The iCampus is the online ministry of the First Baptist Church of Dallas in Dallas, Texas. I’m Ben Lovvorn, I’m the Executive Pastor at First Baptist Dallas. I also want to welcome you here on behalf of our Senior Pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress.
As I’m sure you know, Pastor Jeffress is an incredible communicator of God’s Word and a tremendous leader both as the pastor of our church here locally and as a voice for truth in our nation. Dr. Jeffress has a radio and broadcast ministry called Pathway to Victory, which is one of the fastest growing ministries in the country. It can be seen and heard across the world. So if you aren’t already familiar with Pathway to Victory, you should be! I encourage you to watch it and share it with your friends and family. You can find out more at ptv.org.
This lesson is the first installment in a series we’re calling “iCampus 101.” We want the iCampus not just to be a weekly livestream. We want it to be a hub for discipleship resources that can help you grow in your faith. But before you jump into all of our resources, we want to make sure that you know the basics. So consider this your boot camp, your orientation, your introduction to the iCampus and the ministries of First Baptist Dallas. I want to tell you some of the core truths and principles that are going to infuse everything we do through the iCampus. They are essential to who God has called us to be as Christians and the distinctive approach that we take as a church.
So let me just give you a quick overview of what iCampus 101 is going to cover, so you know what to expect.
First, I want to talk with you about the vision and mission of the iCampus as a ministry, and some of the distinctives that will characterize everything we do and say here.
Second, I want to introduce you to First Baptist Dallas and its legacy. The iCampus is not a free-floating, online-only ministry. It is rooted and grows out of the ministry of the local church. So I think you will really enjoy getting to know First Dallas and its history.
Third, I want to give you an overview of what Christians believe. This is something we really can’t assume or skip over. It’s something we need to be clear about, something we need to remind ourselves about on a regular basis. So we’ll work through the core teachings of historic Christianity, which we believe in very deeply here at First Baptist Dallas.
Fourth, we’re going to talk about the discipleship process. I want us to work through what it means to follow Jesus Christ and truly be His disciple, so that you can know and embrace everything that it means to follow Him.
Fifth, I want us to think through both the opportunities and the limits of digital media. What aspects of the discipleship process can happen online? And what aspects really need to happen in person? That is important for us to think through carefully in the digital age in which we live. It will help us leverage the iCampus for your benefit and growth in Christ, while not turning it into a substitute for in-person worship and Christian community.
So that’s where we’re going with this iCampus 101 Series.
Vision & Mission:
An important reason we’re making this “101” series right now is because we have been thinking very carefully about the best way to do online ministry. And that has led us to refine how we think about the iCampus and what it is intended to do. In the early days, the iCampus was really just a stream, allowing people to follow along with our worship. Then it became an interactive stream, where you could get to know others and talk with our chat hosts. When the pandemic hit, the iCampus became church for many of us for a few months. We couldn’t physically go to church, and so online church was our lifeline.
Now as we’ve emerged from the pandemic, we live in a new era. For some who are physically or medically unable to attend church, the iCampus remains a much needed lifeline. But for those who are able to attend church and have a Bible-believing church in your local area, we believe that digital mediums can’t substitute for in-person worship and community. We have probably all realized by experience that an online stream can’t fully replicate what happens in the gathered local church on a Sunday morning. Our intent for the iCampus is not that it would displace in-person church, but that it would serve as a supplement to every Christian’s growth in discipleship. We envision the iCampus as a seven-days-a-week ministry that can help shape your mind and heart to know and love God, wherever you are in the world and wherever you are in your walk with the Lord.
Scripture tells us that the world wants to conform us to its image, and this is happening in a thousand ways every day (Romans 12:1). A few hours in church each week, although that is absolutely essential, just isn’t going to cut it. If we’re going to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” and become “living sacrifices” to God, then we need to be learning and growing in Christ every day, learning how to take “every thought captive” to Him (Romans 12:1–2; 2 Corinthians 10:5).
So our vision for the iCampus as a ministry is very simple: it is for discipleship. Our mission is to help you grow in your walk with the Lord, so that you have a strong and vibrant faith in Him. We want to encourage you to become a joyful, growing, and reproducing follower of Jesus Christ. Every resource we create will be with this end in mind, to help you become a more fully engaged and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
This is a key aspect of the Great Commission, which is the charge that Christ gave to His disciples and to us, His church, before He ascended into heaven. You will hear us talk about this passage a lot! It is vital to everything we do. Here’s what it says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). There are two sides to the Great Commission, and we really need to do both if we’re going to fulfill the mission that Christ has called us to pursue as His people.
The first and essential step to making disciples is bringing people to faith in Christ through a clear presentation of the gospel. When people hear, understand, and respond, then we can “baptize them” in “the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is the symbolic way that we mark someone’s entrance into the body of Christ, the public profession of someone’s faith in the Triune God. So that is first, and it’s essential to making a disciple. You have to invite people to follow Him.
