Mohler to students: Ministry is “not about us”

Communications Staff — August 26, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Ministers are not volunteers who join a profession, but are earthen vessels chosen and equipped by God to proclaim His Word for His glory, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual fall convocation Tuesday.

The standing-room-only crowd also saw four professors sign the seminary’s confession of faith and the installation of four professors into endowed chairs. Mohler also introduced 13 new faculty members.

During his message, Mohler said there is no higher calling than to preach the Gospel, but reminded ministers that they must hold the same view of themselves as does Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 – weak and sinful mortals who preach the Gospel solely by the mercy of God.

“We are called not because of who we are any more than we were called to salvation because of who we are,” Mohler said. “We are called in spite of who we are. We alone understand that we are the least qualified persons imaginable for the job that has been entrusted to us…It is not about us. It is about God.

“We are the people of all the earth who must understand that our resumes mean virtually nothing. There really is no aptitude in us that is our own. There is no qualification that is our earning. The Lord God, for His good reasons in His sovereignty, chooses those who will be the preachers and teachers of His Word and the vessels of His Gospel, and He equips the incompetent.”

Ministers are not called to be “peddlers” of the Gospel who merely seek to gather an audience and “cut corners in the ministry,” as did the so-called “super apostles” of Paul’s day, Mohler said. Rather, Mohler asserted that the first task of a minister is to openly proclaim the truth of God in the manner of the apostle Paul, preaching the message of “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

“Paul continued his ministry always in light of that fact that he lived and was called and he preached and he taught by the mercy of God,” Mohler said. “How important it is that we do the same. How important it is that every day I realize that I am here by the mercy of God. I hope that you know you are here by the mercy of God.

“It is a ministry that is received, and because it is received it isn’t ours to invent. This isn’t a profession we are developing. This is a calling we have received by mercy. Therefore there are certain realities we have to affirm. We are not in the business of cunning speech. We are not in the business of deception. We are not peddlers of the Word of God. Our business is the open statement of truth.”

God has entrusted the Gospel to men who are made of mere flesh and blood, whom Paul describes as “jars of clay,” a humbling truth ministers must always keep before them, Mohler said.

“Paul is talking about us here,” Mohler said. “Earthenware vessels are considered to be cheap, expendable and relatively fragile. No one has an earthenware vessel as a centerpiece…God chooses earthenware vessels made out of mortal stuff. We are flimsy, frail, fragile sinners. At best our strength is weakness. At worst, our weakness is weakness.

“If the Lord did not take care of us we would wither and die…We would be crushed by every problem in ministry.”

Like the apostle Paul, those who faithfully preach the Gospel will undergo persecution and affliction ranging from conflict with members of the church they lead to physical ailments and perhaps even death, Mohler said. Ministers must also expect to be regularly perplexed by their congregations, he added.

No matter how intense the suffering may be or how perplexed a minister may become, God will faithfully sustain those who keep trusting Him, Mohler said, urging ministers to realize as Paul did that “momentary light affliction” is producing in them the glory of God. Mohler encouraged ministers to keep Paul’s eternal perspective and persevere by looking steadfastly to the hope of the promised resurrection that the work of Christ secured.

“The ministry is going to cost us something,” he said. “The ministry is going to cost us more than we have to give. It is going to cost us our lives if we understand what it is all about. It is going to cost us everything we are [and] there is not going to be anything left of us at the end except the glory of God.”

So, why does God choose such weak and vulnerable people as His means to proclaim the Gospel? It is to demonstrate that all glory and power belong to Him and not to man, Mohler said.

“[He calls people like us] to make a point that it’s all about His glory,” he said. “It is not about us.”

During the service, professors signed the Abstract of Principles, Southern Seminary’s confession of faith: Russell D. Moore, associate professor of Christian Theology, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration; Robert L. Plummer, assistant professor of New Testament interpretation; and Larry J. Purcell, associate professor of leadership and church ministry.

Mohler inducted four faculty members into endowed professorships, including Duane A. Garrett as the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Purcell as the J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry and Robert A. Vogel as the Carl E. Bates Professor of Christian Preaching. Mohler was also inducted as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology.

Southern’s president also recognized several new Southern Seminary and Boyce College faculty members, including W. Hayward Armstrong, associate professor of Christian missions and associate vice president for distance education and innovative learning; William A. Dembski, professor of science and theology; Mary A. Kassian, distinguished professor of women’s studies; Eugene H. Merrill, distinguished professor of Old Testament interpretation; Jonathan T. Pennington, assistant professor of New Testament interpretation; Randy L. Stinson, assistant professor of gender and family studies; Donald S. Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality and director of Supervised Ministry Experience; Jaye Martin, interim director of women’s programs; Linda Miniard, assistant director of women’s programs; Gary D. Almon, assistant professor of Christian education and associate director of the International Center for Youth Ministry; Nathan H. Platt, assistant professor of worship ministry; Kristin J. Yeldell, instructor of Christian education, and Stuart W. Scott, associate professor of biblical counseling.

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