The Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees met at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for their biannual meeting April 15-16. Board members heard reports, talked with students, prayed for the seminary and made important decisions to shape the school’s future.
Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, announced, “As of right now, enrollment is at 2,999. Once we get that one student, it will be thfe first time we have ever passed the 3,000 mark at Southeastern. Our on-campus enrollment is stronger than it has ever been.”
Akin reported on Southeastern’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The online program began earlier this year and has become a popular way for students to view lectures from top-ranked professors at no charge. Enrollees include lay leaders who learn Bible truths without earning a degree. No credit is given for MOOC courses.
Students, faculty, visitors and board members fill the aisles April 16 at Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The group was participating in a commissioning service.
The MOOC student receives the same information, resources and content as the student who physically attends the Southeastern campus. Akin said, “Our first class we offer is biblical interpretation or what we call here at Southeastern, ‘hermeneutics.’ We expected maybe 500 individuals to sign up. The official count today is 2,634 students and our plan is to continue adding more classes in the future.”
The board was asked to pray for Akin, who will be preaching the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston on Wednesday, June 12.
At a “Great Commission Banquet,” a panel discussion addressed the seminary’s intense focus on the Great Commission.
The panel included Bruce Ashford, seminary Provost; Chuck Lawless, dean of Graduate Studies; Scott Hildreth, Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies; Nik Ripken, a full-time international missionary, and Daniel Akin who moderated the event.
Summarizing the discussion, Ashford said, “There exists three truths for Christians. First, salvation is through Christ alone. Man cannot be saved by any other name under heaven. Second, across the globe people do not know the name of Christ. A lost person could leave his or her home, walk for weeks and never meet a Christian or see a church. Third, we as Christians in America, have plenty of money and resources but will we do what is necessary to preach Christ with our lips and proclaim him with our lives?”
The Board of Trustees approved a completely online Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. Previously, distance-learning students could take a maximum of 42 hours of online credits toward their M.Div. requirements. The remaining credit hours had to be met with on-campus visits. With the new online degree, no campus presence is required.
Using Skype to connect with an overseas worker, George Robinson, Assistant Professor of Missions and Evangelism, led a discussion with Howard Carpenter* from an unidentified country.
Carpenter said, “We’ve been able to see the first group of local Muslims from our city baptized … four brothers. As far as we know they are the first Muslim believers in our city in all of history.” There are very few believers in that region – less than 1 percent are Christians.
“We are praying that the Lord would raise up a generation of workers, missionaries and local brothers and sisters who would go out and be willing to risk it all for the sake of the gospel. … We want to see the book of Acts happen in our state.”
His team believes churches should not only be planted but multiplied by giving birth to more new churches.
“When local churches produce other churches, that’s the sign of health,” he said. “By 2020 we want to see third generation churches in each one of the districts of our state. We want to see 3,000 church planters trained by 2015.”
Robinson compared the model of SEBTS students in international ministry with Paul’s missionary model. He said, “Paul was strategic, he knew how to prioritize, and he was an equipper. He equipped and trained people to engage in radical gospel ministry everywhere he went.”
In the April 16 chapel, 19 missionary units from Southeastern were commissioned.
A “unit” can consist of an individual or an entire family.
Sharing both the triumphant stories and the hardships of being a missionary, chapel speaker Nik Ripken said, “Whether you are crossing the street or the ocean, the content of the Bible must meet the context of the world.
“Our lives must match up to the Great Commission of Jesus to teach and make disciples of all nations.”
At the close of the service Akin invited faculty, staff and students to lay hands on the 19 missionaries and to pray over them.
He said “Like these future missionaries, may we all be willing to die in taking up our cross in love so that the gospel light may go forth to the ends of the earth.”