How do we train leaders at Southern Seminary?

Leadership development does not occur by accident. No one ever “just so happened” to grow as a leader. That’s why we are very intentional at Southern Seminary in the way we train the next generation of leaders for the evangelical world.

We have multiple leadership development outlets including our ambassadors who support the efforts of our admissions and advancement offices, our interns who support the efforts of various professors or administrators, and our Student Leadership Council who support the efforts of our student life team.

Here’s the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our leadership development strategy at Southern:

  • Who – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens by investing in the top students on campus. By enabling them to cross-pollinate with students, staff and faculty across campus, they gain a better identity as future leaders.
  • What – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens by mobilizing students to work on substantive projects. By enlisting students to work on key initiatives such as the 1937 Project, recruiting efforts, or student enhancement initiatives, they gain great experience that will shape their future effectiveness.
  • When – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens year round. The semesters provide opportunities for weekly growth through meetings and project development. The breaks provide chances to reload and grow.
  • Where – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens in residence. There’s a lot of things you can learn through an online classroom, but you can’t learn how to lead people through pixels alone. So, we maximize the benefit of having one of the most beautiful seminary campuses in the world to train our leaders.
  • Why – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens for a reason: we are serious about training leaders. Our goal is to raise up the next generation of front line gospel warriors who are prepared to equip the church for ongoing spiritual warfare. That happens both in the classroom and outside of it.
  • How – Southern’s leadership development strategy happens through an intentional plan. We evaluate the needs of our students and the keys to growth and customize a strategy for intentional investment.

One of the ways we invest in our student leaders is happening this weekend through our first annual Southern Seminary Student Leadership Conference. We will take some of our student leaders to Nashville for a fun-filled, intentional time of leadership development including:

  • A lunch with Southern Seminary alumni
  • A chance to hear from Lifeway president Thom Rainer
  • A tour of the SBC executive committee building including a word from president Frank Page
  • A visit to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to hear from executive vice president Harold Harper
  • A stop by Baptist Press to meet with associate editor Michael Foust
  • A dinner with host families
  • A panel discussion on marriage and ministry at the Southern Seminary extension center
  • A tour of Vanderbilt’s campus to hear from Mark Coppenger on issues related to leadership and religious liberty on the campus
  • And, last but not least, a trip to the Grand Ole Opry for a concert including Steven Curtis Chapman, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Charlie Daniels, and Ricky Skaggs!

We can’t wait for this weekend! Southern Seminary is serious about leadership development and the 1st annual Student Leadership Conference is one way we do it.

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Are you ready to preach in season and out of season?

Recently, I was asked to speak in a challenging environment on very short notice. That experience caused me to reflect on Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

There are times when every preacher will need to preach or teach on short notice, so how do you prepare in advance? The keys to being ready to preach in season and out of season are development and diagnosis.

Development

To be ready in season and out of season, preachers should develop the following items:

  • Character development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your character. Short notice preaching and teaching depends on a saturation in the word and the ongoing pursuit of spiritual growth for its effectiveness.
  • Arsenal development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your arsenal of preaching and teaching material. The more you gain experience, the more you’ll be able to dust something from the past off the shelf to present on short notice.
  • “Bullet in the chamber” development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your “bullet in the chamber.” Every preacher should have (at least) one sermon ready to preach at any time. Maybe this is one of your best sermons on a text you love, or maybe it is something you update periodically after you’ve used your previous “bullet in the chamber.”

Diagnosis

To be ready in season and out of season, preachers should diagnose the situation regarding the following issues:

  • Your goal – What is the goal of this speaking/preaching opportunity? Is it a typical sermon, is it a teaching session, is it a Q&A? Knowing what you are trying to accomplish will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your subject matter – What is the subject matter that you will preach or teach on? Is it an expositional sermon or a topical teaching session? Is it a passage you selected or one that someone gave you? Knowing what you are trying to preach on will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your role – How does your role fit into what the audience normally experiences? Are you filling in at a new place on short notice or speaking to a familiar audience? Are you the main event or a supporting actor? Knowing who you are trying to be will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your priorities – What are the most important features of the sermon so that you can focus on strengthening those? This is particularly important if you are asked to speak on short notice on a text or topic you haven’t prepared before. Knowing what you are trying to emphasize will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time that you have.
  • Your outlets – Where can you continue to develop your material after this short notice opportunity has passed? Especially if you are covering a new passage or concept for the first time, finding outlets for further speaking or writing opportunities on the topic can help you to develop your ideas further. Knowing where you are trying to go with the material will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.

The best example of “out of season” preaching I’ve ever seen was several years ago at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. Right before a Christmas season service started, the preaching pastor Russell Moore’s wife went into labor. So, he called on the worship pastor Dan Odle to preach. With about 2 minutes of preparation time, Dan preached a great 20 minute sermon on the Christmas story. I won’t soon forget the moment because of the quality of the sermon and the relief I felt that Dan was selected and not me!!!

