A Theology of Action: Owen Strachan on “Risky Gospel”

risky-gospelOne of the most lamentable symptoms of today’s emotionalist Christianity is its tendency to inaction. We can trace this symptom to any number of causes, and most of them are theological. Many Christians suffer from warped understandings of the will of God, of the nature of true discipleship, and of the character of the Christian life. Tragically, throughout their lifetimes many church members and nominal Christians never actually do anything of significance for Christ and his kingdom. Owen Strachan not only laments this fact, he intends to do something about it. With fresh energy and keen insight, he offers a vibrant vision of the Christian life in Risky Gospel, just released in the past few days.

He confronts “mystical, fearful Christianity” head-on and, as he explains, this means a living discipleship that is rooted in a heart and mind transformed by Scripture and leads to strategic deployment for the Kingdom of Christ. As he asserts, this means not living fearfully. To the contrary, it means living a life of Gospel risk-taking. Owen talks about risky faith, risky identity, risky spirituality, risky family life, risky work, risky church, risky evangelism, and risky citizenship. With incredible honesty, he also describes risky failure. Many of those who have been used of God for the greatest work of the kingdom have been failures in the eyes of the world. As he explains:

So this is what the concept of gospel risk does for you: it frees you. It positions you to see life with fresh clarity. You’re released from the tyranny of small expectations. You’re loosed from the chains of fearing what others think of you. In point of fact, their opinions pale in comparison to God’s. You’re freed from the endless cycle of brand management. It’s not your reputation among fellow sinners that gives you happiness; it’s being a child of God.

Risky Gospel is filled with biblical truth, saturated with wisdom, and targeted right at the heart of weak, indecisive, emotionalist, inactive spirituality—and at every false gospel. This book would serve as a great Christmas gift for young Christians, and it is well-timed for the challenges all Christians now face in our risky world.

Owen Strachan is assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College and Executive Director of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is a brilliant young scholar and teacher. I should know, because he served as one of my research assistants and interns several years back. He was kind to dedicate this book to me. I am proud to commend this book to you.

Theology and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention: A Conversation with R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Eric Hankins

Southern Seminary was glad to welcome Dr. Eric Hankins, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, as our chapel preacher for Thursday, November 8, 2013. Dr. Hankins preached a powerful message from Luke 24 in chapel, reminding us all that we are “on message when we are on mission.” Later that afternoon, I hosted a public conversation with Dr. Hankins about the Southern Baptist Convention, the Calvinism Advisory Committee (on which we both served), and a range of theological and denominational questions. We are glad to share that conversation with you now.


The Indispensable Evangelical: Carl F. H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the Twentieth Century

I was very pleased to address the Carl F. H. Henry at 100: A Centennial Celebration conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last week. The event was both scholarly and deeply appreciative of Carl Henry and his legacy. In my address, “The Essential Evangelical: Carl F. H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the Twentieth Century,” I did my best to speak to Henry’s strategic role in the creation of the evangelical movement in America. I also sought to learn from Henry and his generation of evangelical leaders as we consider what ambitions evangelicals should serve today.


The Cultural Revolution on the College Campus—Why it Matters to You

177551552Several  years ago, sociologist Peter Berger argued that secularization has been most pervasive in two social locations—Western Europe and the American college and university campus. The campuses of elite educational institutions are among the most thoroughly secularized places on our planet. This should concern anyone with an interest in higher education, of course. But it really matters to every American—or at least it should.

A wonderful and concise explanation of why this is so was provided in the pages of The Weekly Standard this week by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale University. In the course of making a proposal for the “reclamation” of higher education, Professor Gelernter wrote this very important paragraph:

Since the cultural revolution culminating in the 1970s, the left has run nearly all of the nation’s most influential, prestigious universities. Their alumni, in turn, run American culture—the broadcast networks, newspapers, the legal and many other professions, Hollywood, book publishing, and, most important, the massive, insensate, crush-everything-in-your-path mega-glacier known as the U.S. federal bureaucracy—and even more important than that, the education establishment charged with indoctrinating our children from kindergarten up.

That’s why it matters to you. And that’s how the future direction of the culture is set by the current culture of the elite colleges and universities. Many parents are unaware of how this happens. Their children may or may not attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. But in almost any other institution they will study under professors who want to be associated with (or eventually hired by) one of those elite institutions. Exceptions to this pattern are rare, and the influence of these elite schools extends throughout the culture at large.

