March 2011

Panel discusses conversing with culture

March 1 2011 by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications

Believers are often confronted with hard questions: Why do you believe what you believe? Why does God allow suffering in the world? Is Christianity the only way to salvation? Why should I believe that God exists? What about homosexuality and abortion?

These are just some of the questions addressed during the recent 20/20 Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). More than 800 college and high school students filled Binkley Chapel to hear from Daniel Akin, president of SEBTS; Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Michael Green, chaplain for the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics; Bruce Little, professor of philosophy and director of the SEBTS L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture; as well as numerous other professors and pastors who led nearly 20 different break out sessions.

Feb. 5 featured a panel discussion with the plenary speakers. Bruce Ashford, dean of the College at Southeastern, moderated the discussion. Ashford first asked the panel to speak on one or two key issues Christians are faced with in a 21st century context.

Akin spoke about how Christians are making hard decisions concerning evolution and the practice of homosexuality. Unfortunately, many Christians in the academy and the church are giving ground on these issues instead of holding firm to the biblical position. Akin believes the “exclusivity of Christ will continue to be extremely offensive to a pluralistic culture.”

Akin described the continual growth of Islam in the United States, as well as internationally, as an issue facing not only the church but the wider American culture in general. Green also highlighted the issue of Islam. He encouraged Christians to study the religion more in-depth and to study missionary evangelism strategies seeing success in different parts of the Islamic world in order to better engage Muslim neighbors in this country.

SEBTS photo

Panelists at 20/20 Conference answer questions from the audience about contemporary issues that Christians face.


Mohler brought up the issue of gender as a noteworthy influencing factor in the 21st century. He said culture today is beginning to ask if gender even matters. Already in New York people are allowed to change the sex on their birth certificate. “We are living in a time where the whole issue of gender (male and female) is a liquid concept. It is becoming more and more acceptable to wear a beard to work one day and a dress the next,” Mohler said. “The issue of homosexuality is the prow of the ship, so to speak, but there are a host of other issues such as this right behind it.” As Judeo-Christian morality continues to be thrown out of American culture, the church needs to learn how to speak with clarity and grace into these issues, regardless of how uncomfortable it may seem.

Akin then asked Green, an 80-year-old Englishman who has served in ministry on both sides of the Atlantic, if he thought the American church would follow the pattern of what has tragically happened to the church in Europe. Green said he does see the American church following in the footsteps of the now nearly extinct European church. He pointed to the liberalism of American universities as one of the main factors in the slide toward becoming “post-Christian.” He also suggested that if the church does not address “the issues within as well as the issues on the outside,” such as gender and homosexuality, he fears for its demise.

In regards to engaging the culture on many of these issues, Mohler encouraged the audience with three imperatives: “1. Think. Cultural engagement begins with thinking. How do the claims of Christ and the claims of the Bible lay claim on us as we consider these issues? 2. Read. We need to be very careful and avid consumers of the conversation of the culture around us. We need to know what is going on, especially in the larger intellectual culture. 3. Articulate. Speak, write, blog, tweet on the basis of Christian conviction. Cultural engagement is best seen by engaging with Christian truth. It helps us think through the issues ourselves as well as explain it to the culture around us.”

Ashford asked the panel to highlight a few models, either Christian theologians or public figures, who are exemplary at engaging the culture. Akin began by saying that, “no matter how well we do this (engage the culture around us) there is always going to be a degree of rejection. By its very nature the gospel is going to be offensive … but we do not need to be the ones who are doing the offending and thus keeping people from the gospel.”

Akin then went on to list men like Mohler, C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer as good models.

Mohler answered the question by saying that the ambition of Christians is not just to speak to the culture.

“Our goal is to be faithful to the gospel,” he said.  

However, Mohler went on to explain that today’s society is one of culturally imbedded people who have a responsibility to speak the gospel to the culture. Throughout the history of the church each model has been mixed; there is no exact right way to do it.

He pointed to Augustine and his book City of God. Augustine “set forth a Christian mode of cultural engagement that made clear that the gospel is supreme over all cultures. But God loves people and people are set in cultures, and therefore we are to pay attention to the city of man, even though our primary allegiance is to the city of God,” Mohler said.

Mohler also highlighted William Wilberforce and Jonathan Edwards as great models of cultural engagement.

Related story
Akin urges believers to defend faith, hope

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/1/2011 10:30:00 AM by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



State leaders talk missional discipleship

March 1 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) recently partnered to sponsor a panel discussion about what it means to engage in missional discipleship.

Panelists included: Andy Hughes, pastor, Journey Church of the Highlands; Sean Cordell, pastor, Treasuring Christ Church; Winfield Bevins, pastor, Church of the Outerbanks; Nathan Akin, student development liaison to churches, SEBTS; Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry, SEBTS; Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader, BSC; Mark Liederbach, vice president for student services, dean of students, SEBTS.

