SBC DIGEST: Ross’ ‘new vision’ for student ministry; Mohler’s ETS president’s address; Lifeway book awards

Ross, SWBTS release ‘A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry’

By Ashley Allen/SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Seminary Hill Press, the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, released today A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry, by Richard Ross, professor of student ministry and J.M. Price Chair of Religious Education in the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries. The book’s release coincides with Ross’ preaching the last chapel sermon of the 2021 fall semester.

“With minor adjustments, the church has been ministering with teenagers about the same way for 70 years,” Ross explained about why the book is needed. “That model is not working. We introduce fewer teenagers to Jesus each year. Even among the teenagers who attend, only 10 percent meet the most basic criteria for a disciple. Half the youth group walks away from the church after high school. Another 40 percent attend church occasionally but make no difference for the kingdom. Missing the constant infusion of young adults who love Jesus and pursue the Great Commission, 75 percent of evangelical churches are plateaued or declining.”

Ross, who has served as a professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary since 2000, said the decline in numbers has little to “do with ineffective student pastors, weak student ministry programming, or cold pizzas,” but rather the “critical issues are more church wide and systemic.”

A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry, which is targeted to senior pastors, student pastors, and other leaders who are concerned about the future of the church, offers 16 changes in student ministries which aid in reaching, discipling, and sending teenagers, as well as how to design a student ministry. Included are suggestions for how to implement the 16 changes and appendixes to provide support for student ministries from SBC entities, including curriculum offered through Lifeway, and theological education for further equipping in the area of student ministry.

The 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Nashville adopted Vision 2025, which includes six strategic actions Southern Baptists are committed to accomplishing by 2025. The fourth strategic action focuses on reaching, baptizing, and discipling people under the age of 18 in order to change the ongoing decline in these three areas.

Calling the inclusion of one of the priorities focusing on next generation “historic,” Ross, Shane Pruitt, national next generations director at the North American Mission Board, George Siler, student leaders manager at the International Mission Board, and Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources, met together “to work out implementation” because the Vision 2025 statement “said we will turn around ministry with the young, but it did not say how,” Ross explained.

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In ETS Presidential Address, Mohler outlines four temptations facing the organization

By Jeff Robinson/SBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Four temptations frame the past, present, and future of the Evangelical Theological Society, Albert Mohler said Wednesday night (Nov. 17) in his presidential address at the 73rd annual meeting of ETS.

Mohler, this year’s ETS president, cited fundamentalism, atheism, Roman Catholicism and Protestant liberalism as temptations that have framed the organization’s challenge and forged its identity since its humble beginnings in 1949, when founders first met at a YMCA in downtown Cincinnati. All four temptations have existed since that initial organizational meeting, he said, but they have only grown more significant over the years.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, cited fundamentalism as the first temptation.

While ETS is fundamentalist in the sense that evangelicals hold to fundamental Christian doctrines such as the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, the person and work of Christ, and the Trinity, the organization rejected fundamentalism’s tendencies to withdraw from culture. Mohler said that ETS must also steer clear of the theological eccentricities that have sometimes characterized fundamentalists over the past few decades.

Nevertheless, Mohler said “honesty compels us to understand that there is a limit to how non-fundamentalist authentic evangelicalism can be.”

A second threat is atheism, Mohler said. The issue is not that evangelicals are tempted to become atheists, but rather that evangelicals fail to understand our agreement with the atheists of what is at stake. Mohler cited atheist Sam Harris’ point that it is all or nothing when it comes to the existence of God. Harris argues, “let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.”

“We agree with the atheists on one central, inescapable assumption and that is the truth that the existence of God or the non-existence of God is the most important question facing humanity,” Mohler said. “The one thing we recognize is that everything follows from that presupposition.

“That’s a point with which we agree with the sincere, honest atheist. I think when ETS was formed in 1949 they understood that evangelicalism is not a mediating position between belief and unbelief. It was an attempt to establish a theological society upon the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

While ETS members and evangelicals may not flirt with an outright rejection of God’s existence, they may be tempted to make room for some kind of middle ground on the question to court respect from secular universities.

“That temptation is not so much a temptation that we would become atheists, although as I tell students, to me, an evangelical theologian is to understand that one of us is right and one of us is wrong,” he said. “There is no credible position in between. Either God is or he isn’t.”

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B&H Publishing wins trio of Top Shelf Book Awards

By Aaron Wilson/Lifeway

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While a familiar adage insists you can’t judge a book by its cover, publishers like B&H Publishing Group know that the aesthetic design of new releases is often the key to drawing in readers.

This acknowledgement was on display on November 12 as the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recognized Lifeway’s B&H Publishing Group for a trio of Top Shelf Book Cover Awards. The B&H honors went to the following titles:

Art direction for these titles was overseen respectively by Jade Novak, Susan Browne and Matt Lehman.

“Book design is one of the most intimate, meaningful forms of product design in the world, because designers are crafting objects that people live with every day,” said Devin Maddox, B&H publisher. “I am so proud of our designers and the countless freelancers we work with because they are being recognized for excellence in work that really matters.”

The Top Shelf Award program is managed by the ECPA to recognize design excellence in the Christian publishing industry. Submissions this year represented record-breaking participation among 35 publishing houses and imprints.

“Design excellence is a growing priority for publishers as they seek to create awareness, capture reader attention and provoke engagement with life-changing content,” said Jeff Crosby, ECPA president. “I extend my sincere congratulations to each of the art directors, designers and publishing houses whose excellence in their craft was recognized with a Top Shelf Book Cover Award this year.”

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