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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The new school of church ministries at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is proving its viability, according to dean Randy Stinson.
Southern formed the school in the spring of 2009 by merging the school of church music and the school of leadership and church ministry.
While some had criticized the seminary for combining the two schools as a de-emphasis on church music, Stinson, during the seminary's spring trustee meeting, noted that the merger actually helps Southern serve local churches better because the school is turning out music ministers who also have pastoral and theological training.
Southern began to rethink the mission of its music and leadership schools because more than 80 percent of music ministers in Southern Baptist churches serve in dual roles, roles such as youth or children ministry, that demand pastoral and theological expertise, Stinson said.
"What we decided to change was how we were training," Stinson said. "In the past, the focus had been on music performance. We have had very competent musicians who have graduated from this institution, but they weren't necessarily as pastorally qualified as they should have been.
"So, what we decided to do was not quit training musicians, but train theologically grounded, pastorally qualified worship leaders for the local church. That is a very different vision, but it doesn't mean we've quit doing something; it means we've improved it."
The school has added degree programs, including doctoral degrees, in areas of worship leadership and family ministry to serve the needs of churches more effectively, Stinson said. One of the major emphases that makes Southern's new school unique is its Family Equipping Model, Stinson said, which seeks to train local churches how to equip families to disciple their children in the home.
"We think that discipleship is best carried out in the local church through families and that parents are the primary disciple-makers of their children, and that is infused in all of our degree programs," Stinson said.
One of the great strengths of the new school is its faculty, he said. Professors in the school of church ministries have become leaders in the evangelical discussion about family ministry through teaching, speaking and writing books, he said.
"We have the right faculty and we can deliver what we are promising," Stinson said. "They have the right vision. They have the right training. They are writing books. That is a great strength for the school now."
PROFESSORS' BOOKS HIGHLIGHTED -- A new book on hermeneutics by Robert Plummer has been released while a book on Christian history by Timothy Paul Jones has received an award.
Plummer, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a book to answer such questions as, "What is the Bible and how should we interpret it?" "Is the Bible all about Jesus and do the commands of God all apply to believers today?" and "How did we get the books of the Bible?"
The book, "40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible," was released in May and landed at No. 1 among hermeneutics books offered on Amazon.com during its first few days of publication.
"I envisioned the book as an introductory textbook for a hermeneutics class," Plummer said. "In my hermeneutics class at Southern, I use a variety of texts that seek to answer a number of important questions, but I wanted to get all that into one book. I tried to think about the most common questions I get from students or from laypeople. I wanted to get all those into one place in a way that was accessible, clear, accurate and manageable in five- to 10-page answers to questions.
Plummer said he also sees the book as useful in study group settings, with each chapter having five questions and a bibliography of suggested further reading. "I wanted to write a book that would benefit both students and laypeople alike and I definitely think it will."
The book is divided into four parts, each dealing with a major issue of Bible interpretation, including:
-- Text, canon and translation. Here, the book deals with basic issues such as how the Bible is organized, the inerrancy of Scripture, who determined what books would be included in the Bible and choosing the best English translation.
-- Approaching the Bible generally, with sections on how the Bible has been interpreted throughout the history of the church and basic principles on how to interpret Scripture accurately.
-- Approaching specific texts. Key questions in this section include those dealing with different literary genres in both Old and New Testaments.
-- Issues under recent discussion, such as biblical prophecy and biblical criticism.
Plummer's work is the second volume in the "40 Questions Series" published by Kregel, a series edited by Southern Seminary graduate Benjamin Merkle, who serves on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Merkle is author of the first book in the series, "40 Questions About Elders and Deacons." Upcoming volumes include works by two other Southern Seminary faculty members: "40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law" by Thomas Schreiner and "40 Questions About Election and Atonement" by Bruce Ware.
Meanwhile, Jones' book "Christian History Made Easy" won an award from a major Christian retailing entity earlier this year.
Jones' 2009 work received the 2010 Christian Retailers' Choice Award in the Christian education category. The book provides a 220-page summary of the sweep of church history from the time of Christ through the modern day.
Jones is associate professor of leadership and church ministry at Southern.
"Dr. Jones has a unique ability to communicate theological material in a way that is accessible and lay-friendly," said Gretchen Goldsmith, CEO of Rose Publishing, which published Jones’ book. "His blend of humor and solid historical research contributed to the appeal of 'Christian History Made Easy.'
"He envisioned a book that would combine the best of church history for people living in the Internet age, and this wonderful full-color book is the result.... We have heard from many readers who agree with the judges' criteria, expressing the 'impact it had ... including the ability to speak to hearts and evoke emotion, open minds to new ways of thinking and encourage and affirm Christlike living.'"
Jones has authored numerous books, including "Conspiracies and the Cross" and "Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's 'Misquoting Jesus.'"
Jones said his work on the primer on church history began many years ago.
"This book developed very differently than any other book I have written. This book actually began more than a decade ago, when I served as the pastor of a tiny congregation in rural Missouri. This was a church of farmers and factory workers with a few schoolteachers and military personnel mixed in. I wanted them to dig deeply into theology, so I worked to discover how I could teach them theology in a way that was enjoyable and interesting.
"What I discovered was that, when I told the stories behind theological truths, the people were fascinated and they saw the real-life relevance of theology. So, I developed a series of studies that taught theology by working through the stories of church history, from the apostles to today. I photocopied the study and, as much as possible, included pictures, maps, questions, and quite a bit of humor.
"Even then, I envisioned a full-color version of the study that would look like some of the colorful slick-paged books about military vehicles that I used to devour as a child. This past year, I had the opportunity to turn that vision into a reality in the book that's become 'Christian History Made Easy.'"
Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.