Graham School marks 10th anniversary by examining the church in the 21st century

Communications Staff — October 7, 2004

To meet the needs of ministry in the 21st century, churches must both teach sound doctrine and reach the lost with the Gospel of Christ, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. said Tuesday during a daylong conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

Two types of churches predominate the contemporary evangelical scene, Southern Seminary’s president said: those that focus on teaching and seek to have all their doctrinal foundations properly ordered, and those that focus on evangelism and reaching the lost. Churches will have to do both if they are to impact a world awash in postmodern confusion, he said.

“We don’t have many teaching and reaching or reaching and teaching churches and that is a problem,” Mohler said. “Because if you look at the New Testament it is the reaching church that is also a teaching church. As a matter of fact, the reaching and the teaching are more intertwined and combined than most people would realize.”

Mohler’s comments were part of his presentation “The 10 Greatest Challenges Facing Ministers in the 21st Century,” an address that was part of “The Church in the 21st Century” conference which marked a decade of ministry for the Graham School.

Mohler first articulated his vision for a school of missions and evangelism during his inauguration as the ninth president of Southern Seminary in 1993. In February of 1994 Alabama pastor Thom Rainer began service as the school’s founding dean and the Graham School began classes in the fall of the same year.

Rainer, author of numerous books on church growth such as “The Unchurched Next Door,” remains dean today. He addressed chapel attendees in the conference’s opening session, admonishing listeners to avoid two errors common in contemporary preaching: timidity and a lack of love from minister to his parishioners.

“(Timidity) is a failure to take a stand for God’s Word, a failure to speak what God would say to the world today, a failure to say ‘this is the Word of God’ no matter the cost,” Rainer said. “As a minister, when I speak the truth I must also speak it in love. These are just two of the areas in which I see failure among ministers today.”

Preaching from 2 Tim. 4:1-5, Rainer also said ministers must have an undeniable sense of divine calling because more than half the ministers who participated in a recent survey said they viewed ministry as merely “another job” and not as a calling from God.

“Is it any wonder that the average tenure of a pastor in America is 3.4 years?” Rainer said. “It is only possible to do this work if the Lord has called us.”

Rainer, Mohler and Graham School faculty members also marked the anniversary with a banquet Monday night. Rainer reflected on the decade of ministry that has witnessed the Graham School’s expansion to include numerous degree programs, continuous groundbreaking research and more than 1,000 graduates serving the church across the globe as pastors and missionaries. Rainer called the growing work a “team effort.”

“These last 10 years have been incredible,” he said. “It is hard to believe that a little over 10 1/2 years ago I first set foot on this camps and began to organize a school that would become the Billy Graham School.

“There is no way that this dream that has been mine would have become a reality unless it had been the dream of so many other professors. From the onset, God has blessed us with men who have incredible gifts. These men who serve alongside me today I am convinced are the best that there is in Great Commission studies anywhere in the world. It has definitely been a team effort.”

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