Seven Summits in Church History

Augustine. Luther. Calvin.

Hubmaier. Edwards. Carey. Henry.

Some of the richest spiritual lessons have come to me by way of great biographies. Jason has chosen seven fascinating, critically important figures and distilled some of their most important contributions to our faith and life. It’s a delight to read. 

–J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church, author of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart and Gospel

In Seven Summits, Jason G. Duesing gives a brief introduction to major figures in the history of Christianity for churches and all readers.

The history of Christianity is like that of a great mountain range, with immense length comprised of peaks and valleys, enduring both stormy and prosperous weather. Certain figures in this history have risen to high peaks and represent significant moments in theological development. These figures are the hinge for major swings in the expansion of Christian thought.

Duesing offers a quick, yet insightful introduction to seven of the highest peaks worth climbing in church history. His biographical summaries include Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Hubmaier, Edwards, Carey, and Henry. By examining the peaks of Christian history in these seven figures, this book engages several key issues without overwhelming the reader.

It is brief but packed with pertinent information any student of history should know.

Seven Summits in Church History
Jason G. Duesing
Rainer Publishing, 2016
132 pages

Available today at Amazon from Rainer Publishing.

What People Are Saying About Seven Summits in Church History

For those intimidated by church history, or for those who want to learn more but don’t know where to start, this little book may be just what you need. Dr. Duesing offers a user-friendly introduction to seven sinners saved by grace who shaped the life of the church in significant ways. Think of those mini theological biographies as enticing appetizers designed to whet your reading appetite for more!

Justin Taylor, Vice President of Book Publishing at Crossway and he blogs at Between Two Worlds—hosted by The Gospel Coalition.

Jason Duesing’s Seven Summits in Church History delivers serious Christian history in a crisp, lively format. I recommend it to anyone wanting a reliable introduction to the history of Christianity, from the perspective of some of its greatest minds, from Augustine to Jonathan Edwards and more.

Thomas S. Kidd, Professor of History, Baylor University

Studying the history of the Church is vital to Christian life but often viewed as a daunting endeavor. With short, concise chapters on seven major figures in the history of the Church, Jason Duesing has produced an incredibly helpful book for the everyday Christian looking to explore Church History.

Kevin Peck, Lead Pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church, Austin, Texas

Jason Duesing has done it again! He has shown the importance of Christian history by giving us these succinct and accurate vignettes of seven of the most important figures among the people of God—from St. Augustine to Carl F.H. Henry. A great primer in Christian biography.

Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.

Every movement needs heroes. Evangelicals stand to gain wisdom and perspective by standing on the mountaintops of church history and looking at our current setting in light of what God has done in the past. In this book, Jason Duesing provides an introductory guide to important figures in church history. This is a book that is both insightful and accessible and will serve to whet your appetite for further study.

Trevin Wax, Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, author of Clear Winter Nights, Gospel-Centered Teaching, and Counterfeit Gospels

If anybody’s looking for a tantalizing appetizer for the big world of church history, this little book on 7 of the heaviest hitters can’t be beat.

Jared C. Wilson, Managing Editor of For the Church, author of Gospel Deeps, Gospel Wakefulness, and The Story of Everything.

This is an excellent tool for the novice to the history of Christianity and also a great reminder for more advanced students that God changes history through people.

Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History, Southern Seminary.

You can purchase Seven Summits here.

For updates and more information follow Seven Summits on Twitter at @7SummitsHistory or take a look at the Seven Summits Facebook page.

Reviews of Seven Summits:

(Feb 2016) Books at a Glance by Cody Glen Barnhart

(Apr 2016) Evangelicals Now by Michael A. G. Haykin

(April 2016) LifeWay Pastors by Mark Dance

(April 2016) Hobbits and Handkercheifs by Joe Garner

(Aug 2016) Themelios 41:2 by Michael A. G. Haykin

(Spring 2016) SWJT 58:2 by W. Madison Grace II

Seven Summits Series Posts:

David Platt, the Judsons, & a Memorable Night at the ERLC National Conference

One of the most memorable addresses at the recent national conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was the Tuesday evening session with David Platt. As the newly elected president of the International Mission Board, Dr. Platt spoke on the topic, “Marriage and Missions: How Singleness and Marriage Connect to the Great Commission,” and it was stirring. It was the type of address that affects not only how you feel and think while you are listening to it, but also stays with you and continues to be used to refine and shape your thinking about life and the global gospel task. I highly commend watching the video above to hear his message in full.

