SWBTS launches Center for Church Revitalization

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is establishing a Center for Church Revitalization, President Adam W. Greenway has announced. Kenneth Priest will serve as the center's interim director.

"Ever since our founding by pastor-theologian B.H. Carroll, the heartbeat of Southwestern Seminary has been training pastors and ministry staff members for more faithful service in local Southern Baptist churches," Greenway said Monday (Aug. 5).

"While church planting remains a critically important institutional emphasis," Greenway noted, "the time is right to strengthen our work on Seminary Hill in training and resourcing those who will and do serve in established churches in order that these congregations may experience a fresh movement of God in their midst. Our new Center for Church Revitalization, led by expert-practitioner Kenneth Priest, stands ready to do all we can to help see legacy churches reclaimed, renewed and revived."

Priest, who will continue to serve as director of convention strategies for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), says the launching of the center "creates a unique opportunity for Southwestern Seminary as part of Dr. Greenway's 'big-tent' vision to meet the needs of practical ministry balanced with the academics of theological training."

The center will provide resources, equipping/training events, consulting services, internships, and ministry opportunities to meet the needs of pastors, church leaders, and the local church in general. Working in cooperation with the national fellowship of state revitalization leaders and the church replanting team of the North American Mission Board, it will be available as a resource for churches and state conventions addressing revitalization needs for the purpose of restoring churches for Gospel impact.

One of the first resources produced by the center will be a sermon series "for churches in need of revitalization," Priest said. "This series is a sermon-based, four-week preaching and small-group curriculum to impact a church's respective community through evangelistic outreach as we start a 'new year.'"

Matt Queen, associate professor of evangelism, L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, and newly appointed associate dean of the Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, is coordinating the writing of the sermon outlines, and Chris Shirley, professor of educational ministries and newly appointed associate dean of the Terry School of Educational Ministries, is coordinating the curriculum.

Priest's appointment as the center's interim director signifies a return to Southwestern Seminary, having previously graduated from the Fort Worth campus with a master of arts in Christian education. He also holds a doctor of educational ministry in church revitalization from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

In addition to his role at the SBTC, Priest has served churches in Texas and North Carolina in various roles of evangelism, educational ministry, and second chair leadership. He has also taught adjunctively at Midwestern Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

"I could not be more encouraged as we add Kenneth Priest as the interim director of the Southwestern Center for Church Revitalization," said Randy L. Stinson, provost and vice president for academic administration.

"We are going to be giving great attention to training men and women to help revitalize the many churches in the SBC that are plateaued or declining, and Kenneth Priest has the passion, character and experience to help us lead this effort. He's the right man for the job."

Alex Sibley is associate director for news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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