Central Asia trip refocuses Mohler’s leadership

Communications Staff — February 20, 2009

For R. Albert Mohler Jr., a recent mission trip to Central Asia served as a reminder of what seminary education is all about.

“To be in that region in the world and to see what Christians are doing for the cause of the Gospel and how Christians are being faithful in a context so different from our own and to be reminded all over again of the unspeakable need represented by billions of persons who do not yet know Christ—that cannot but change our impression of everything and reorder our priorities as well,” said Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

On his Jan. 22-30 mission trip, Mohler shared the Gospel in a pervasively Muslim country, taught a historical theology course on the early councils and controversies of the Christian church and met with believers who are persecuted for their faith. A team of students and Timothy Beougher, professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern, accompanied Mohler.

Mohler sensed an abiding spiritual darkness in the area and felt urgency to send out professors, students and graduates to make a difference for the cause of Christ. One district where he stayed is home to more than a million people and only three visible churches—one Greek Orthodox and the other two Armenian Orthodox.

“The most dramatic impact of being in this culture is that Christians simply by force of the culture are not free to build churches and establish a visible Christian presence,” he said.

“This country is not equivalent to Saudi Arabia in terms
of the legal or social context. But it is certainly a pervasively Islamic culture at every turn.”

But Mohler didn’t settle for sending others to combat the darkness. He shared the Gospel with Muslims too.

One of his most memorable opportunities to share the Gospel occurred in a bookshop dealing in antique copies of the Koran.

“As I walked into this shop, I asked if the elderly owner had any theological documents or manuscripts and he pulled out all these antique Korans, antiquarian Korans,” Mohler said. “I asked him if he had any Bibles, and he said oh no but that he had had them and that he was always glad to see an old copy of the Bible survive.”

In the course of conversation, the owner asked Mohler to explain the basic differences between the Bible and the Koran. Mohler responded by talking about the Gospel at length and soon noticed that the owner was not the only person listening.

“I was aware that his young son was very carefully listening to the conversation and perhaps hearing more than even his father because he had much greater ability in the English language,” he said. “So I have prayed not only for this man, but for his son, that the word of the Gospel might take root in their hearts.”

On a separate occasion, Mohler discussed Christianity with a group of Muslim scholars. He said God engineered the conversation to open a door for the Gospel.

As the group discussed the sin of pride, Mohler realized that some of the scholars believed sinlessness is possible for humans. So Mohler began his Gospel presentation with the reality of sin.

“At least some in the room were genuinely shocked that Christians believe we are born sinners and that sin is a problem for which no human action can atone, the fact that there is no rescue human beings can achieve by following any teachings or obeying any rules or regulations or fulfilling any command. As one of the men in the room said, ‘Well, if that is the case, then someone else will have to act.’ Which of course was exactly the opening for the Gospel,” Mohler said.

Now that he has returned to Louisville and his role as the leader of Southern Seminary, Mohler says he will keep the lostness of Central Asia in mind and urge all students and faculty members to take Christ’s Word to the nations.

“I want to see the students and faculty of this institution make a real difference and experience the kind of mission experiences that will truly change lives,” he said.

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