When New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley began his day Aug. 7 he had little idea of the blessings to come: two gifts totaling $1 million dollars for student scholarships were received that day.
“This has been one of the greatest Mondays in the history of the institution and quite an exciting way to begin a new academic year,” Kelley said. “It was a ‘Million Dollar Monday.’”
NOBTS will immediately distribute more than $200,000 of the money this school year designated for student scholarships. And one-half will be used to endow a scholarship fund which will provide annual scholarships for years to come.
“We rejoice at what God has done to lay the needs of seminary students on the hearts of Southern Baptists,” Kelley said. “Scholarships are becoming ever more important for those God has called to the church and the mission field.”
The gifts will assist African American students studying on the main campus or at the North Georgia Hub in metro Atlanta; small church pastors in Montana; and expository preaching students from Mississippi.
One anonymous donor sent a check for $200,000 to be used immediately as a part of the Fred Luter Jr. African American scholarship program – a scholarship the donor established in 2011. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars will provide scholarships in New Orleans; $50,000 will fund scholarships at the North Georgia Hub.
“Southern Baptists need to become more and more racially and ethnically diverse if we are to reach our nation and our world,” Kelley said. “An anonymous donor has been greatly blessed and inspired by the ministry of pastor Fred Luter and wants more God-called African Americans like Dr. Luter to be able to receive quality theological education.”
To date the seminary has awarded $878,616 through the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship Fund – $800,641 in New Orleans and $77,975 through the North Georgia Hub. During the past 12 semesters, an average of 102 scholarships per semester have been awarded on the main campus. The scholarship program launched at the North Georgia Hub during the fall semester of 2015 and provides nearly 20 scholarships per semester.
“We have watched these scholarships literally change the composition of our student body,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to continue to enhance the diversity in our seminary family and to encourage a growing diversity within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The largest of the “Million Dollar Monday” gifts – a check for $550,000 – provides full-tuition scholarships for small church pastors in Montana and establishes an endowment to perpetuate the initiative. Fifty thousand dollars will be used to fund the initiative for the first two years while the endowment corpus builds. After the first two years, interest drawn from the $500,000 endowment will be used to fund the scholarships. The scholarship is available to Montana pastors studying at the undergraduate or graduate level. Two students from Montana already have been identified and will immediately receive the scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Kelley said the anonymous donor who established the Montana scholarship was inspired by the Caskey Center scholarship program which offers full-tuition scholarships for smaller church pastors and bivocational ministers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The same donor previously funded full-tuition scholarships for small church pastors in Wyoming.
Kelley hopes that initiatives like the Caskey scholarships and the Montana and Wyoming scholarships will inspire additional scholarship donors.
“This gives us five states with full-tuition scholarships for pastors serving small churches,” Kelley said. “Five states down; 45 to go.”
One of the donors from “Million Dollar Monday” also provided $250,000 in scholarships for Mississippi students to study expository preaching through the Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching at NOBTS. The new preaching scholarships will launch during the fall semester of 2018.
“Dr. Adrian Rogers is one of the most significant graduates in the history of NOBTS,” Kelley said. “He was quite well-known as a Southern Baptist leader, but the hallmark of his ministry was always outstanding biblical exposition. We want to raise up a whole generation of preachers in the tradition of Dr. Adrian Rogers.”
The newly-established Adrian Rogers Center will be formally dedicated during chapel services Sept. 12. The center exists to train the next generation of biblical expositors and to provide resources and continuing education opportunities to enhance the pulpit ministry to local church pastors. For more on the Adrian Rogers Center, visit nobts.edu/rogerscenter.
“We at NOBTS love the Word of God. We love having the privilege of equipping and resourcing those who have been called to teach the Word of God to our churches and consider this an investment of the highest order,” said Adam Hughes, director of the Adrian Rogers Center and dean of the chapel. “This scholarship fund, and future ones we are trusting God to provide, will help students prepare to preach the Bible with accuracy, conviction, and excellence for a lifetime of ministry in the local church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)