Also, of note, at one point in his message Platt reads a section of the letter the pioneer American missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote to his future father-in-law explaining the real and certain costs of what it would mean for his daughter to marry and join Judson in leaving New England to take the gospel to those who have never heard. Judson’s words are otherworldly:

I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world! Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life! Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death! Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing and immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God! Can you consent to all this in the hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathen saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair? [1]

Judson’s wife, Ann, would agree to join him and thus, she is rightly regarded as a co-pioneer with Judson as she labored faithfully for the sake of the gospel of Christ, endured much hardship, and gave her life in the task just fourteen years after they departed America for Burma. Even though much has changed in the world in 200 years, the call to take the gospel to those who have never heard the name of Jesus is still preeminent and costly, but as the Judsons would say, worth it “for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for them and for you.”

[1] See this quote in Candi Finch, “So That the World May Know: The Legacy of Adnoiram Judson’s Wives” in Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary (B&H Academic, 2012), 106.

“A Plea for Ambitious Christians” – Chapel at Midwestern August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014 Chapel with Dr. Jason Duessing from MBTS on Vimeo.

Last week I had an enjoyable time preaching in chapel here at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on the call to reach those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ. Drawing from my experiences in Myanmar and Madagascar, I entitled the message “A Plea for Ambitious Christians.” In addition to the video above, an approximate transcription follows below.

Well, good morning to each one of you. If you have a Bible, turn with me to the tail end of the truly magnificent and magisterial letter of Paul’s to the Romans, chapter 15. Here, Paul is giving some practical explanations to conclude really what is Paul’s systematic theology. After he has explained what is the gospel, in this chapter Paul says how he intends to come to see these believers in Rome, though he does not plan to stay but to press on and go to Spain. Paul is saying, “I have more work to do. I’m ambitious to do more things.” So follow with me if you will, Romans 15 starting in verse 17.

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,“Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” (Romans 15:17-21 ESV) Continue reading “A Plea for Ambitious Christians” – Chapel at Midwestern August 20, 2014

Singing for Joy and the Gospel of Peace: Why Reach the Unreached?

At night, I often find myself singing for joy. My daughter, Lindsey Joy, frightened by the dark or a dream, will call out for me, and I will come to her room, and I will sing for her. I will sing for Lindsey Joy. And there in the darkness, with the singing comes peace. As I have reflected on a particular event during our recent trip to visit Southwestern students and graduates in China, these times with my daughter have helped me understand more how what we do in Fort Worth can assist and strengthen the pioneering work among the unreached peoples of the world.

Psalm 67 asks God for the praise of the nations, for the ends of the earth to come and praise the one, true God. I have prayed, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,” but until one evening in China, I had never heard that kind of singing.

When my college friend left for China fourteen years ago, he went to serve among a minority people group who lived in and around a city surrounded by mountains. The Gospel had not yet reached this people, in part, because many of them lived in villages not found on any maps and not readily accessible by any mode of transportation other than foot or bicycle. These people dwelt in a land of deep darkness without any Gospel light. So my friend started on his bicycle, slowly, month by month, attempting to seek and find where all these people lived. At one point, after much effort, he felt he had documented all the known villages of this people residing in the valley area in and around his city.
Days later, setting out to ride up and over one range of mountains, he discovered as he crested the ridgeline another valley spread out before him consisting of dozens of villages never before known, never before reached. Such it is with the pioneering work in China. Incalculable strides made one day are dwarfed the next by the overwhelming sense of how much work remains still to be done.

From the mountains and into those valleys of spiritual darkness, my friend would take the good news of the Lord Jesus, what Ephesians 6:15 calls the “Gospel of peace.” As Isaiah 52:7 reminds, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace,” and as Romans 10 explains, God’s plan for reaching these people lost in spiritual darkness and unknown to mapmakers is for someone to carry it to them. Into the darkness came peace. And that is what makes what I heard that night during our trip all the more remarkable.