One of the most challenging yet most fruitful opportunities any preacher has it to be ready to preach in season and out of season. You can’t always anticipate when you will be called on to preach or teach on short notice, but by focusing on these issues related to development and diagnosis, you will put yourself in a position to honor Christ in any situation.

You’re invited to a SBTS State of TX Party on March 21st

Howdy! It’s my pleasure to invite you to a dessert reception for Southern Seminary faculty, staff, students (and their families) with Texas ties on March 21st at 3:30-5:00 PM in Legacy 310. This will be a great chance to catch up with old friends, make new Texas connections, and reminisce about the great Lone Star State.

Our student life team is partnering with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to have an all-you-can-eat Blue Bell ice cream Sundae bar and drinks. Several of my friends from the SBTC will be on campus for this event and to host a seminar on how to find a ministry position the next day, March 22nd from 1-2:30 PM in Norton 102. So, if you or someone you know would be interested in that seminar, make sure they are aware of the seminar details.

If you plan to attend the dessert reception, please take 20 seconds to fill out the form at this link, so we can have an estimated headcount. With the possibility of families coming, we want to make sure we don’t run out of Blue Bell!

Also, if you’d like an individual appointment to discuss ministry options in TX with Lance Crowell or Heath Peloquin of the SBTC on 3/21 or 3/22, email our Ministry Connections Coordinator Matt Haste at mhaste@sbts.edu.

Feel free to come and go from the dessert reception whenever you need too, and wear your wranglers and boots if you like. Please pass this info on to any other Texans you know. We’d love to have a big lone star contingent at the event!

Hugo Chavez was nearly my neighbor (and what that means for job decisions)

If my father loved his career more than he loved our family, Hugo Chavez would’ve been my neighbor. No, I don’t mean we would have shared a property line with one of the most reviled dictators in recent decades. But I do mean that my family would’ve lived in Venezuela as my dad’s climb up the corporate ladder took a South American detour.

The news of Hugo Chavez’s death has me thinking a lot about the impact a decision about a possible job transition can have on a family. Because my dad cared about my family’s stability more than his career aspirations, he turned down a chance to lead Chevron’s South American operations after the company merged with Texaco over a decade ago.

Everyone recognizes that when you say yes to a new job opportunity, it marks a significant milestone in your life. But there are times when saying no to a new job opportunity can have an even greater significance on your life’s direction. The next time you are evaluating a life-altering opportunity like a job offer, here’s how to think about it:

  • Job decisions reveal past experiences – When you make a decision on a position, what it reveals is the wisdom to evaluate new opportunities based on learning from past experiences. Ask yourself, how does this new opportunity fit with what I know based on the past about myself, my prospective new employer, and the gospel?
  • Job decisions reflect present priorities – When you make a decision on a position, what it reflects is the priorities that shape your present decision-making matrix. Ask yourself, how does this opportunity fit with what I find to be most important about myself, my vocation and the gospel’s impact on my life?
  • Job decisions shape future opportunities – When you make a decision on a position, what it shapes is the future possibilities available to you. Ask yourself, how does this opportunity fit with where I want to be in two years or two decades?

As it turns out with my father, after he turned down this job in Venezuela, the company found a better opportunity for him that was a more suitable fit for his skill set and long term goals.

Sometimes, doors open that allow God to lead the way. Other times, doors open that enable the enemy to lead us astray. The challenge is knowing the difference between the two. Gospel-centered discernment helps us to take our past experiences, present priorities, and future hopes to make wise decisions when opportunities arise.

Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to War (Colossians 2:6-15)

This past week at Vine Street Baptist Church, I preached “Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to War (Colossians 2:6-15).” If you’re interested, you can listen to the audio of the sermon here.

This Scripture passage highlights the march of the Christian soldier (2:6-10), the mark of the Christian soldier (2:11-12), and the making of the Christian soldier (2:13-15).

The holocaust and our spiritual adversaries: both are worse than you think

The New York Times featured a stunning, gut-wrenching report over the weekend that highlights new research detailing the scope of the holocaust. The bottom line: the breadth of misery was far worse than scholars originally believed.

The article notes the scope of the atrocity:

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Let’s put it this way: if every Southern Baptist church were instead a Nazi ghetto or camp, it would barely match the total that actually existed during the third reich.

A problem with evil is it’s difficult to account for its scale. With the holocaust, for example, what was already widely-regarded as one of the worst human rights atrocities in history is now seen to be on an even greater scale than previously imagined. It’s like an inverse of the majesty of the grand canyon–a chasm so great that it is hard for the untrained eye to perceive its scale accurately.

