Today it is an honor to bring my first report to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, and it is an even greater honor to serve as president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
To this convention I say that the Midwestern Seminary Board of Trustees has elected a president who loves the churches of this convention and resolves to serve, in both letter and in spirit, in good faith with the churches of this convention.
Season of Institutional Accomplishment
This past year has been an incredible season of institutional accomplishment. In recent months we have completed and are now enjoying our new seminary chapel. Included within the chapel complex is a welcome center, banquet hall that seats 300, a half-dozen classrooms, and our new 1,000-seat chapel. I am grateful to the many hundreds of Southern Baptists who have given their time and financial resources to bring this ambitious project to completion. We will host our formal chapel dedication this coming spring, and you are cordially invited to attend. The entire completed chapel complex is a source of institutional—and I trust—denominational pride.
This past semester marked the highest spring enrollment in the seminary’s history, and with over 1,500 students Midwestern Seminary ranks as one of the largest seminaries in North America. In recent months we have also hosted our two accreditors—the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission for our decennial accreditation reviews. I am pleased to report that we passed these reviews with flying colors. Yet, our enthusiasm is not merely in what has been accomplished, but in what we are seeking to accomplish as a seminary in the season ahead.
Over the past many months we have been comprehensively evaluating and strategically repositioning our institutional efforts so that we might most faithfully serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Indeed, our vision is full, yet simple: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary exists For the Church.
My call as president is to lead Midwestern Seminary to serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. We train students intentionally and especially for the churches of this denomination. We bear a moral stewardship to our Southern Baptist forebears and a contemporary stewardship of the same to focus our instructional efforts and academic programs to train pastors, ministers, and missionaries especially for Southern Baptist churches.
Our mission to exist For the Church is an urgent one. This is an urgent mission because the Southern Baptist Convention consists of some 45,000 local churches that need pastors and ministers to shepherd their congregations and to equip the members gathered therein, and because we are a Great Commission people deploying pastors, ministers, and missionaries globally to reach the world for Christ. We especially feel the urgency of our mission in light of LifeWay’s recent report indicating a decrease in baptisms and church attendance within our denomination.
In light of this, Midwestern Seminary makes strengthening the preaching and teaching capabilities of the ministers it trains priority one. So goes the pulpit, so goes the church; and so goes these offices, so goes the equipping of the saints for the service of the church, the progress of the gospel, and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
Looking at current denominational demographics further accentuates the need to train pastors and missionaries For the Church. A dearth of pastors looms on the horizon and, in a sense, is already here. If churches do not call out pastors and seminaries do not train them, from whence will they come? After all, we minister under a Pauline injunction: “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things.’” Our love for the lost, for the nations, for the gospel, and for the spreading thereof in order to fulfill the Great Commission heightens our urgency to train pastors, teachers, and evangelists.
Sweeping Academic Expansion
To best serve the churches of this convention we have recently announced a sweeping academic expansion. Included within this expansion is offering dual major degrees at the undergraduate level in order to better prepare bi-vocational ministers and missionaries who will serve overseas on a business platform.
We are bringing renewed focus to the Master of Divinity degree with emphases on pastoral ministry and preaching, biblical and theological studies, and Christian ministry. We have developed a new doctorate in counseling as well. We are in conversations with our accreditors about further expansions to our Ph.D. program, which I look forward to sharing in due course. All of this, and so much more, is being undertaken so that Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary can best serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the Church—this is the vision that called me to Kansas City. It is the vision that is being renewed and is reverberating across our campus. It is the vision that we, with appropriate institutional self-confidence, are projecting across this denomination and beyond. We are confident because Christ is building his church, and in as much as we are faithful to his church, he will be faithful to us.
To the messengers of this convention, I say first and foremost, thank you. Thank you especially for your prayers and for your support through the Cooperative Program. I also say join with us, hope the best for us, believe the best about us, and expect the best from us. Pray for us, partner with us, support us, send us your men and women to train for ministry, stand with us in solidarity of spirit, shared conviction, and gospel aspiration; and I say, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable to our denominational, confessional, and missiological commitments so that we might rightly exist For the Church.topicsEducation, Leadership, Other, Southern Baptist Convention