Oftentimes, in seminary classrooms or church hallways, well-meaning students or church members ask why it is that we need to emphasize and fund long-range global mission efforts when there are so many lost and unreached people right here at home. Why do we train and encourage Southwestern students to prioritize and seek out the least accessible people around the globe? These questions show great compassion for the lost and therefore deserve a good answer.

First, we should seek the unreached because the Great Commission expects disciples to be made of all people groups—large or small, easy and hard to find, those with and without printed languages.

Second, the earliest Christians were themselves compelled to take the Gospel to where Christ has not yet been named so that “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand” (Romans 15:20-21).

Third, is the simple issue of effective use of manpower. When Nehemiah set out to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, he stationed people in the lowest parts and in the open spaces (Neh 4:13). He did not stack them all in one part or in one place. When looking to reach the nations with the Gospel, yes, sufficient workers should stay and labor in the fields at home for there is much work to be done, and those traveling to the unreached cannot do so without their support. But more and more workers should also be sent and equipped to reach areas where no work has ever been done. In an earlier century, one missions-minded pastor explained it this way:

Imagine I was employed by the owner of a vineyard to gather grapes in his vineyard. The general instructions were that as many grapes as possible should be gathered. I went down to the gate of the vineyard and found the area around the walls well plucked and the ground covered with pickers. Yet away off in the distance no pickers at all are in sight and the vines are loaded to the ground. Would I need a special visit and order from the owner of the vineyard to instruct me as to my duty?

The call to serve and reach those who have not heard requires qualified messengers but does not require any further command or calling. Jesus Christ has already said to us to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19), and there are many nations who have not heard His name.

In the ensuing years since he first arrived in China, my friend and his co-laborers would painstakingly document, map, befriend, learn the language, and share the Gospel with the people in the undocumented villages. Today there is a handful of churches among the 300,000+ people. When we were visiting there we joined some of these believers for their weekly gathering and listened to them pray and hear from God’s Word. To see them meet in secret, care for one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, and treasure their time together was immensely encouraging and humbling.

But it was the singing that still echoes in my ears. For this was not just any singing, this was praise arising from a people previously unreached with the Gospel. These were songs of gladness despite real danger and hardship. I had prayed that God would let people groups like this one find true peace that only the blood of Christ can provide. Many times I had read Psalm 67 and prayed, but that night was the first time I ever heard an unreached people singing with such joy.

At the conclusion of the meeting of this house church, one of the members recounted the marvels of how my friend was the first to bring the Gospel to their village; yet, she recognized that the work had only just begun. They had one church, yes, but they did not want to stop until every village has a church, until all have heard. Imagine in that place of darkness hundreds of churches joining that one church in singing for joy and heralding the Gospel of peace.

The singing that night reminded me that as a seminary graciously funded by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, seeing the nations sing is why we do what we do. This is why I grade papers and learn higher education governance practices. This is why we have annual audits and strategic plans. This is why we have scholarship banquets, alumni events, and chapel services. We do all these things and more in order to prepare fully equipped, financially supported, and biblically qualified messengers, who know how to handle rightly the Word of truth so that they can carry the good news across mountain ranges to peoples living in darkness.

By the grace of God working through local churches and our seminaries, nations of people who have never heard are now hearing. Peoples who have never praised are now singing for joy. Much work remains to be done, but we too can sing for joy in the night. For in the darkness, Peace is coming.

This article appears in the latest issue of the Southwestern News magazine and at Theological Matters.com, which features Gospel work being done among the 1.35 billion people of China. The online version of the magazine will be available in July 2014. To read online issues of Southwestern News, visit swnews.org.

Video credit: Adam Covington at SWBTS

Why a National Denomination? 200 years of Taking Gospel Light to the Nations

In my Baptist History and Heritage classes, I am often asked whether denominations really are necessary. Students, averse to what they perceive as staid institutionalism or red-tape bureaucracy, want to categorize denominations as a generational matter and thus look for something new for the present. These motives are not entirely uninformed or born from ignorance as there are plenty of generational traditions that every new generation discards. We’ve done it and so did our parents and grandparents.

However, in this case it is always a delight to inform students of the primary reason Baptists in this country ever saw the need to form a national denomination. They were motivated by something they called their “one sacred effort,” that is churches of all sizes cooperating together for the purpose of global missions. And, I quickly argue, that is the number one reason why we should have, support, build and be proud of a national denomination today.

