FROM THE SEMINARIES: SWBTS institutes new 82-hour M.Div.; Bingham encourages love of the brethren while awaiting Christ's return

New 82-hour SWBTS M.Div. called flexible, future-focused

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has instituted a new 82-hour master of divinity program to make theological education even more accessible to God-called men and women as they seek to prepare for a lifetime of ministry.

Seminary officials describe the new M.Div. as faithful to Southwestern's core commitments yet focused on meeting the needs of current and future generations.

The M.Div. degree, previously encompassing 92 hours, includes training in biblical languages and competency areas of preaching, pastoral ministry, missions, evangelism, church planting, Christian education and academic ministries. In addition, the degree includes 12 hours of electives so that students can pursue a variety of concentrations* and further elective options in the areas of discipleship, ethics and philosophy, making the degree more flexible than the previous M.Div.

The degree is available in on-campus, online and hybrid formats.

"Southwestern's new M.Div. offers an updated, streamlined, cost-effective avenue to its world-class training for ministry," D. Jeffrey Bingham, the seminary's interim president, said.

"We have always been devoted to making disciples from all the nations for all the nations and to equipping them for servant leadership within the local church, on the mission field and in a variety of other settings," Bingham said, noting, "Southwestern's new M.Div. offers God-called students an excellent, well-rounded, efficient and affordable mentoring experience that yields the necessary skills and knowledge for ministry."

Mark Taylor, interim senior associate dean for the school of theology, said the length of the new M.Div. brings the degree in line with other M.Div. programs, both within the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical world.

"Simply put," he said, "students will be able to complete the degree in less time without sacrificing anything in terms of robust training for a wide range of ministries. Both the motivation and the benefit are to provide the best training possible for our students and to put them out on the field as soon as possible."

With changes to the overall M.Div. program, Southwestern's 2+2 program (M.Div. with a concentration in international church planting) also has been modified to allow students to get to their mission fields sooner. The master of theological studies (MTS) program, though still 36 hours, has been revamped as well, with changes including the reincorporation of Baptist Heritage and the choice between Christian Apologetics or Bible and Moral Issues.

Bart Barber, chairman of the academic administration committee of Southwestern's trustees, said these changes have been made because of the different role theological degrees now play in ministry. Once "an additional equipping step" primarily for pastors who wanted to grow in ministries that had already started, seminary master's degrees have become for most Southern Baptists "the hurdle that one must clear" before being able to move into full-time ministry, Barber said.

"In light of this reality, alongside our desire to equip pastors thoroughly, we want to acknowledge that there are challenges in terms of money and time that motivate students to seek to complete a degree in a timely fashion.... We believe that these changes make a degree at Southwestern accessible to anyone bound for ministry," Barber said.

"[B.H. Carroll's] motivation for opening a seminary in Texas was to have a school with a strong focus on the practical needs of the churches," Barber noted. "With our strong focus on evangelism, missions and expository preaching, Southwestern offers degrees that live up to the vision of B.H. Carroll. Now, achieving one of those degrees just became more accessible than ever before."

Current students may switch into the new programs immediately by completing an online degree change form. Students who anticipate that the curricular changes will enable them to graduate this spring are encouraged to contact the registrar's office for advising at 817-923-1921, ext. 2000.

*Ministry concentrations available for the 2018-2019 academic year are administration; biblical archaeology; biblical counseling; biblical theology; chaplaincy; family and children's ministry; church ministries; church music; church planting; collegiate apologetics; collegiate ministry; ethics, philosophy, and apologetics; evangelism; family ministry; Hispanic studies; Islamic studies; missions; New Testament; Old Testament; pastoral ministry; preaching; family and recreational ministries; student ministry; teaching; theological studies; women's ministry; women's studies; and worship.

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In waiting for Christ's return, love the brethren, Bingham says

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- What comes first is not always best, D. Jeffrey Bingham, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's interim president, said during spring convocation at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus. First dates and first sermons, he said, are rarely better than what follows.

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Such is a major theme in the book of Hebrews, Bingham said. The first revelation, the first priesthood, the first covenant and the first sacrifice were all good in their time, but none were perfect, he said of the text. Each was followed by a second and, in every case, the best thing.

Specifically, Jesus was the better revelation, the better priest, the harbinger of a better covenant, and the better sacrifice, Bingham said in his Jan. 24 message.

In the same way, he said, "There was a first appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ as the humble servant of Isaiah 53, but there must be and there will be a second appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"We are a people who live between the two comings," he said. "We have received the blessings of the first coming -- from His mercy, we have received the forgiveness of sins and we have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But there are blessings for which we still wait."

Bingham read from Revelation 21, in which John writes that there will be a new heaven and a new earth; the dwelling place of God will be with men; there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain; and everything will be made new. Believers, he said, await these things. And though such waiting can be agonizing, what matters is how they wait.

The guiding force for this time of waiting, Bingham said, is found in Hebrews 13:1: "Let love of the brethren continue." He encouraged the Southwestern family to wait "as a means of bringing comfort and love, mercy and compassion to someone else who is waiting right along with you."

"My prayer is that the spring of 2019 will be a spring in which, in a new way, the world that surrounds us here in Fort Worth and the world that surrounds beyond those boundaries will look at the community of the faculty and the staff and the students of Southwestern Seminary, and they will be astounded. And they will say these words: 'Look at how they love one another.'"

Prior to Bingham's sermon, George Klein, interim chief academic officer, welcomed the new bachelor's, master's and doctoral students to the seminary. He read a statement originally delivered by Robert Naylor, president of Southwestern from 1958-1978, during an early address to the student body.

"I now pronounce you Southwesterners," Naylor had said. "It is a worthy and honorable name -- not by what you have done, but by a long line that have preceded you. It says something about why you are here: God brought you; anything less is inadequate -- you ought not to be here. It says something about what you believe about this book, that it is the Word of God. It says something about how much you care about the lost world. It says something about your total commitment to the will of God.

"You will not wear a better name in life than 'Southwesterner.' You had better be dead than to dishonor it. Don't stay too long. You see, a world awaits for a message. God bless you."

A church and job fair followed that evening to inform students about ministry opportunities in the area.

Reported by Alex Sibley, associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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