Seminary luncheons draw alumni, guests
PHOENIX (BP)--Fellowship and campus updates highlighted the alumni luncheons hosted by Southern Baptist Convention seminaries June 15 during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Following are reports from the luncheons:
GOLDEN GATE -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary honored Bobby Evans and Naomi Paget with Distinguished Alumni Awards at the seminary's Alumni and Friends luncheon June 15 during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Phoenix.
Jeff Iorg, the seminary's president, said Evans and Paget were being honored due to the significance of their contributions in furthering the Gospel.
Evans is a Rome, Ga., native who graduated from Golden Gate in 1961 with a bachelor of divinity degree. He served as a pastor in Northern California before the International Mission Board appointed Evans and his wife Dorothy in 1964 to assignments in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Evans spent 37 years as a church planter, pastor, urban evangelism trainer, church growth consultant and theological training leader.
In 2000, Evans and his wife co-authored "Great Things He Has Done," a 50-year history of the Malaysian Baptist Convention. Since retiring in 2002, Evans has made nine mission trips to nine different countries; founded and served in a casino ministry in Kansas City, Mo., for four years; and currently lives in Independence, Mo., where he serves his local church, Coventry Estates Baptist Church.
Iorg also acknowledged Distinguished Alum Naomi Paget, who received the award May 28 during the commencement ceremony at the seminary's Arizona Campus.
Paget graduated from Golden Gate Seminary with a master of divinity degree in 1995 and a doctor of ministry in 2003. She serves with the North American Mission Board as Red Cross Liaison, chaplaincy consultant for the Red Cross and chaplain for the FBI; she also travels extensively throughout the world providing comfort and training in disaster situations. Paget recently returned from serving as a disaster relief chaplain in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. In 2003, Paget and her husband John established the Neva Burk Scholarship for Women in Ministry, which has provided financial assistance to more than 70 students at the Arizona and Rocky Mountain campuses of Golden Gate.
At the luncheon, Iorg reported on the work of the seminary, including his year-long teaching and preaching emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in ministry leadership. He also described how the seminary's reaccreditation process is nearly completed, and that the seminary received the strongest affirmation possible from Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and Association of Theological Schools (ATS). He discussed the development of the Northern California's new master site plan; the success of the seminary's five-year Partners for the Future fundraising campaign; the establishment of the faculty rank and compensation plan; the launching of a new degree program; the addition of a concentration in counseling; the addition of faculty; enlargement of the Ph.D. program; and the upcoming master of divinity program in the Korean language.
Iorg concluded by remarking on the seminary's rebranding program, which was launched at the annual meeting. He referred to the new tagline, and quoted from his earlier report to the messengers: "You can trust our product -- we are biblical. You can join our focus -- we are missional. You can celebrate our significance -- we are global."
"We hope the words of our tagline will ring in your hearts," Iorg said, "and remind you of what Golden Gate Seminary is all about."
MIDWESTERN -- A thought-provoking message from a Missouri Baptist Convention pastor, an update of the chapel construction project and the presentation of alumni of the year awards highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's alumni luncheon June 15.
John Marshall, Missouri Baptist Convention president and lead pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, addressed the group with a focus placed on what seminaries can teach their students in order to make them more effective ministers of the Gospel.
Marshall reflected on his seminary experience 36 years ago and offered several things he believes seminaries should do for their students: They should ensure that students are taught that holiness matters most; see to it that students are taught personal discipline; and "somehow" convince them to love learning.
Seminaries should also work to instruct students to remain current, both spiritually and culturally, Marshall said. Most pastors have become adept at handling high-profile issues such as homosexuality and abortion, but they won't take a stand for many other issues, he said.
"We have got to raise up a generation of guys who are totally fearless," Marshall said. "Somebody needs to go into the pulpit and preach with authority about divorce and re-marriage and about environmentalism. They just need to stand up and put the Word of God on the pulpit and preach. We need to preach about caring for the poor. Something is wrong when we're known as some of the meanest and unfriendliest people in the country. We should be the most compassionate in the world, and somebody's got to stand up and preach about it."
Seminaries must work hard to expand people's horizons, Marshall stated. Schools often force students to take courses they hate but many times, in exposing people to these new areas, people find their niche, he said.
