Thoughts on the IRBS Seminary Convocation: A Call to Prayer

On Sept. 11th of this year, my brother and I hurried home from work to watch the Convocation of the IRBS Seminary. All day long I had glanced at my watch every half hour, mentally going over all that was left to be done and how long it would take. Today of all days, I couldn’t be home late.

Like clockwork, I picked up our Wal-Mart order and my brother picked up Chinese food. I laid out dinner on the end table in our Dad’s garage study and poured a glass of wine while my brother set up the live feed on our projector.

Our parents and younger siblings were there in Mansfield for the meeting. We had to stay behind for work. It was hard to not be there. I was there for so many other milestones. I had helped with fundraising and marketing. And then I wasn’t there that day, this day to crown all days.

I wasn’t there in person, but I was there in spirit.

And through the live stream, I was able to still be part of the event.

A part of history.


a ceremonial assembly of members of a college or university

–Miriam Webster Online Dictionary

The room was filled with people from all over the United States who had flown in for this event. The live stream brought together people from all over the world.

And there were many more, no longer with us, who looked forward to this day.

As part of the ceremony, it was announced that the work was being done to get Pastor Ronald Baines awarded his PhD posthumously, as is sometimes done when students were near completion of their degree.

Ron Baines had done so much for this seminary. This was his dream, a dream he didn’t get to see come to completion. But a dream that now honors him and his contribution.

Tears ran freely down my face. I picked up my phone to text my dear friend, Abby Jones, who was there, and my phone vibrated in my hand with her own message.

My tears were shared tears, 200 miles away.

In his inauguration speech, the newly ordained first president of IRBS Seminary, Dr. James Renihan, outlined the 5 Core Principles IRBS Theological Seminary is founded on:

1) Christ

2) Canon

3) Church

4) Covenantalism

5) Confessionalism

“Everything we do, sets a precedent for the future,” he said.

These words stood out to me. They reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad years ago about church planting.

Nine years ago my family agreed to be part of a church plant in Conroe, TX.

I remember hearing my Dad qualify his statements, “IF the plant succeeds,” and I remember asking him, “How could it fail?”

At fifteen years old, I did not understand all that could go terribly wrong in a church plant. We had a generous startup grant from our sending church, two pastors, including my dad, and fifteen families going with us. Our first Sunday was near a hundred people! How could so vigorous and supported an effort not succeed?

Nine years later, I know how terribly wrong things can go. My dad is now the sole pastor and of the original fifteen families, my family is one of only three left. Though we’re at roughly the size we began, we’ve had a nearly complete turn-over in membership. We had an elder leave, eight deacons leave, and a church split.

It is only by God’s grace that we have endured.

No matter how bright the endeavor, how promising the prospects, there are no guarantees.

Christian institutions are not immune to corruption. The best of men are men at best. The best of policies and principles cannot keep out sin and indiscretion. No amount of foresight can prevent future generations from rejecting the vision this institution was founded on and veering off into heterodoxy.

Oh how easy it is to lose a good reputation in this modern age!

“History has its eyes on you.”

In my garden, there is sawdust from the book shelves of the first president of IRBS Seminary because my Daddy is the one who built them. On our shared day off, my brother and I drove north to Mansfield to help install them.

Now there are bits of that sawdust in my shoes too.

For better or worse, we are connected in this endeavor. I’ve heard it said that the Reformed Baptist community is not a sea, or even a lake, but a puddle. We are small and intimately connected. There are no isolated corners. What affects one, affects all.

This is an excruciatingly painful thing when there is controversy, but a divinely sweet blessing when there is unity.

The convocation was a reminder to me—not to fear—but to pray. To not presume. To not take long-term success for granted.

Of the sober duty to keep a close watch on our doctrine and conduct (1Tim 4:16) so that we give the world no cause to reproach us.

Saints, we must pray.

Pray that those in leadership hold fast to the faith once for all delivered, pray that they not give into temptation, pray that they not lack in wisdom, asking of God what He gives generously without reproach.

Everything we do, including this habit of prayer, sets a precedent for the future.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the IRBS Seminary Convocation: A Call to Prayer

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