Al Mohler: Right man, right time for SBC president
In June, I urged R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the highly respected president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to pray and ask God to see if it is God’s will that Mohler seek the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Perhaps you have heard by now, but Mohler will allow Robert Jeffress, pastor, First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, a man whom I know and deeply respect, to place Mohler’s name in nomination for president when messengers gather in June for the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis.
I am thrilled and I hope you are, too. I hope you will attend the annual meeting as a messenger, voice your support – and vote – for Mohler.
Mohler is the right man at this time in SBC history to serve as president of the nation’s largest evangelical denomination. Forces advocating human cloning, homosexual marriage and euthanasia of the most vulnerable – the elderly and disabled – remain well-funded and determined to impose their wishes on America. It is possible that our nation’s governmental policies will shift to the liberal left, tempting Americans to look to the government for answers to mankind’s most vexing problems rather than to a sovereign God. Such an environment will threaten religious liberty and could escalate the persecution of Christians in a nation founded largely by men who placed their trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.
It will become critical for Christianity to have courageous leaders willing to declare with love but uncompromising conviction, “thus saith the Lord.” They will have to speak with moral clarity based on the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Mohler has been – and will continue to be – such a leader.
There was a time when Southern Baptist leaders, particularly pastors, were viewed by the secular media as “country bumpkins” and “fanatics” reminiscent of Elmer Gantry. More recently, liberals have tried to pen the term “legalist” or “fundamentalist” (as in Muslim fundamentalist) on SBC conservatives. Mohler has shattered such stereotypes. I dare say there has never been a Southern Baptist leader as articulate and as highly regarded as a world-class scholar as is Mohler. Anyone who has ever seen him on Larry King Live (according to the King people he has become one of the show’s most popular guests) or Fox News Channel could dispute that he has a burden for the lost and handles Scripture with great skill, humility and respect.
There are already fellow Southern Baptists expressing opposition to a Mohler presidency. To them I would say, “no problem, run your candidate.” There are many great leaders in our denomination worthy to serve in such a capacity. I would pray that any campaigning in the months leading up to the election would be done in a Christ-like fashion, void of outrageous accusations, “straw-man” arguments, and with the highest regard for truth.
Some object to a Mohler presidency because he is the president of an SBC agency. So what? The SBC has looked to its seminaries in the past for denominational leadership. Several seminary presidents have served as SBC president. To suggest that there is some kind of conflict of interest is baseless and implies our current agency leaders – and especially the 80-plus-member SBC Executive Committee that oversees Cooperative Program allocations – are inept. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Some have suggested that Mohler should not be elected because he is not a pastor. I am not sure that a denomination composed predominantly of bi-vocational pastors and an involved laity will agree. At any rate, Mohler has been a pastor if that is important in your mind.
Other Mohler opponents have complained that the church to which Mohler is a member (Highview Baptist Church in Louisville) only gives about three percent of its budget to the Cooperative Program. Mohler does not tell Highview what it must do with its gifts, which are substantial, to worldwide missions. That comes from the leadership of Highview’s fine pastor, Kevin Ezell (many Missourians know Ezell who has ably served as a trustee for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and the church’s lay leadership under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There continues to be some Southern Baptists who want to make Cooperative Program giving a prerequisite for serving in SBC leadership positions – at the risk of becoming coercively man-directed and at the expense of local church autonomy. No one supports – and appreciates – the Cooperative Program more than Mohler.
Some opponents have expressed concern that Southern Seminary might suffer if presidential duties begin to take Mohler away from the institution he rescued from liberalism in the early 1990s. Mohler understands Southern’s needs perfectly and is a capable manager. He has surrounded himself with an outstanding administrative staff and faculty. I would argue Southern could well benefit from a Mohler presidency due to the high-profile nature of the position.
In fact, I cannot think of any reason why Mohler should not be elected. He holds all the qualities that Southern Baptists look for in a leader: faithfulness to God, love for His Word, a devoted husband and father, a keen mind and burden to see the lost come to Christ. He is also a humble man and that humility came through perfectly in an article he wrote about God sparing his life after surgery:
“I’m very, very thankful that I’m here with you today. It’s all of the Lord’s mercy, and I am very knowledgeable of that. I also know there will come a medical crisis I will not survive, and it will come for you as well. So we better decide what we’re going to do in the meantime. And in weakness and in fear and with much trembling, we had better preach the cross.”
I have admitted in other columns my bias in support of Al Mohler. He was my systematic theology professor and had a profound impact on my spiritual walk. I do not oppose any person and will not attack an opponent. Articulating Mohler’s voluminous positive attributes is more than enough to keep me busy – all the way to Indianapolis.