But there’s a second half to the Great Commission, too. It involves “teaching” disciples, as Christ said, “to observe all that I commanded you.” All that He commanded! That’s a lot! That is going to take a while. Scripture is full of things that Christ has commanded us to do! And learning how to “observe” each of them is a lifelong process, one that we always pursue but never fully complete in this life. Ultimately, it means being conformed to the image of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. It means to be like Jesus—to live out your life as Jesus would if He were walking in your shoes. And it’s the job of each generation to hand down the faith intact to the next one. But that’s really what the iCampus is for—it’s to help you become a fully devoted disciple to Jesus Christ by learning to observe His commands in every area of your life.
So the goal of the iCampus is to help you become a fully formed disciple of Jesus Christ. But there are a lot of ministries out there that you could watch or listen to, and each of them may have a slightly different take on what it should look like to be a “disciple” in the world today and in various contexts. That’s OK to a degree. There’s room for different ideas, different emphases, and different callings in the wider body of Christ, as long you hold on to the core truth of God’s revealed Word in Scripture. But I want to be really clear about what is distinctive about our ministry. What is the First Baptist Dallas way? What can you expect us to emphasize and promote in all of our resources? Here are seven distinctives that are going to characterize the iCampus:
- Biblical Fidelity
We are a ministry that remains committed to historic Christian orthodoxy. We believe in the core doctrines that have been confessed traditionally by Christians across the world. We also believe strongly in the trustworthiness of God’s Word—its inspiration, its infallibility, and its inerrancy. Scripture is the final authority for all faith and practice at First Baptist Dallas. We consciously seek to ground everything we say and do in Scripture. So no matter what we’re talking about—whether it’s a course on money management, on depression and suicide, on religious liberty, or on any other topic—we are always going to ask, “What does Scripture have to say about it?” We will always be faithful to God and His Word.
- Spiritual Growth
We are a ministry that wants to encourage you to keep growing in your walk with Christ. We want you to have a thriving spiritual life. That doesn’t just happen by accident, it takes dedicated time and energy. You need to practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and devotional time in order to stay close to the Lord. When you love someone, you will want to get to know them better and better each day. And the more you get to know the Lord, the more you will love Him. We believe every Christian needs to be growing spiritually, and we want to equip each of you to keep moving forward in holiness, in knowledge, and in daily reliance upon the Savior.
- Moral Clarity
We are a ministry that remains committed to historic Christian ethics. We are committed to living out the way of Christ in our lives and choices. We cannot condone any lifestyle that tries to normalize or excuse sin. If God has called something a sin, we will too. Our culture is growing more and more hostile to the basic tenets of biblical morality. Some Christians have tried to reinterpret the Christian faith to make allowances or accommodations. But we believe not only is this wrong; it is ultimately unloving. Christians are supposed to represent the true way of Christ to the world. Our moral witness draws people into the kind of life that leads to joy and flourishing as God intended. Sin leaves us enslaved and constantly disappointed. But the godly life is the happy life, which everyone seeks by nature.
- Christian Worldview
We are a ministry that wants to help you develop a robust Christian worldview. As C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.” Our faith is not merely a list of things we happen to believe. The Christian faith needs to be the lens through which we look at everything—our jobs, our relationships, our families, our budgets, our past, our future, our ideas. Everything! Our goal is not just to think a few Christian thoughts now and then, but to think Christian-ly, for the very way we think about everything to be distinctly Christian. We want to “put on the mind of Christ” through a Christian philosophy of God, of ourselves as His creatures, and of the world God has made.
- Cultural Engagement
We are a ministry that takes a stance of faithful engagement with all aspects of culture—politics, education, business, relief work, the arts, etc. Some Christians advocate a strategic retreat or withdrawal from culture. That’s not our approach. We are not going to retreat. We are going to stand firm and gain new ground for Christ in all endeavors. Think of how Daniel approached his time in Babylon. He served in the government, he worked for the good of his earthly city as best he could, and he did so faithfully even when pressed by unjust laws and unfair treatment. America is coming to resemble Babylon more and more. First Baptist Dallas is working to raise up a generation of Daniels.
- Local Church
We are a ministry that grows out of a real, thriving, growing local church. We believe that is God’s way. As someone has said: the local church is Plan A for reaching the world—and there is no Plan B. So not only does the iCampus flow out of a specific local church, but we also want to champion the local church. We believe that involvement in a local church is a fundamental and irreplaceable part of the Christian life. So wherever you are, find a local church and get involved, be there every time the doors are open, ask how you can help and serve others. And we’ll be here to equip you along the way too.
- Personal Evangelism
We are a ministry that wants to equip you to share your faith with others regularly so that you can be on mission for Christ and participate in the Great Commission. Evangelism is not something we can outsource to the “professionals.” In fact, the full-time ministers exist to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”—that’s you! We want to help every Christian be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). At our church, we regularly ask our members to identify three people they can be praying for, to invite these three people to church events, and to work towards sharing the gospel with them. We train everyone regularly in the “Three Circles” evangelism method, which is a simple way to explain the gospel in just a few minutes. So wherever you are, we want you to be equipped and ready to share your faith.
Thank you for visiting the iCampus! I hope that you are encouraged in your faith through this ministry, and that God would work mightily in your life through it!