"One of the greatest things a seminary can do is to continue to force those students to take courses in lots of areas, hoping that someday one of them will really catch in their life," Marshall said. "In our free educational culture in the U.S., what's essential is that every student, by taking courses which they dabble in, will catch their field and learn what God has made them to do. They can sense, 'This is me!' and because of that they can make a huge impact for the cause of Christ."
R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern's president, greeted alumni and guests, reminding them of the seminary's motto "In the heart of America for the hearts of the world."
"It's never been truer than at the moment that it's where our heart is -- to provide quality, first-rate biblical scholarship and teaching -- but with the end in mind of impacting the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Roberts said.
Roberts cited C.H. Spurgeon, from his book, "The Soul Winner": "That man lives grandly who is as earnest as if the very existence of Christianity depended upon himself, and is determined that to all men within his reach shall be made known the unsearchable riches of Christ."
"Just think if you were the only person on the earth who knew and understood the Gospel and who had the truth of God. What kind of life would you be living?" Roberts asked. "Well, it shouldn't be any different from the life you're living right now -- because that's the way, as Spurgeon so wonderfully put it, that all of us should be living as well."
Providing an update on the past year's progress on the Midwestern chapel complex construction, Roberts noted the significant effort by volunteers in the project.
"We're delighted at the progress of our chapel. It's a beautiful building, and it's transformed our campus," he said. "That seminary chapel, when you look at it, is a labor of love. I can't say enough how thankful we are for those who have given of themselves so sacrificially for Kingdom work."
Two people were honored as alumni of the year. Scott Brawner, national director of the International Mission Board's FUSION experience, which is hosted by Midwestern Baptist College, was recognized for "helping students develop a passion for God and a radical commitment to Kingdom growth." He also was acknowledged for his work in creating a group that allows faith-based organizations to interface with U.S. government agencies on matters of international security and protection for U.S. missionaries and relief workers around the world.
Craig Kubic, library director at Midwestern since 1988, was honored for his "contributions to the field of library science over the years" by his memberships in library associations, regular writing for the Church and Synagogue Library Association and for his leadership as the CSLA's president. He also was honored for his "committed love of serving the Midwestern students and faculty members in their quest for learning and discovery for 23 years."
Two key supporters of Midwestern who have sought to share the message of Christ in creative ways were named honorary alumni of year. Sanford "Sandy" Peterson, regional executive director of IPC, a Hospitalist Company in Overland Park, Kan., received the honor for his faithful efforts as a Midwestern trustee and board of regents member, as well as for his work as a parliamentarian within the Southern Baptist Convention and Kansas/Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists.
"I'm just a sinner saved by grace," Peterson said upon being recognized. "This is such an honor to have recognition from a seminary I fully respect and love. You don't know how humbled I can be by receiving such an honor here today, to having been thought of enough to have graduated with you."
Marshall, the event's keynote speaker, was honored for his continued dedication to Midwestern and for his "stellar academic achievement and godly commitment to the body of Christ throughout his Christian life." It was also noted that Marshall has "demonstrated a surrendering to God's leadership in soul winning, church growth and church planting as a minister of the Gospel."
NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary honored Mike Harland and Leland Hogan with distinguished alumni awards during its alumni luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley also presented a brief report during the June 15 gathering.
"It is always a great joy to be able to recognize some of our outstanding alumni who've had wonderful ministries," Kelley said. "Every year we try to select two or three to recognize for their wonderful accomplishments in ministry and their ongoing contributions to NOBTS as representatives of our seminary."
Mike Harland serves as director of LifeWay Worship and is an accomplished songwriter. Harland directed the monumental development of the new Baptist Hymnal and numerous resources related to the hymnal.
"Mike is the one who brought us into the 21st century in terms of resources," Kelley said. "They have done this hymnal not simply in a paper publication, but with all manner of supporting electronic data. It has made excellent music more possible for more churches than ever before."
Kelley commended Harland for taking a passion for the local church with him when he entered denominational service.
"I am very grateful for the investment in my life from the seminary," Harland said. "God has called me not to make music, but to make disciples. He's given me a message, it's the Gospel ... but He gave me the language of music to spread that message with. It is a thrill to do that."
