Mohler challenges students: Go to Memphis, Miami, Milan and Mumbai

Communications Staff — February 4, 2009

Jesus told His disciples to proclaim the Gospel everywhere, so ministers must be ready to take the Gospel to every cultural context on earth, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Feb. 3 during spring convocation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The chapel was filled with students who returned for the first day of class after a severe winter storm on Jan. 26 left Southern’s campus without electricity for five days.

Preaching from Acts 1:1-8, Southern Seminary’s president used four worldwide cities as metaphors for the diversity of people and contexts to which ministers must faithfully bear witness: Memphis, Miami, Milan and Mumbai.
After all, Mohler pointed out, Jesus told His followers to take the Gospel to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth, to areas with radically different cultures, areas posing difficulty and danger to the faithful minister.

“The Gospel was not seen as just for those in Jerusalem or the Judeans, but it was also for the Samaritans,” Mohler said. “And Jesus went on to say that it was for the remotest parts of the earth.

“They were to go with the same Gospel: one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But they were to go to different places, different contexts, with different challenges as the book of Acts makes abundantly clear. What we desperately hope for is a global generation ready for a global context.”

Some will be called to minister in a place like Memphis, Tenn., Mohler said. Memphis sits in the heart of the Bible belt where evangelical churches dot the landscape and where some form of Christianity is virtually a cultural assumption. In this kind of context, ministers will be called to go and preach to many who are unconverted, but believe that they are Christians, he said.

“That is really a unique ministerial context, but it may be a lot like Jerusalem, because in Jerusalem people thought they were fine, they assumed that they were the sons and daughters of Abraham,” Mohler said.

“There are people in our own Bible belt who think they are just fine because they live in a really religious culture or they went to church or were raised by Christian parents. They desperately need the Gospel.

“There is a need for graduates of this institution to go to those churches and love those people and to teach faithfully and to preach the Word in such a way that those congregations have their visions raised beyond Memphis to the very ends of the earth.”

God will call others to a place like Miami, which represents postmodern, multi-ethnic America, he said. Over the past 30 years, Mohler pointed out that Miami has morphed from a predominantly white, middle-class tourist attraction to a city in which the population is 65.8 percent Hispanic.

Miami’s transformation represents the multi-ethnic future of America, Mohler said, and presents a significant opportunity for the next generation of ministers to develop Hispanic congregations.

“Southern Baptists were ready for Miami so long as Miami looked like Memphis with a beach,” Mohler said.

“But Miami isn’t Memphis with a beach. It is Buenos Aires in the peninsula…This area has become a laboratory for ministry in postmodern America. Before our very eyes, we have to understand that as Miami now is, so also much of America soon will be. We need a generation ready to be faithful church planters and faithful expository preachers in a context that doesn’t look like home, when home looks so familiar.”

Others will find themselves proclaiming the Gospel in a place like Milan, Italy, Mohler said, a city that represents post-Christian Europe. Milan has deep roots in Christian history as the scene of the famous Edict of Milan—a proclamation of religious toleration signed in 313 by Constantine—and the home of church father Ambrose.

Today, however, like the rest of Europe, Milan has largely rejected the faith it once believed and features a highly secularized culture that rejects the very notion of revealed truth, Mohler pointed out. Some, however, still consider Europe Christian because of its history, Mohler said.

If a generation of ministers is ready to go to Milan, it will also be ready to take the Gospel to places like New York and Canada, both of which are rapidly embracing the secularism of modern-day Europe, he said.

“In reality, there are as many teeming millions of unreached persons on the continent of Europe today as in any other geographically comparative place in the world,” Mohler said.

“We desperately need a generation ready to go to Milan, a generation bold enough to say, ‘We’re going to show you what authentic Christianity looks like, so that the false and artificial Christianity that is the cultural artifact of centuries past is replaced by a vision of a vibrant Gospel Christianity that points, without any hesitation at all, to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only answer for sinful people.”

Others will be called to a place that resembles Mumbai, India’s largest city, which Mohler set forth to depict “the cutting edge of population growth in the developing world.” The city formerly known as Bombay was renamed in 1996 after a Hindu goddess, a reality which points to the nation’s rampant idolatry.

Sixty-seven percent of Mumbai is Hindu, 18.5 percent is Muslim and only 3.7 percent is Christian. It is a region rife with spiritual turmoil and terrorist activity as illustrated by a series of Islamic terrorist attacks in December that killed at least 173 people.

“I hope we produce in this institution a generation of ministers of the Gospel ready to go somewhere, anywhere, even everywhere,” he said.

“We can’t go everywhere ourselves, but we can go a lot of places. And we can send everywhere. If we are faithful in doing what the Lord Jesus Christ has called us to do, then disciples will be found not only somewhere and anywhere, but eventually, by God’s grace and for His glory, everywhere.”

Mohler announced that Mark McClellan, professor of Christian Theology and Missions at Boyce College, has been named dean of the faculty at Oklahoma Baptist University.McClellan will join the administration of David Wesley Whitlock, took office as OBU’s 15th president on Nov. 1.

Mohler also installed two professors into endowed chairs: Jesse T. Atkinson as the J.M. Frost assistant professor of leadership and church ministry and Hal Pettegrew as the Gaines S. Dobbins professor of leadership and church ministry.

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