Like the early followers of Jesus, Christians today should understand the “power in the gathered church” no matter the opposition they may face, Daniel Darling preached during his first chapel service on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 28.
In his newly appointed role as director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at SWBTS, Darling will also serve under presidential appointment as assistant professor of faith and culture at Texas Baptist College.
In an introduction during the service, SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway reflected on Darling’s “Texas-sized vision for what the Lord is going to do” through the Land Center.
“If there has ever been a time where we need Christian conviction marked by winsome witness, it is now,” Greenway said. “We need to be unapologetic in terms of the convictional posture that we hold as we engage the issues of the day, but we cannot be jerks for Jesus when we do that in the public square.”
“I appreciate Dan Darling and the tone by which he engages these issues, and I believe the future of the Land Center here at Southwestern Seminary is going to be very bright under his leadership,” Greenway said.
Darling most recently gained notoriety for being let go as a senior vice president for communications of the National Religious Broadcasters after discussing his personal views on COVID vaccinations during a media interview representing NRB.
Previously, Darling served as vice president for communications of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as well as in pastoral roles.
‘The Church on the Move’
In his message titled, “The Church on the Move,” Darling opened with a reading from Acts 12, wherein the early church was being attacked.
Darling remarked it is important for pastors to be familiar with the book of Acts because “the same Spirit alive in the people of God in the first century is alive in the 21st Century.”
Although the early church did not yet know what would come of their persecution, Darling noted Jesus had promised that those who followed Him would experience persecution.
“The word from Jesus to them and to us today is that we shouldn’t be surprised by opposition to the gospel,” Darling said. “We shouldn’t be surprised by people hating the Christian message. We shouldn’t be surprised when the world opposes the gospel.”
Darling then observed that in response to persecution and attack, the church gathered and prayed, an important function of the church.
“We are a gathering people,” Darling said. “We are an embodied people. We’re not just souls, but we’re bodies and souls. Our worship is embodied.”
Calling for a re-emphasis of regular church gatherings for prayer, worship and preaching after the disruption of COVID-19, Darling said the ritual of gathering as the church on Sunday is more than “just a thing to do.”
“It’s a statement,” Darling said. “It’s a pledge. In many ways, it’s an act of war against the forces of hell.”
‘Power in the gathered church’
For thousands of years, the church has gathered in buildings and cathedrals, but also in hiding as Christians risked their lives to be able to gather, Darling said.
“There’s power in the gathered church,” Darling said, especially the gathered church that prays. “We never have anything more important to do than to get on our knees before God.”
Darling acknowledged the real and present concern for resistance and persecution against the modern church. However, he said, “They are no match for the power of God working through His people on their knees.”
Even as Christians in America continue to fight for religious liberty, Darling encouraged believers to remember that even if they must one day live under persecution, they can do so with joy and with the knowledge that God will still receive glory.
‘Herod is dead, and the church is alive’
Darling concluded his message with a word of exhortation for all believers to know they do not have to live in fear even as they rightly fight for religious liberty in current and future generations.
“Herod is dead, and the church is alive,” Darling said. “Dictators and despots have tried to crush the church for 2000 years and the church is triumphant.”
“Let us not sweat the times in the moment we are in,” Darling said. “Let’s not fear temporary tyrants and powerful governments. Let’s not wring our hands over the culture that is moving against Christianity. Let us, instead, embrace our moment with joy.”
The entire sermon can be viewed here.