If scale is a problem with the human forces of evil, it is much more so with the spiritual forces of evil. To put it simply: the scope of Satan’s dark enemy is even greater than we realize.

  • Their intentions are worse than we think (John 10:10)
  • Their numbers are greater than we think (Ephesians 6:12)
  • Their tactics are more savvy than we think (Genesis 3:1-7)
  • Their deceptions are more persuasive than we think (Colossians 2:8)

So, what does this mean for us as believers? If our spiritual enemies are greater than we thought, it means that our Savior King is a greater conqueror than we thought.

The expanded scope of the Holocaust has shocked experts. But recognizing how great the evil was from these human forces of darkness sheds light on how significant the victory over them actually was.

How much more so with the gospel: understanding the magnitude of the kingdom of darkness helps us to appreciate the superior magnitude of the kingdom of light. Our spiritual enemies are great; but that shows that our conquering king is even greater!

The trouble with violence in the Old Testament: My take on Eric Seibert

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion at Southern Seminary discussing the controversial issue of violence in the Old Testament. Along with Albert Mohler, Denny Burk, and Owen Strachan, we tackled the topic in general but also paid special attention to recent works by Messiah College Old Testament Professor Eric Seibert.

What follows is a brief assessment of Eric Seibert’s scholarship that notes some strengths and concerns. In the meantime, you can watch the panel here:

The whole panel agreed that Seibert’s arguments are some of the strongest we’ve seen emerge from the non-violent and postmodern camps as it relates to violence in the Old Testament. Some of the strengths of his case include:

  • A clear diagnosis of the problem – Better than most scholars, Seibert clearly understand the depths of complexity related to the issue of violence in the Old Testament and communicates them clearly.
  • A good grasp of the literature – Seibert has an excellent grasp of the most significant literature in the field and interacts with it effectively.
  • A genuine concern on the issue – Seibert genuinely cares about seeking to address the complicated moral issue of violence in the Old Testament.
  • A unique approach to the challenge – Seibert’s solution to the issue is unique, as he employs postmodern and historical critical interpretive methods to untangle the challenge of Old Testament violence. But even fellow non-violence advocates like open theist Greg Boyd believe his approach compromises too much in the process (for Boyd’s critique, see page 17 of this pdf).
  • A Christ-centered attempt at the solution – Seibert employs what he considers a Christ-centered lens to interpret these controversial violence passages in the Old Testament, but in reality that lens simplifies being Christ-centered into being non-violent.

Though these strengths are present in Seibert’s arguments, there are several concerns that riddle his approach with weakness including:

  • The problem of God – A result of Seibert’s enterprise is a muddled picture of God. For example, Seibert makes a distinction between the “textual” God and the “actual God” in chapter 9 of his book Disturbing Divine Behavior. The result? What’s revealed about God in the Old Testament must be re-interpreted non-violently in order to rightly understand who God is through those texts.
  • The problem of Scripture – A result of Seibert’s enterprise is a compromised picture of Scripture. For example, Seibert’s recent blog post contends that “not everything in the ‘good book’ is either good, or good for us.” Along the way he jettisons inerrancy and infallibility while defending a “functional” view of the Scripture’s authority that is not based on what Scripture is but on what it does.
  • The problem of historicity – A major feature of Seibert’s efforts is to reject the historicity of many (if not all) of the Old Testament’s accounts of divine or divinely sanctioned violence. He contends in Disturbing Divine Behavior that the Old Testament authors “massage facts” in their accounts for the purpose of persuasion (108). How do you reconcile this view with Jesus’ affirmation of the historical actuality of Old Testament accounts, including holy war events (e.g. John 3:14-15)?
  • The problem of method – Another major feature of Seibert’s efforts is to employ postmodern and historical-critical methods to aid his non-violent re-interpretation of the Old Testament. He admits using postmodern methodologies in his most recent book The Violence of Scripture, including reader-response and feminists hermeneutics (74). As a result, Seibert leverages an egalitarian, non-violent, culturally informed moral standard as the grid to understand complicated Old Testament passages.
  • The problem of eschatology – A final flaw in Seibert’s approach is its inconsistent account of eschatology. Most importantly, though Seibert re-interprets non-violence in the Old Testament, he admits that “God may resort to violence at the end of the age” (Disturbing Divine Behavior, 253). But how can Seibert reconcile eschatological violence with the non-violent view of Christ that guides his interpretive strategy?

As Dr. Mohler asserted in our panel, Seibert’s arguments are the most comprehensive and compelling of its kind in print. However, the theological cost of his perspective is far too high. Plus, it isn’t necessary. In coming posts, I’ll take some time to flesh out some big picture thoughts on how to offer a Christ-centered account of Old Testament violence from a conservative evangelical standpoint.