Leland Hogan, the second distinguish alumnus, has served only four churches during his seven decades in ministry. He accepted the call to pastor his current church, Carterville Baptist in Petal, Miss., in 1969 -- 42 years ago.
"Let me see if this sounds like someone who would typify the best that we want in an NOBTS alumnus and in a Southern Baptist pastor," Kelley said while introducing Hogan. "God called him to Gospel ministry nearly 70 years ago and he's still at it."
"I believe that God cherishes long obedience in the same direction -- the planting of your life -– because there are things that you can do to touch lives that you simply cannot do quickly," Kelley said. "We are so very grateful for a man who models that."
Kelley closed the meeting with a report about the previous school year. During the year, Kelley said he had embraced the words of Job -- "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
"This year has been a wonderful year in many ways; it's been a tough year in many ways," Kelley said.
A three-year downturn in Cooperative Program (CP) giving has had a significant impact on the seminary's budget. Kelley said this year's lower CP allotment led to tough decisions. Ultimately, the NOBTS administration cut three faculty positions and four faculty members were moved from full-time to part-time status.
"And in all the difficulty of having to do that in order to be faithful financial stewards, we are having an unbelievable year," Kelley said. "Last year we trained 3,741 students. Our applications for the fall are higher than they were before [Hurricane] Katrina."
Kelley also told how more and more NOBTS students are engaging the city of New Orleans in ways they have never done before. And as they explore, learn and embrace their urban context during their time in seminary, more graduates are deciding to plant their lives in New Orleans long term, to minister in local churches and to plant new ones.
God is giving students a heart "for reaching our city for Jesus Christ," Kelley said. "Last year our students shared Christ, went through the plan of salvation, with more the 8,000 people and saw more than 400 of them profess their faith in Jesus Christ."
Kelley said the task of the seminary includes helping students learn who they are as ministers and helping them develop the skills needed for ministry. But the primary goal is helping students develop confidence in their ability to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Jesus Christ.
"That's what New Orleans Seminary is all about, helping students get to the point of being passionate about introducing people to Jesus Christ and taking Jesus Christ to every man and woman, every boy and girl on the face of the earth, so that God might call them unto Himself," Kelley said.
SOUTHEASTERN -- Alumni and friends of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary gathered to be encouraged by the work of the Lord through Southeastern alums during a June 15 luncheon at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Attendees heard from four speakers: alumnus Nathan Knight, pastor of Restoration Church, a church plant in Washington, D.C.; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern; Johnny Hunt, an alumnus of Southeastern and pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.; and Bryant Wright, the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Knight, who planted Restoration Church along with Southeastern alum Joey Craft a little over a year ago, used a World War II analogy of battle preparation for D-Day to share how Southeastern equipped him for the work of the ministry in D.C
"Can you imagine if on June 6, 1944, those soldiers had dropped out of their boats brandishing only wooden clubs? They would have been mowed down," Knight said. Too many pastors in modern America, he said, fail to equip people for the ministry. Instead of teaching them to wield the sword of the Word of God, Knight said too often they are taught only to wield a "club," an ineffective means of ministry, such as preaching based on fluff and image. This results in people who not only are not prepared for ministry, but who do not last in ministry very long. Instead, Knight said Southeastern and his sending church, North Wake Church in Wake Forest, N.C., taught him to use the Word of God in the battle against the darkness of Washington, D.C.
"At Southeastern, we get taught the weapons, as well as how to use the weapons," Knight said. "At Southeastern, we were taught how to use those weapons to advance the Gospel. What if I had walked into D.C. unprepared?
"How do you think 'wooden clubs' would have gone? How do you think fluff and flash would have gone?" Knight asked. "I live on a street with the rest of the world. We've had people from well over 30 countries come into our services. Do you think they will be persuaded by 'Christianity Lite?' By fluff?"
Being able to use the Word of God in evangelism, apologetics and discipleship is key in developing people who will image God well, Knight said, noting that the commandment to image God to the world, to disciple and to fill the world with more worshippers who image God well, is as old as Genesis 1. "So what do we do to make God imaged in our city? How do you raise the dead?"Knight asked. "You do it the same way Ezekiel did. You open God's Word, deliver it to them and see people raised from the dead."
