Dr. Russell Moore Speaks at the 2nd Baptist Distinctives Lecture Series

Dr. Russell Moore speaking in Ford Village at the DBU campus.

Dr. Russell Moore is the Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today and the author of Losing Our Religion, an Altar Call for Evangelical America. In 2013, he became president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns. In 2017, he was named one of POLITICO Magazine's Top 50 Most Influence Makers in Washington. He has been profiled in many publications, written articles, and been on news media sharing about God's work around the world and a call to Christians in America to live for Jesus and be servant leaders in our country. Dr. Moore lives in the Nashville area with his wife and their five sons, where he regularly pours into his local congregation at Immanuel Church.

Russell Moore started his day on the DBU campus by speaking to the student body in Chapel. His message came from Genesis 50:22-26. He encouraged DBU students to live in Christ and rely on His power rather than their own. Afterward, Dr. Moore addressed DBU faculty and staff during a special luncheon, during which he spoke about Matthew 16. He challenged the DBU Family to find their identity in Christ, not in political affiliations, hobbies, or anything else. He refuted the tendency of our culture to focus more on political opinions to define their personality rather than their faith in Christ. "For modern-day Christians, culture-warring is easier than cross-carrying."

In the evening, Dr. Moore delivered a message at the Second Annual Baptist Distinctives Lecture Series in the Center for Baptist History and Heritage in Ford Village on the DBU campus. DBU President Dr. Adam C. Wright and Chief of Staff Jonathan Fechner introduced the event by reminding the audience that the Baptist Distinctives Lecture Series was created to teach people what it means to be a Baptist and to pay homage to the leaders who came before us.

Dr. Moore began his lecture by reading Mark 5:1-20 which tells the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. In this passage, Jesus asks the man his name, and he responds, "My name is Legion, for we are many" (ESV). Dr. Moore read this verse because the demon-possessed man was living in isolation from society, yet he was still overly crowded. The man was drowning in the crowd of demons, so much so that he lost his personal identity along the way, and Jesus sought him out to save him.

Dr. Moore explained how our society has caused some Baptist rituals and distinctives to subside throughout the years, but the ones that have prevailed are the most essential. He is encouraged by the fact that Baptists continue emphasizing the importance of the personal. "Our emphasis on baptism, religious freedom, all aspects of the Christian life boil down to this central concern that God does not bring people into the Kingdom village by village, but by one person at a time."

In the era we live in, ruled by social media, people subscribe to a hive mind. We identify each other by the groups we are affiliated with and lean too far into collectivism too often. We are designed to have an emergency hive mind switched in our brains every so often, but with social media becoming so ingrained into society, the hive mind is constantly active. Ironically, this constant state of depression leads to more isolation and loneliness rather than community.

Personal connections are necessary for a genuine, life-filled community. A community on its own, apart from God, is destined to fail. Dr. Moore reminisced about the frequency of altar calls in Baptist churches over the last few decades, noting that they have become less common. He acknowledged that they can be manipulative in specific settings. Still, he explained, "There is something special about the altar call that spoke to everyone in the congregation, even if no one responded. Taking a moment to remember that you are a sinner that has been redeemed is crucial. Realizing that your neighbor, no matter how worldly they may seem, could become a brother or sister in Christ in an instant is a humbling experience."

Dr. Moore referenced the passage he read and explained that Jesus broke off from his community to speak to the demon-possessed man whom everyone refused to interact with. Jesus healed this man and invited him back into the community. The global church is made up of one body with many parts. Community needs the personal. We need to weaken the increased tribalism in our society with true community.

The event ended with Dr. Moore encouraging Baptists for their excellent work in treating each member of the congregation, regardless of their age, as an essential member of the body. "The message that Baptists should have, in the 21st century, plagued by belonging to everyone and thus belonging to no one, people who are wondering if I am 100% dedicated to these people and do I have to prove it by hating a certain group, or am I instead a person and not just a cog in some machine. The Baptist movement has a great deal to contribute if we can remember who we are. And if we can say, 'You must be born again.' Jesus loves not just us but me. If we can retain this message, we will be able to detox from a really toxic time.

Written by Cameron Billings

Cameron Billings is the Assistant Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.