t awkward at all, he loved sharing his testimony, and he was thrilled our church was asking that of him as a potential member. It was a great testimony.

As one of the elders at First Baptist Church of Durham, it is a great privilege to regularly interview prospective members. Part of that membership interview includes hearing personal testimonies. I have heard some great stories of God’s grace in the past few years. One young lady grew up as a pastor’s daughter, was saved as a young child, struggled with a call to missions as a teenager, and is now married to a man who desires to be a pastor. One brother is a converted hippy who was radically saved in his mid-20s and has been teaching men’s Bible classes for many years. His wife, another converted hippy, grew up with terrible parents before she was introduced to a Heavenly Father who adopted her into his family.

One woman grew up in Brazil, was converted in college, but then was part of a quasi-evangelical cult for a couple of years because of poor discipleship; the Lord eventually rescued her from that group. Several brothers are former drug addicts or alcoholics, some of them homeless and living at a rescue mission before the Lord saved them. One husband and wife were both raised in Christian homes and have loved the Lord for the vast majority of their lives. Many folks came to America as international graduate students before they were introduced to the gospel through an ESL class. One young lady was raised in a very strong Christian home, became a teenager, and realized she had to own her parent’s faith as her own.

I have no doubt that some folks who are false believers occasionally join our church—such is life in a fallen world. But I am convinced that requiring prospective members to share their testimony with a pastor (and requiring public testimonies prior to baptism) helps to safeguard the principle of regenerate church membership. It also allows pastors to rejoice with prospective members at how God has manifested in grace in their lives. I would strongly encourage every church to require a full conversion testimony and gospel summary as part of the membership process.