Mohler on new semester: rapid culture change requires ‘whole new set of skills’ for pastors
“As I start a third decade as president of Southern Seminary, I recognize that the year 2013 is light- years from the year 1993,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. “Twenty years is what time will record, but in terms of cultural and intellectual change, it’s far more than that.”
According to Mohler, who this fall celebrates the 20th anniversary of his election as president of the seminary, these rapid changes will require new skills for those who minister the gospel in this culture.
“The secularization of Western societies has accelerated so much in the last ten years that the terrain of our testimony and the mission field of our concern globally is fundamentally changed,” he said. “As I look at the convocation address of the fall of 2013, I am far more concerned to think about what faithfulness in the present is going to require of the church.”
As an example, Mohler pointed to the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act as a cultural shift that affects pastors and the training of pastors in the 21st century. “When I was elected president in 1993 no society on earth had legal same sex marriage,” he said.
“We’re looking at a world in which in one week the federal government said one thing on Tuesday and another thing on Wednesday — reversing not just American tradition, but thousands of years of human existence,” Mohler said. “I think it underlines the fact that we need to be very much aware that ministers of the gospel must learn a whole new set of skills in terms of understanding a culture, reading a culture and reaching a culture, addressing a culture.”
Mohler said that this drastically different cultural milieu calls for “institutional and denominational humility.”
He said: “I think we should learn very quickly that we’re going to speak less about ‘reaching the culture’ and ‘winning the culture’ and a lot more about how we share the gospel, preach the gospel and live the gospel in a culture that is changing right before our eyes.”
As part of Mohler and the Southern Seminary leadership and faculty’s continuing work preparing students for 21st-century ministry, the school will host a conference about one of the pioneers of evangelical cultural engagement: Carl F.H. Henry. In partnership with four other institutions, the Sept. 26 conference will help attendees apply Henry’s vision in a new generation.
Mohler said: “The Carl F.H. Henry centennial event that is to be held here is going to be very important because to speak the name ‘Carl Henry’ is not merely to speak the name of someone who was personally important to us, but of someone who helped to define the evangelical movement of the 20th century and whose legacy and influence continues even now on this institu- tion. It will be an event of huge impact.”
Mohler also emphasized the slate of other events happening on campus this fall — such as a theology conference addressing trinitarian relations, a marriage conference to enrich students’ marriages and the annual Andrew Fuller conference — and he encouraged students to take full advantage. He said that he understands the demands on students’ time, but he urges them to take full advantage of the opportunities on campus.
“I remember what it was like as a seminary student: by the time you work, are active in your church, care for your family, study and take care of your course work, that doesn’t leave much time,” he said. “But the great value of being here on campus in Louisville is that you are on one of the most privileged pieces of real estate in the theological world.
“The opportunity to meet people, to hear people directly and to be involved in these events can be quite honestly life changing,” Mohler said. “I can still remember and will often repeat to people conversations I had with people like Carl F.H. Henry. I hope that the students wouldn’t miss that same type of opportunity. I urge students to maximize their stewardship of all these events.”