SBTS not shaken by economic downturn, Mohler tells trustees

Communications Staff — October 21, 2008

Economic times might be difficult right now in the United States, but R. Albert Mohler Jr. told trustees last week that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is not being shaken by the national downturn.

In his report during the fall meeting with the board of trustees, the president said Southern’s mission of producing pastors to lead local Southern Baptist churches will continue regardless of the slow economy.

“We ask if Southern Seminary can survive, I can tell you the answer is, ‘Yes,’” Mohler said, after reading several verses in Hebrews 12 which speak of the Kingdom of Christ as ‘A Kingdom that cannot be shaken.’ “Because in the most important sense, this institution represents a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The task to which we are called is derivative of the great Gospel whereby we have been saved and because of that, it can’t be shaken.

“The church is going to need faithful preachers of the Word regardless of what’s shaking, perhaps more urgently in a time of much-anticipated and much-observed shaking. When we are in a time like this, it is important for us to remember that we really have an important assignment and it’s not something that is economically dependent in terms of the needs of the church.”

Mohler pointed out that the seminary, which was founded in 1859, was born during perhaps the most difficult time in American history—on the eve of the Civil War, a war that proved to be the most costly in U.S. history. The economy was far worse then, Mohler said, but the seminary survived because of its unique Gospel mission and will celebrate its sesquicentennial anniversary next spring.

“It was in a time of far greater shaking than what we are experiencing now,” Mohler said. “The year 1859 in the South was not a time of calm. It was not a time of great prosperity. Nonetheless, the mission of the seminary was such that, not only the four founding professors, but the original board of trustees and all those who supported them and prayed for them, considered this worthy of doing even in shaking times.”

Many other seminaries, particularly those associated with mainline churches, are in severe decline, he said, to a point that some are closing their doors and others are on the verge of doing so. Southern will remain healthy so long as it continues to remember that it exists ultimately to serve the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of man, Mohler said.

“We ought to have a certain confidence,” he said. “It’s not the confidence of the ignorant, it’s not the confidence of the unconcerned, it’s not the confidence of the willingly blind. We understand what’s going on. We understand that things are shaking. We have a revealed knowledge that these things that are shaking now are going to shake a whole lot more in days to come.

“We know that not only is this stuff overvalued, we know that one day it is going to burn. That’s going to be a stock market collapse the likes of which no one has anticipated. All of this is going to turn to dust. The moths and the rust and the corrosion are going to have the last word until all things are consumed in the fire that is to come. So we keep our heads about the task to which we have been assigned. We want to be sure we know which kingdom we belong to and which Lord we serve.”

The church must have preachers even if it cannot afford to have buildings, Mohler said.

“There is an economy on which we are absolutely dependent and it is a spiritual economy. It is a Gospel economy, it is the economy of God’s way of saving sinners. It is God’s way of feeding His church and tending to His own and the church has learned that you’ve got to preach when you can’t even eat,” he said.

“The church has learned that you’ve got to have preachers when you don’t have anything else. So the mission of this institution goes on. And I am absolutely confident that the need represented by this school in 1859 is not only as relevant as it was then, but is more relevant because we now see opportunities that could never have been anticipated in 1859 and we face challenges that, in terms of what this culture is presenting to us, go beyond that could have been foreseen in 1859.”
In other business:

· The board recognized Tom Bolton for eight years of service as dean of the School of Church Music and Worship. Mohler unveiled a portrait of Bolton that will be hung alongside pictures of former deans in Cook Hall.

· Mohler announced the appointment of Lawrence Smith, who has served as vice president of communications for the past seven years, as dean of students at the seminary and Boyce College. Smith’s wife, Garnetta, was also appointed associate dean for women. Lawrence Smith, who worked for many years as a television news reporter in Louisville, will also serve as vice president of community relations. “We really needed someone in this role of great maturity, a Christian man of great devotion and maturity and he has a lot of experience in doing the kinds of things we need a dean of students to do,” Mohler said. “And you know, the only thing better than knowing Lawrence is knowing Lawrence and Garnetta. They are going to be a powerful one-two team.”

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