President Jason Allen opened Midwestern Seminary’s spring semester with an Academic Convocation message calling believers to press on in Christ. The service took place in the Daniel Lee Chapel on Jan. 19.
Additionally, four newly-elected seminary faculty members signed the institution’s Articles of Faith during the service. The four new faculty members were: Geoffrey Chang, Andrew King, Charles Smith, and Patrick Schreiner.
In his convocation sermon, Allen, recounting the past year, observed the unique sense of hope and expectation many are experiencing in the new calendar year. Citing the ongoing pandemic, challenges of an economic recession, and political and social unrest, Allen acknowledged that, while the nation’s fault lines have deepened and hardened, Christians have reason to be hopeful.
“We have good news today. As Christians, we confess our Lord reigns. His sovereignty has extended overall. He will build his church. Thus, as individuals and as a seminary community, we have much to be hopeful for much to be confident in. We have much to be cheerful about.
“On this day of convocation, we stand with our convictions intact; our commitment to the great commission, undeterred; our vision for the church, resolute; our hope in Christ, renewed.”
Through an exposition of Philippians 3:12-14, Allen reminded the seminary community that though the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Philippi while under house arrest, he delivered a message of joy found through Christ. Allen reminded hearers of the opportunity Christians have today to experience the same joy Paul experienced and the responsibility Christians have to cultivate joy despite trying circumstances.
From the text, Allen made three observations. “First,” Allen noted, “the Bible assumes our growth as Christians. There is no such thing as a stagnant, digressing healthy Christian. Second, Christianity is lived in the future. Third, faithfulness in the Christian life does not just happen; it takes intentionality.”
Additionally, Allen proposed three steps for believers to take in light of observations made from the passage. Reflecting on verse 12, Allen pointed out Paul’s willingness to take an honest evaluation of himself and the need for believers to do the same. “We are a people of distraction and constant motion. We have no idle second. But an inward look requires such.
“It requires notifications being turned off, the Bible being opened, our room being quiet, and putting ourselves in contexts where we’re free from distractions so we can actually reflect on God’s word and in prayer on the Lord’s work in our lives and where he desires to move us towards greater maturity.”
Allen argued the sort of inward reflection modeled by Paul is beneficial for individuals as well as institutions. For individuals, asking questions related to spiritual growth in Christ or where repentance is needed is a healthy exercise, according to Allen. For Midwestern, questions related to staying on mission, the presence of potential distractions, and the unity being experienced within the campus community are all worthy of being asked.
The next step after looking inward, Allen suggested, is to cultivate a forward-looking focus. While Christians are called to remember God’s faithfulness, choosing to intentionally forget past sins in light of the redemption of Christ is a necessary part of the Christian life, according to Allen. He added forgetting one’s past service to Christ is also necessary at times and that Christians should constantly be reflecting on what they are doing now for the cause of Christ.
Allen reminded hearers that this sort of future-mindedness is what undergirds the seminary community at Midwestern. “As students, you are here not to reach your end during an M.Div. degree but to be prepared for a greater end. As faculty and staff, we are here not to reach our end with the signing of a confessional book or with election to faculty or some other academic milestone but to train ministers and missionaries for future service. It is a glorious opportunity and I pray we never get over God’s unique calling to do this work.”
Allen closed the convocation sermon reflecting on what forward-thinking means for the seminary community at Midwestern by reminding of the Seminary’s mission statement and strategic plan.
“We are praying that we will maintain the right convictions. We are praying that we will continue to project the right vision for the church and for the kingdom. We are praying that God would give us an ever-strengthening faculty through not only their scholarship, but their churchmanship and their love for students and for Christ. We are praying for things like constituency and goodwill, that we will serve our churches well with humility and we will engender their trust and their affection.
“We are praying that God will give us a healthy, attractive campus community, the type that students, faculty, and staff will see and want to be a part of. We are doing these things for the church. That is what we are after institutionally. That is what we are leaning into. That is what we are forward-focused on. That is what we are investing in, what we are strategizing towards, and that simplifies what we do. It is not our calling to scour the world, looking to right every wrong, to solve every problem, to engage every fight, to answer every question. Yes, true dangers must be confronted, but there are also true distractions that would hinder our work and they must be avoided. Knowing the difference is key.
“Pianists return again and again to ‘Middle C.’ Athletes return again and again to the fundamentals of the game. We return again and again to our vision for the church.”
Prior to Allen’s message, Chang, King, Smith, and Schreiner signed the institution’s Articles of Faith.
Chang serves as assistant professor of historical theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library. King serves as assistant dean at Spurgeon College and as assistant professor of Old Testament. Smith serves as senior vice president of institutional relations and assistant professor of Christian leadership. Schreiner serves as associate professor of New Testament and biblical theology.
All four members were elected by the Board of Trustees in October 2020.
The seminary’s Articles of Faith consist of the confession of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, and three institutional guiding documents: the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality.
To view Allen’s message in full, visit mbts.cc/spring21convocation