This question especially comes to mind at this time of year when the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention prepare to gather for their annual meeting. But, it is also relevant because this month marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the first Baptist denomination in America, the Triennial Convention. Formed in May 1814, the Triennial Convention would serve as the forerunner to the Southern Baptist Convention that would originate, sadly, in 1845 over a disagreement among Baptists in the North and South over the tragic and evil practice of slavery.

The Baptists officially called their denomination “The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America, for Foreign Missions" clearly not yet arriving at the penchant future denominations have for simple and repeatable acronyms. In fact, as this early Convention set out to meet once every three years, the more natural “Triennial Convention” rose as the agreed nomenclature instead of GMCBDUSAFM.

So, why did Baptists form a national denomination 200 years ago? Here are the words from the Triennial Convention’s first Constitution:

We the delegates from Missionary Societies, and other religious Bodies of the Baptist denomination, in various parts of the United States, met in Convention, in the City of Philadelphia, for the purpose of carrying into effect the benevolent Intentions of our Constituents, by organizing a plan for eliciting, combining, and directing the Energies of the whole Denomination in one sacred effort, for sending the glad tidings of Salvation to the Heathen, and to nations destitute of pure Gospel-light

This shared idea of marshaling the energies of churches to take the Gospel of Christ to “nations destitute of pure Gospel-light” was echoed through the first meetings of the denomination, May 18-25, 1814. The first president, well known and admired Baptist statesman, Richard Furman, underscored in his address that this “Convention has assembled in Philadelphia … to devise a plan, and enter into measures, for combining the efforts of our whole denomination, in behalf of the millions upon whom the light of evangelic truth has never shone.”

Taking the light of the Gospel to nations in darkness served as the primary motive for early American Baptists to organize and gather on a national level. As Southern Baptists prepare to meet in a few weeks, may the bicentennial anniversary of the beginnings of our forebears remind us that the Great Commission remains a good and primary reason around which churches should gather to do more together for the glory of God than we could ever do apart.

Photo: Constitution of the Triennial Convention, 1814. See Proceedings of the Baptist Convention for Missionary Purposes (Philadelphia, 1814).

Andrew Fuller Center Mini-Conference Lectures on Adoniram Judson

On March 5, I had the thrill of presenting two lectures on the life and ministry of the pioneer American Missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) as a part of the Spring Mini-Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

The audio of those lectures followed by a brief Q&A session can now be found here and at the links below:

Lecture 1: The Life and Ministry of Adoniram Judson, Part 1: Conversion, Consecration, & Commission, 1788-1812 (MP3)

Lecture 2: The Life and Ministry of Adoniram Judson, Part 2: Baptism, Burma, & the Bible, 1812-1850 (MP3)

Q&A: Q&A on the Life and Ministry of Adoniram Judson (MP3)

Many thanks to Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, Dr. Steve Weaver, and Mr. Dustin Bruce for their invitation and hospitality given for this event.

W. O. Carver, Southern Seminary, and the Significance of Adoniram Judson

This week I am in Louisville, Kentucky to participate in the Mini-Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary. I am really looking forward to seeing many friends and talking about the great Adoniram Judson.

Though Judson died just after the Southern Baptist Convention was founded and never set foot on the campus of a Southern Baptist Seminary, his shadow still looms large over all our schools, and Southern Seminary is no exception. Recently, I noted that when J. P. Boyce, the founding president of Southern, was a student at Brown University in the 1840s, he had the opportunity to meet Judson and shake his hand and that this brief encounter, “sent a thrill into the soul of young Boyce that in effect never afterwards departed.” Even after his death, Judson’s missionary legacy continued among Baptists in the South as many still saw him as just as much their pioneer missionary as did Baptists in the North.

On the occasion of the 1913 centennial anniversary of Judson’s first arrival in Burma, W. O. Carver, professor of comparative religion and missions at Southern Seminary, wrote an article for the seminary’s journal, Review and Expositor, entitled, “The Significance of Adoniram Judson.” Carver represents one of the early professors in Southern Baptist higher education who “who tried to bridge the gap between religious modernity and Southern Baptist traditionalism.” Or, as Gregory A. Wills states in his magisterial institutional biography of the seminary, “The teaching of W. O. Carver was an important source” behind the seminary’s growing reputation as a “liberal school” in the early twentieth century.