David Gelernter is in a position to know. After all, he is a professor at Yale. As he makes clear, what happens at Yale doesn’t stay at Yale.

Stronger Together, Serving Together, Sending Together—The State Baptist Conventions and the SBC

71260908Fall brings the opening of the new school year, the energy of the season of autumn and, for Southern Baptists, the meeting of the state Baptist conventions. In coming weeks, most of our state conventions will be holding their annual meetings. Pastors and laypeople will gather from local churches and assemble as a convention of Baptist churches. There is a glory in these meetings, and they affirm our need for these state conventions and their ministries.

A younger generation of Southern Baptists may well be unaware of the importance of the state conventions and their work. They would be well-advised to attend their local state convention and catch a vision of what the Baptist churches in their states are doing together.

Americans are regularly reminded that states matter. Our political system respects the role of the individual states, and most Americans identify not only as citizens of the United States, but as residents of their respective states. This does not make our nation weaker. We are stronger because the states retain an important role in building communities and building the nations. As our national experience has shown, there is great gain in recognizing the priority of the local, even in the building of the nation.

In Southern Baptist life, the same is profoundly true of our state conventions. If the state conventions did not exist, we would have to invent them. There is a need for Baptist churches within every state to coordinate and combine their energies for the cause of the Great Commission and the task of reaching the communities in their own state and region. This does not weaken the Southern Baptist Convention—it makes us stronger.

Respect for the state conventions comes naturally to me. As a boy, I participated in camps and programs for children and young people. Soon after my conversion, I boarded a church bus and headed for Lake Yale, the assembly of the Florida Baptist Convention. The first real exposure I had to the scope and scale of Southern Baptist mission work came when I was a nine-year-old boy sitting in the auditorium at Lake Yale. I came back year after year, attending Royal Ambassador Camp and an assortment of camps and retreats and conferences. The imprint of those experiences remains on my life even now.

As a young man called to the ministry, I headed to Samford University where I received the gift of education for ministry from a school founded by Alabama Baptists—at least part of the tuition for my education came directly through the Alabama Baptist Convention. As a young ministerial student, I was exposed to preaching and evangelism through the Alabama state evangelism conferences and I saw the cooperative ministries work by attending the Alabama Baptist Convention annual meeting. When I was elected president of the student Ministerial Association, Samford’s president, Dr. Leslie S. Wright, invited me to attend the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions with him. I learned how Baptists work together.

Later, as a pastor and seminary student, I saw the cooperative ministries of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and was able to participate in its work. Later, I was elected editor of The Christian Index and shifted my ministry to the context of the Georgia Baptist Convention. I was immersed in the life of that state convention, and I saw first-hand that it was doing important work that would otherwise be left undone.

When disaster strikes, state disaster relief teams are first on the scene. When a pastor needs help, the state convention is close at hand. When strategies for reaching America’s urban areas are developed, state conventions are on the front lines. State conventions remember the rural churches and are there to combine strengths and walk alongside those congregations serving the heartland.

At the same time, the state conventions have the world on their hearts. Increasingly, our leading state conventions are increasing their commitment to the support of national ministries and the reaching of the nations. Many of these conventions have taken courageous steps to send a greater percentage of Cooperative Program funds to the cause of reaching the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These state conventions have made sacrifices for the Great Commission cause and are mobilizing churches to reach not only their communities, but the world.

Now is the time for Southern Baptists committed to the Great Commission to show up and support our state conventions, to attend our annual convention meetings, and to support every effort to reach our individual states, our nation, and the nations with the Gospel.

As a committed Southern Baptist, I would not know who I am without the state conventions that have contributed so much to my life and ministry. As president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I am proud and thankful to be in partnership with every one of our state conventions, and I want my students and faculty to share this pride and gratitude.

So, as the Southern Baptists in your state head for their annual meetings, determine to join them, to pray for them, to support them in Cooperative Program giving, and to strengthen the Great Commission vision and energy you will find there. Southern Baptists will never be bolder in mission and ministry than when we strengthen these bonds and stand together. Bring the full wealth of your conviction and the full passion of your desire for reaching your state, our nation, and all nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Stronger together. Serving together. Sending together.

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