Future pastors need to be bold, but tender, Mohler tells trustees

Communications Staff — October 16, 2007

Most graduates from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will serve as pastors in local churches and it is crucial that they know how to preach the Gospel accurately and also be able to lovingly shepherd their congregations, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told seminary trustees during the board’s annual fall meeting Tuesday.

Drawing on 1 Thessalonians 2 where Paul reminds the church at Thessalonica that he ministered tenderly to them “like a nursing mother and a faithful father,” Southern’s president said he wants the seminary to send out pastors who possess Paul’s attitude toward their

“We want to see the kind of courage and boldness (that Paul exemplifies), that kind of fearlessness in the face of opposition,” he said. “We want them to feel a sense of urgency and be as brokenhearted over lost people as Paul is in Acts 17 when he sees a city filled with idols and his heart is broken. He has a convulsion of concern for people he knows are going to hell.

“One of our great challenges here is to inculcate in our students the boldness we see in the apostle Paul. But the greater challenge for us is to inculcate in them the gentleness to be with Christ’s people.”

Mohler pointed out that many of Southern’s 4,400 students did not grow up in a local church and have not experienced the lifelong exposure to a loving pastor and a caring congregation that influenced the previous generation of Southern Baptist ministers.

Because they were not raised under the nurture of a local congregation, many students are learning how to love the people of God by serving as their pastor, Mohler noted.

“I’ve never known a moment when I wasn’t in the bosom of the church,” he said. “I would not know what it is to be unchurched. That is not the experience of many of the students (now at colleges and seminaries). Their parents did not know that world. Many of our students were converted in high school or college and really have never had a positive experience in a local church.

“They do not know what it is like, as we do, to have a home there. They do not quite know the solace of being away and knowing how satisfying it is to come back to people who know you and love you, who watched you grow up, who are proud that you have gone to seminary and are praying for you.”

While seminary teaches budding pastors how to interpret Scripture accurately and how to preach the Gospel clearly, Mohler said local churches must teach seminary students by example how to love and tenderly care for the people of God.

Learning both sound doctrine and loving pastoral care is imperative for the present generation of students, Mohler said, because nearly half of the pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 40,000 churches will reach retirement age in the next 10 years. Mohler challenged trustees, many of whom are pastors, to be mentoring future ministers within their churches.

“I want to remind you that there is a great stewardship that has been entrusted to this seminary and a great deal which we can and must do, but we cannot make a minister. Only Christ can do that,” he said.

“I believe that He does it more in the local church than in the seminary by far. We need to pray to have churches across the world that are training pastors to be pastors and nurturing the gifts of ministry. I don’t think in a classroom you can learn what it means to love people the way the apostle Paul talks about it here.

“I think you have to learn that in the local church. You have to learn that at the bedside of a saint who is going home to be with the Lord, you have to learn that in talking to a couple that thinks divorce is an option and you’ve got to tell them it isn’t. You have to learn this the hard way.”

In addition to hearing the president’s report, trustees, for the first time, elected three current Boyce College professors to tenured positions. Boyce College Dean Jimmy Scroggins was elected as associate professor of evangelism, Mark McClellan as professor of Christian theology and missions and Jim Orrick as professor of literature and culture.

The trustees adopted a policy allowing Boyce College professors who teach theology to be eligible for tenure. They must meet the same criteria as Southern Seminary professors and will sign the Abstract of Principals. In the future, the board will consider tenure for Boyce professors at each fall meeting and for seminary professors in the spring.

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