Even though Carver signals the progressive theological drift from which the seminary would take nearly a century to recover, his article on Judson is appreciative and insightful. Though written one hundred years ago, his conclusions regarding Judson’s place in history as well as Judson’s significance for the present, still ring true today. In sum, Carver observed that Judson’s life had an effect “not only in drawing men into service, but rather more, perhaps, in sustaining men in service.”

Indeed, the work of God in the life of Adoniram Judson can still serve to draw men and women into Gospel ministry as well as sustain those currently laboring in mission fields around the globe. May God see fit to do just that in our day.

For more on W. O. Carver’s life and theology see:
Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (OUP, 2009)
Mark R. Wilson, William Owen Carver’s Controversies in the Baptist South (Mercer, 2010)

Photo Credit: W. O. Carver, The Boyce Digital Library

Hiding in a Corner Trying not to be Swept: The Japanese of Japan

The nation of Japan is often overlooked by those of us who view the peoples of the globe from a Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) perspective. Perhaps this is due to their economic prosperity, adaptation of Western business practices, or simply that their geographic land mass is about the size of California—although with about 90 million more people.

This great nation was brought to mind again as I read Jeff Kingston’s recent review of Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects by Jordan Sand. Kingston, himself a 25 year resident of Tokyo, gives a snapshot of a nation in flux, constantly navigating their ties to their tumultuous past and desires to persevere and succeed in the present. The selection of Tokyo as the site for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, has given the nation a new focus. Kingston explains:

Tokyo’s Olympic slogan is ‘Discover Tomorrow,’ a motto meant to convey an upbeat message about recovery from the 3/11 disasters and signaling that the story of Japan’s decline has been exaggerated, given bright prospects for its cutting-edge technologies and industries.

Following the catastrophic March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, the Japanese truly are an admirable people and a testimony to what can be accomplished through the collective tenacity of a society. Yet, this tenacity seems to be the very thing that prevents the long term spread and growth of the Gospel on those islands. Within a population of nearly 130,000,000, only .5% are Evangelicals.

While many unreached peoples on the planet are without the Gospel, in part, due to remote location or intentional cultural retreat, this is not so with Japan. The Japanese are spiritually lost even though geographically and economically very accessible. They are much like the woman’s lost silver coin in the parable told by Jesus. Many have come ‘seeking diligently’ for the lost of Japan since the first Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1850s. Yet, the Japanese remain a very homogeneous society that has long been “indifferent and skeptical toward organized religion.” They are like the lost coin, but due to the hardness of heart that so easily affects all of us in materially successful cultures, they have done a masterful job as coins hiding in a corner trying not to be swept.

Consider these prayer points from Operation World:

  • A lack of moral centre. Japan’s own leaders called it ‘a superpower without a moral compass.’
  • The Bible is alien to the worldview of the Japanese.
  • There are 24 cities in Japan with no church at all. Of the 1,020 towns and villages, 595 have no church.
  • Young people are becoming a ‘rare’ breed due to Japan’s low birth rate.
  • The greying of Japan is a serious demographic challenge, but it also makes for a greater opportunity to share Jesus, as many search for spiritual peace.

May God encourage the many laborers now serving in Japan, may he raise up and send many more, and may he give grace to see a nationwide Gospel movement that, like the woman when she found her lost coin, calls together friends and neighbors saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” For as our Lord Jesus said, “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10, ESV)

For more information on Japan see:
The Joshua Project

The International Mission Board: East Asia Peoples

Photo Credit: 100 Yen

5 Martyrs, 58 yrs ago: Waiting for the Arrival of Men Whom they Loved

Fifty-eight years ago on January 8, 1956, missionary Jim Elliot and his four co-loaborers, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint were martyred in Ecuador.