God's Word also was the focus of an address by Wright, who encouraged the attendees to focus on the "end game." Drawing from Revelation 7, Wright said, "Perhaps remembering the end game will help you in your own decision-making. The vision God gives us all through the Book of Revelation is a vision of where we're ultimately headed. We have an opportunity to be a part of the most important work on all the earth -- calling people from every tribe, every tongue and every nation to gather around the throne."
The picture of heaven as set forth in Revelation also shows that in addition to worshipping with people from all nations, believers will also take part in serving however God wants them to, Wright said. "We won't just worship the Lord, we will also get to serve the Lord in whatever way He sees fit," Wright said.
And "we will have fellowship with other believers," Wright said. "When the time comes, we'll have fellowship in the Kingdom with the people we helped to bring there," he said. "The reward in heaven is meeting all those people who came to Christ because of something we had a part in."
Wright said: "I hope you'll be part of the action. God is going to get it done. Our choice is, are we going to be a part of it, or are we going to be left out?"
Hunt, as the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he is still learning about what it means to lead well. "I've got to really deal more with my own heart as a leader," Hunt said. "I'm learning that whatever is important to you is important to those people you lead. If you look at the Scriptures, you also see that Jesus never made a request of His followers that He had not already committed Himself to."
Hunt has been vocal in his leadership and support of the Southeastern Alumni Association, which was launched little more than a year ago. Continuing to push people to give, Hunt said: "If you don't learn to give out of your little, you won't be heading in the right direction if God ever gives you anything more."
The Lord has continued to bless Southeastern, Akin said, with this past fall seeing a record enrollment of more than 2,700 students. Additionally, Akin said he has been encouraged by the faithfulness of the faculty and the hearts of students to fulfill the Great Commission.
"God has been so good to us. For the first time, we may have a housing issue. The spirit on the campus is wonderful. We've got more students coming to go to the international mission field," Akin said. "We're about getting the Gospel to those 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups and penetrating the massive lostness of North America. That's who we are and that's who we'll always be."
SOUTHERN -- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced Tom Elliff as Southern's 2011 distinguished alumnus at the SBTS luncheon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 15.
Elliff, a doctor of ministry graduate from Southern, was elected as president of the International Mission Board earlier this year. He is a former president of the SBC and formerly was a vice president of the IMB and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla. since 1985.
"Dr. Elliff is man serving at a strategic time in a strategic position as the leader of the IMB," Mohler said.
Mohler also celebrated a year change and development at SBTS' luncheon, including the naming of two new deans: Zane Pratt as dean of Southern's Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and Dan DeWitt as dean of Boyce College.
The Graham School deanship came open when former dean Chuck Lawless joined the International Mission Board as vice president of global theological advance on June 1. Lawless served as dean of the Graham School since September 2005 and had taught as a professor of church and community in the Graham School since July 1996.
Mohler read aloud a letter addressed to Lawless from Graham himself, recognizing Lawless' ministry impact on the Graham school and encouraging him in his new position. Mohler further honored Lawless' tenure at Southern by presenting him with a portrait of Billy Graham painted by Graham's sister-in-law, the only replica of the original painting.
Replacing Lawless as dean of the Graham School is Zane Pratt, who served overseas as a missionary from 1991-2011. During that time, Pratt, a graduate of Duke University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, oversaw International Mission Board work across Central Asia. In addition to his role as dean, Pratt will serve as associate professor of missions. Prior to moving overseas, Pratt was a church planter in Massachusetts as well as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Mohler also told luncheon attendees about the recent appointment of DeWitt as the new dean of Boyce College, replacing Denny Burk, who is stepping down in order to expand his primary calling of writing and teaching. Prior to his role as dean, DeWitt was vice president of communications for the seminary.
Mohler told attendees about the collapsing of a retaining wall between Norton Hall and the seminary lawn. Excavation of the fallen wall revealed water damage threatening the integrity of Norton Hall, necessitating sewage upgrades. Seminary supporters Joanne and Ken Towery committed to fund the repairs and provide additional assets for the seminary to create a usable outdoor space for students and faculty to fellowship and add to the ambiance of the SBTS campus. The seminary dedicated the Towery Plaza April 19.