The discussion began with each panelist speaking briefly on a topic related to discipleship, and then the panel fielded specific questions from the audience about discipleship. Here’s a look inside at some of the Q & A:  

Q: How can churches turn existing ministries into discipleship opportunities?

Liederbach: “Southern Baptists have primarily thought of discipleship in terms of ‘pulpiteering.’” When this happens, leaders are “stealing from our people the life-on-life relationships.”

While Southern Baptists have been known for their programs, programs are not to blame for the lack of discipleship in churches. Pastors must be taught how to shepherd their people and must learn that discipleship does not happen just because the pastor preaches discipleship from the pulpit.

Upshaw: “I’ve seen small groups in homes become programs.”

Even ministries that start out as gospel-centered can very easily become programs that do not have transformed lives as the measure of success. Pastors and leaders can use existing ministries as platforms in which to build relationships, which in turn will encourage discipleship.

Mark Liederbach, left, dean of students for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Nathan Akin, Southeastern’s student development liaison to churches, took part in a panel recently. Liederbach and Akin, along with several other seminary and state leaders, shared about specific discipleship topics and then took questions from the audience.


Cordell: Don’t let Sunday School become another “preaching post.” Although teaching and preaching is certainly valuable and necessary, it cannot, on its own, produce disciples. Use Sunday School or small groups as an opportunity to let people “get into your life.”  

Q: How can pastors and leaders involve their congregation in missions?

Reid:
This generation is one that wants to be involved in missions and mercy missions. Help them get their hands dirty.

Akin: Give them areas of responsibility and let them have opportunities to lead. Cordell: People are drawn to something bigger than themselves. Show them Jesus Christ, who is superior to all things.

Bevins: Give them ways to engage in missions other than just on Sunday mornings. “Go where they are — that’s what Jesus did. Maybe you need to schedule office hours outside the office.” Instead of blogging about being missional — go out and be missional.  

Q: What do we do if we do not use specific curriculum?

Bevins: Consider using small group or Sunday School time to go back and discuss material from that week’s sermon. Teach and train your leaders in how to facilitate discussion of a text.

Upshaw: Make sure you equip your leaders theologically and not just pragmatically.  

Q: How do we measure the purity of our members?

Reid: You should be able to tell whether or not anyone would notice if your church no longer existed. Ask restaurant waiters and waitresses how your congregation is doing.

Talk about holiness. We are not having a lot of discussions about holiness, especially among young people.

“The reason we’re not holy is because we’re not around people who are hungry for it.” Believers must be intentional in engaging the culture, building relationships with lost people and then sharing the gospel with them. Belief in Jesus Christ comes first, and behavior change follows.

Upshaw: “We don’t ask about holiness — that’s part of the problem.” We don’t have accountability. We need to confront sin and love the person.

Cordell: We need to warn people about sin and its consequences, yet at the same time we need to speak about the beauty of redemption.  

Q: Why are so many young adults leaving the church?

Upshaw: “What they see isn’t real.” We are teaching moralism, but Christianity is not about being good enough. We need to model Christ to our children.

Reid: “We are not raising them to think like missionaries.”

We have to stop treating them like kids.

The panel gave great attention to this topic, noting that the problem is with the family and the church — it’s not one or the other. Although parents are primarily responsible for the faith development of their children, that responsibility comes within the context of their church family.

Parents cannot outsource their responsibility to the church, and the church cannot expect parents to fulfill their role without coming alongside and being willing to help. The church can help teach parents practical applications, such as how to have a family devotional time.

Too often the church focuses on just giving youth events and entertainment without ever teaching them what it means to follow Christ or giving them opportunity to be involved in the church and in the community.

The panel encouraged those in attendance to make sure they are involved in their children’s lives.

Schedules should never become so busy that they lack time for family. Children and teenagers know what their parents care about; they should know their parents care about both family and ministry. 

To learn more about what it means to engage in missional discipleship visit www.finditherenc.org.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/1/2011 10:18:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Oeita Bottorff, SBC moderate leader, dies

March 1 2011 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS — A key leader in the moderate response to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) inerrancy controversy in the 1980s died Feb. 25 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Oeita Theunissen, 87, known professionally and in church leadership as Oeita Bottorff, was director of Baptists Committed, an organization formed by Baptists to oppose a movement in the nation’s second-largest faith group known alternatively as the “conservative resurgence” or “fundamentalist takeover.”

She was a key organizer of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — a group that celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer — formed after it became clear that denominational loyalists would be unable to hold onto SBC leadership through political means.

Prior to the controversy she was recognized as a leader among Southern Baptists in youth recreation ministries. She worked a number of years with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission on issues including Texans Care for Children.

She is survived by her husband, Bruce, two children, a grandson, two sisters and two stepdaughters. A memorial service is scheduled at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 3, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Dallas.

Memorials to: Dallas Women’s Foundation or the food pantry of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/1/2011 10:12:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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