In the life and testimony of her late husband, Elisabeth Elliot’s Shadow of the Almighty (1958), begins with these famous words:

When Jim was a college student in 1949 he wrote these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Seven years later, on a hot Sunday afternoon, far from the dormitory room where those lines were written, he and four other young men were finishing a dinner of baked beans and carrotsticks. They sat together on a strip of white sand on the Curaray River, deep in Ecuador’s rain forest, waiting for the arrival of men whom they loved, but had never met–savage Stone Age killers, known to all the world now as Aucas. …

Before four-thirty that afternoon the quiet waters of the Curaray flowed over the bodies of the five comrades, slain by the men they had come to win for Christ, whose banner they had borne. The world called it a nightmare of tragedy. The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliott’s credo: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The story of the death of the five missionaries was reported world wide in the January 30, 1956 issue of LIFE magazine article “‘Go Ye and Preach the Gospel’ Five Do and Die,” and this combined with several other publications served as a catalyst for the gospel deployment of a generation.

Photo Credit: October 28, 1949 journal entry of Jim Elliott available in the Wheaton College Archives.

A Plea for Ambitious Evangelicals: The Union University Pulpit (2013)

In March of this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the campus of Union University, speak in their chapel, and visit with students. Union is known far and wide as one of the “good to great” stories of the Baptist Colleges and Universities over the last two decades thanks to the steady and visionary leadership of David S. Dockery and his capable and well-regarded team.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to this is the quality of students that have graduated during the Dockery tenure. Without question, when I meet a student at Southwestern Seminary and discover they studied at Union, I know I have found a well-informed, academically capable individual who, while able to engage well the intellectual arguments of the day, still has a heart for the Lord and for people around the word. The ability to produce, in such steady droves year after year, students of such caliber is truly remarkable. I can only hope many more Unionites will come and study with us here in Fort Worth.

Yesterday, I received a copy of the most recent Union University Pulpit journal containing sermons from a variety of speakers over the course of this year. A few months back, Joshua Moore, director of church relations, asked if they could include my sermon in this issue, and I was eager to help prepare it for publication.

My sermon is titled “A Plea for Ambitious Evangelicals” from Romans 15:17-21.

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
(Romans 15:17-21 ESV)

Here is a portion of my introduction and a link to the full transcript follows:

The word ambition in our 21st century, especially American, culture gets thrown around and used in many ways. For those of us who are seeking to follow God and are concerned with godliness and holiness, oftentimes the word ambition gets shuttled aside as a bad thing—a self-seeking thing or a selfish kind of thing. But Paul used the word ambition here in Romans 15 by harnessing it and putting it in its proper context and direction.

I’m 38 years old. Soon I will turn 40 and I do not know if this is the way it is with you but every time I come up on a new decade I think a lot about what did I do in the last decade and ask, “Have I really done anything?” and “What do I want to do in the next decade?” I went through this when I was in my twenties in college. What do I want my twenties to be known for, or my thirties, or my forties? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and ultimately asking myself the question, “If you had to boil it all down, what is the most important thing to me? What am I all about? What is my driving ambition?”

There are really two ways to figure this out, two tests. Test Number One, I can ask others who know me what they think I am all about. Or I can look inwardly, Test Number Two, and ask myself some questions …

If you really want to know me and truly get to people at Southwestern who do know me, aside from the Downton Abbey exterior and the green socks and all these other silly things, I hope that at the core you will see that I am doing what I am doing because I am passionate about seeing people going out to the ends of the earth and knocking on the doors of people who have never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus Christ in their entire lives. They don’t have access to it, they have never seen a Bible, they have never heard its words, and to them we are taking the gospel for the very first time. Whatever it takes to see that accomplished, at the end of the day, is what I am all about.

What is at the core of your heart if you peeled away the layers? Ask those who know you the best. If you ask yourself the why question enough times, what is at the core of your heart?

What I want to show you here in this passage, Romans 15:17-21, is the Apostle Paul’s ambition and that this is not just reserved for Paul, it is an ambition to be shared by all evangelicals, all Christians, all people who love the name of Christ. Whether you ever leave this country and become a missionary or not, this should be the ambition, this should be the core of who we are. So let’s see if Paul’s argument is convincing to us.

Here is a PDF of my full transcript of the March 8, 2013 message, “A Plea for Ambitious Evangelicals.”

The audio recording of my message is available here and video is available here.

To receive a printed copy of the Union University Pulpit 2013 contact the fine folks in the Office of University Ministries at Union.