Ekklesia: God's Perspective on the Church was the theme of Southeastern’s sixth annual 20/20 collegiate conference that examined the nature and importance of Christ's church.
Students had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Daniel Akin, Matt Carter, Dhati Lewis, Tony Merida, Russell Moore and Steve Timmis. The conference was held on the SEBTS campus on Feb. 7 and 8. Approximately 670 participants were in attendance.
To close the first day, a panel featuring all six speakers responded with Christian perspectives to common questions from joining a church to immigration reform to the importance of missions.
Breakout sessions were available on a variety of topics including how the church should minister to homosexuals, urban church planting, and engaging college students in missions through the local church.
Merida currently serves as the pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., as an associate professor of preaching at SEBTS and was the conference host. “We think you need the church and the church needs you,” he said. “The hero that headed the church is Jesus Christ.”
Carter, lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, spoke on “Three Biblical Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking About and Engaging the Nations.” According to Carter, one should be passionate about the nations because Jesus was, because He has given Christians this task before His return and because God uses ordinary people for His purposes.
Carter noted the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. “We run the risk in the American church … to hear about the need, see the need, and maybe even feel bad about it but walk right on past it … because we are too busy going to worship services,” he said. “I don’t see a person in this room that is exempt from the Great Commission.”
Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), spoke on James 2:1-13. He used the analogy of the church as an embassy or outpost of the Kingdom of God.
“The Word of God has a radically different vision of the Church than we often do,” he said. The church should be a place where mercy triumphs over judgment and “as the colony of the Kingdom of God that blows all of those other distinctions away.”
Lewis is the lead pastor at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga. and launched the Rebuild Initiative in 2011 to help plant churches in the urban context. Lewis shared his testimony of becoming a believer in college. “I was introduced to this Christian community and it changed everything about me,” he said.
From Ephesians 4:1-16, Lewis’s message focused on the vision for a faithfully functioning biblical community that fights for unity, clarity and maturity in the church.
Akin, the president of SEBTS, preached on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, drawing “A Biblical Portrait of a Healthy Ekklesia.” This portrait of a church “knows that its identity is in Christ; it prioritizes the spiritual essentials, and it thinks continually on the unmerited love of God.” Furthermore, a good church “keeps the Gospel at the center, raises up and follows the right role models, focuses on the work of evangelism and missions and longs for the return of the King.”
Practical applications included, “finding a church that emphasizes regenerate church membership, is focused on the Great Commission and gives evidence that it is actually doing it.” He also encouraged students to find a church that is “happy, holy and hopeful.”
Merida preached on Galatians 6:1-10 and shared some obstacles and responsibilities that Christians encounter today including sensationalism, mysticism, idealism and individualism. He also highlighted ways to live out spirit-filled community through gentle restoration, humble burden bearing, faithful stewardship, personal holiness and practical goodness.
Merida encouraged listeners to “not just love the idea of community, but love a person, a people.” He also focused on the need for others to share their spiritual lives as one “should grow in a public park, not a secret garden.”
Timmis is the co-founder of The Crowded House, the co-director of the Porterbrook Network and the director of Acts 29 in Western Europe. His message focused on Acts 4-5:16 as a passage that is stunning, sobering and spectacular.
“God’s purpose has always been His church,” Timmis said. “Look for a church that is committed to holiness.” The church should also express and be passionate about hospitality, holiness and the impact one makes.
Southeastern hopes that those in attendance will be better equipped to live out these truths in the church. “The body of the Cross should exalt their King,” Merida said. ”Let us serve Him by serving His world and His people.”
To view photos from Ekklesia, please click here.
To listen to or watch conference messages, please click here.
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.