For the 2010 fiscal year, Southern Seminary saved more than $300,000 on energy costs thanks to the energy stewardship program implemented in 2010, Mohler announced at the luncheon. The amount of energy the program saved the seminary equates to the removal of an estimated 347 cars from the road during a 10-year period and to planting 49,511 trees.
Part of developing Southern Seminary into a primer evangelical seminary is continuing to expand its already world-class faculty. Toward that end, Mohler announced several faculty members added during the past year:
-- Scott Connell joined Boyce College's faculty as instructor of music and worship leadership.
-- Owen Stachan came to Boyce College as instructor of Christian theology and church history.
-- Jeremy Pierre moved from Boyce College instructor of literature and culture to assistant professor of biblical counseling for Southern Seminary's school of theology.
-- Joe Crider joined the seminary's school of church ministries as professor of music and worship leadership.
-- Chuck T. Lewis came to the school of church ministries as assistant professor of music and worship.
Closing his luncheon address, Mohler affirmed Southern Seminary's commitment to Gospel-faithfulness in unique and difficult times, calling for donors, alumni, faculty and students to fight for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored two distinguished alumni whose ministries have impacted Texas during the annual alumni luncheon at the SBC annual meeting, June 15. Alumni and friends of the seminary also heard a president's report from Paige Patterson and elected alumni association officers.
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and David Allen, dean of Southwestern's school of theology, were honored with 2011 distinguished alumni awards.
Jeffress has served as pastor of FBC Dallas since 2007, but he also has a lifelong connection with the historic Southern Baptist church. He grew up attending the church and put his faith in Christ at age 7 under the preaching of W.A. Criswell. Later, he served as the church's youth minister.
Jeffress earned his doctor of ministry degree from Southwestern in 1998 and has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas, and First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls. He makes regular appearances on national radio and television programs and has authored 16 books.
"I think all of us are glad that we lived to see the renaissance of Southwestern Seminary under the strong leadership of Dr. Patterson," Jeffress said upon receiving his award. He acknowledged the support and contributions of his family to his ministry, saying, "Any good thing that has happened to me or through me is simply because of the grace of the God we all serve."
Allen joined Southwestern's faculty as dean of the school of theology and professor of preaching in 2004. He previously served as pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, and as the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching, professor of preaching and director of the Jerry Vines institute of Biblical Preaching at the Criswell College.
Allen earned his master of divinity degree from Southwestern in 1981. He also served on the seminary's board of trustees from 1992-2004. He has authored and edited numerous books, including the volume on Hebrews in The New American Commentary series, "The Lukan Authorship of Hebrews," "Text-Driven Preaching" and "The Return of Christ."
"It's been a privilege to be a part of Southwestern," Allen said. "I love this place. It is a joy to serve here." After thanking his family for their impact on his life and ministry, Allen echoed Patterson's comments in his SBC seminary report to the SBC about an atmosphere of revival on Southwestern's campus.
"There is something amazing, a revival that is happening on this campus," Allen said. "I cannot explain it other than that God is doing it. Our students are so fired up about evangelism and soul-winning. It is a remarkable thing to see."
Patterson, in a report of what is happening on "seminary hill," announced the date of Dec. 1 as the dedication ceremony of the new chapel and invited everyone to attend. In addition to a ribbon cutting ceremony, Patterson said the dedication will include a worship service with the Word of God being sung and preached.
"We believe there will be people there that day who need to make a decision for Christ, and we will see people saved," Patterson said. "There's no better way to inaugurate a building than to see people come to Christ."
Patterson also announced the six-month exhibition of the seminary's Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient biblical artifacts on campus beginning in July 2012. The seminary anticipates as many as 500,000 visitors to the exhibition, which will not only explain the value of the scrolls to biblical studies but will also present the Gospel.
In addition to sharing about Southwestern's new bachelor's program in biblical studies, new student housing and additions to the homemaking program, Patterson spoke about the goal of the seminary to train special forces for Gospel advance around the world.
"[Students] not only come out knowing Hebrew, Greek, the exposition of God's Word and theology, but they come out knowing exactly how you translate that into reaching the world for Jesus Christ," Patterson said.
In election of national alumni officers, Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., was elected president and Mark Hartman, pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Houston, was elected vice president.
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.