"The Teaching Church and the Great Commission" - President's Convocation

Fall 2012

  "As your president, I have often challenged you in these aspects of the Great Commission: going, discipling, and baptizing,” Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary told the seminary community who gathered for President’s Convocation at the first chapel of the fall 2012 semester. “Today I want to remind you that Jesus said in that same commission: ‘Teaching them to observe all things.’ I’d like to challenge you to rise up and reclaim the responsibility to be the teaching church.”

Churches, including Southern Baptist churches, have been abandoning their teaching role over the past 20 years, observed Iorg, noting an elimination of programs like discipleship training, missions education, and even the elimination of music training - often done in order to streamline and sharpen the focus of ministry. “But the long term result, which we’re already reaping,” he stated, “is an absence of doctrinal conviction among Christians, particularly among Baptists. We have substituted thematic preaching, short courses and conferences for the core responsibility to teach the gospel and its implications in a systematic fashion.”

He challenged the seminarians to be the teaching church – emulating the model of Antioch in the New Testament. “Antioch was the first time the gospel was intentionally preached broadly in the Gentile community,” he said. “The city of Antioch had no prior Christian community. It was a pagan city devoid of the gospel. When the gospel was preached, however, large numbers of people came to faith.”

“The Antioch church was started by an evangelistic movement among people with no background in the gospel, no teaching, no foundation. Barnabas realized this movement had to be stabilized, had to turn from a movement into a functioning church. He and Saul/Paul did that by starting a teaching ministry. The text doesn’t tell us what the curriculum was,” said Iorg, “but if we look at the outcomes of this teaching ministry, we can determine what these men were teaching.”

Iorg explained that the first stories about Antioch, after describing the inauguration of the teaching ministry, tell us the concrete things this church was doing. They learned how to worship, they gave money to those in need, they sent missionaries on trips, and they sent a delegation to Jerusalem to settle the issue of salvation by grace through faith - all in little more than a year after the church was founded.

“The Great Commission is about evangelizing, baptizing, and discipling. It is also about teaching,” underscored the president. “It is about teaching the gospel and its implication with a profound conviction that the word of God will transform people. It teaches people how to live out the Christian faith in the significant ways modeled by Antioch.”

He concluded by challenging the Golden Gate community, “We can turn the tide in the churches where we are participating, on the importance of teaching the gospel and its implications. Our failure to have done this effectively has caused an erosion of doctrinal stability in the churches that is alarming. The reversal will take time and will only be accomplished by leaders who are resolutely determined to fulfill all of the Great Commission. Not just going and the baptizing, but also the teaching the gospel and its implications. I challenge us today to make a fresh commitment to be the teaching church.”

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