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Chuck Kelley marks 30 years at NOBTS

EDITOR’S NOTE: An additional report on NOBTS President Chuck Kelley’s message at the first chapel of the fall semester follows this article.

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was honored for 30 years on the faculty during the seminary’s fall convocation service.

Kelley, who also serves as an evangelism professor at the seminary, was recognized Sept. 3 along with Gerald Stevens, professor of New Testament and Greek, who marks 25 years at the seminary, and several others.

Tom Harrison, chairman of the NOBTS board of trustees and executive pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., offered a special word for Kelley and other faculty members celebrating anniversaries.

“As part of the trustees, it’s a great pleasure to recognize these men and women who have served here so faithfully,” Harrison said. “These men and women have sought to do that in each of our lives so that we can go out and be a greater part of the Kingdom of God.”

During his tenure at NOBTS, Kelley has served as professor of evangelism, chair of the division of pastoral ministries, director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and now president. He challenged those present to remain faithful to God’s call, even when that call is different than expected.

Kelley shared his personal road to serving on the faculty of New Orleans Seminary.

“I did not ever in my life imagine the role of seminary professor for me,” Kelley said. “I came to seminary to be an evangelist.”

Kelley said it was longtime professor Joe Cothen who first asked him to consider teaching.

“Now to be 30 years old and offered the opportunity to teach and be on the faculty of one of the largest seminaries in all the world was a great honor and a great privilege,” Kelley said.

Kelley said he wasn’t initially interested in the offer, particularly because it was not what he wanted to do in ministry.

But through talking with his wife Rhonda and with other mentors and counselors in his life, Kelley was convinced that joining the NOBTS faculty was God’s will. Still reluctant, he hit the road for the entire summer speaking at youth events. He didn’t return until 2 a.m. the day of faculty workshops.

“That was as long as I could put it off,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget that moment in the classroom two weeks after classes began when I had the experience of seeing exactly why God wanted me here and the realization that God had been preparing me all my life for this.”

Kelley contrasted his call to teach and serve at the seminary with New Testament and Greek professor Gerald Stevens’ story. Unlike Kelley, who stepped directly into a teaching role, Stevens did not experience an immediate open door to being a professor. That delay came in spite of Stevens’ profound conviction that God had called him to teach at seminary.

“He prepared all of his life for that calling, learning Greek and the New Testament, pouring his life [into his studies], because he knew God wanted him to be a seminary professor,” Kelley said of Stevens. “And God opened up a wonderful opportunity for him to sell cars — nothing close to his calling.”

Stevens later had the opportunity to be a collegiate minister, which was closer but still not what he wanted to do deep down. Kelley said he remembers eating dinner with Stevens at a New Orleans restaurant, both marveling at how God would open a door for Kelley at the seminary and not Stevens.

But it wasn’t too long before Stevens did receive that call to teach. And 25 years later, he remains passionately committed to that calling.

“Every class scheduled on any syllabus for any course at any time has never been missed,” Stevens said. “[I’ve] never canceled a class for any reason.” During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the seminary put the fall 2005 semester on hold for just over a month. However, committed faculty members like Stevens developed online methods to complete every class scheduled that semester.

“My call to the class is fundamental and inviolable,” Stevens said. “That call is a sacred duty sanctified by God and sealed in my heart. That call is the air I breathe.”

The NOBTS faculty recognized Stevens’ dedication and calling during the spring 2013 semester by honoring him with the Marvin Jones Award for Classroom Excellence.

“I was greatly honored to receive this award and the recognition of my fellow faculty members,” Stevens said.

Twenty-year anniversaries included Harold Mosley, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; Thomas Strong, professor of New Testament and Greek; and Kenneth Taylor, professor of urban missions.

Professors celebrating 15 years at the seminary were Eddie Campbell, professor of English at Leavell College; John Gibson, professor of communication at Leavell College; Loretta Rivers, associate professor of social work; and Robert Stewart, professor of philosophy and theology.

Ten-year anniversaries included Reggie Ogea, professor of leadership and pastoral ministry; Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics; and Edward Steele, associate professor of music.

New faculty members included Bong Soo Choi, professor of New Testament and Greek; Jody Dean, assistant professor of Christian education; Adam Harwood, associate professor of theology; Peter Kendrick, professor of theology and culture; Jonggil Lee, assistant professor of expository preaching; Mike Miller, associate professor of expository preaching; Hal Stewart, associate professor of discipleship; and Douglas Watkins, associate professor of Christian education.
Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

During the first chapel service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Aug. 20, Chuck Kelley, the seminary’s president, urged students to embrace the cross not only as a means of salvation but as a way of life. Embracing the cross as a way of life, he said, is the only way to see the Gospel spread.

Kelley underscores the
cross as NOBTS semester begins

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Speaking to a large crowd of students, Kelley assured them that a life of following Christ will not be easy. He called on the audience to submit to God’s call and go wherever God leads.

“It was the cross that bought our souls and gave us an opportunity and gave us salvation and gave us all that we have in Jesus,” Kelley said. “But it wasn’t just in our salvation. Throughout all of our history of the church, the cross has been necessary for the expansion of faith.”

The story of how the Gospel spread illustrates the power of the cross to overcome obstacles, Kelley said. Expansion of the Kingdom came with great personal costs to those who shared God’s Word. Kelley used 2 Corinthians 11, a brief summary of the challenges the apostle Paul faced, to illustrate the point.

“How did the Gospel get from the streets of Jerusalem to you?” Kelley asked. “The people of God embraced the cross and they did whatever God wanted them to do at whatever the cost so that the Gospel could get all the way across the pond and into your heart.”

Kelley said people today may be tempted to read 2 Corinthians 11 and dwell on how difficult it was to follow Jesus in the ancient world. But he insisted it is not any easier to follow Christ today. Sharing the Gospel will entail great personal costs just as it did in Paul’s life.

“The cross that God calls you to embrace will feel every bit as much a cross as the ministry of Paul felt to him,” Kelley said. “We are trained to think that being safe and having more than enough and living life without many obstacles is just the way life is. Not for those who follow Jesus. The cross is still necessary for the Gospel to get from life to life.”

The challenges facing the Southern Baptist Convention are evident from a look at declining baptisms, Kelley said. From 1990-2012, SBC churches experienced a long, sustained decline in baptisms. From 2001-11, 34.5 percent of SBC churches experienced an increase in baptisms and 12.1 percent stayed the same, but 53.4 percent of SBC churches experienced a decline in baptisms.

Cities in the United States and throughout the world are major battlefields for the Christian faith, Kelley said. Cities have been a challenge for Southern Baptists whose roots lay in the small towns and rural areas of America. The world tells people to pick a place to live based on whether it is a great place to raise a family, Kelley said, but the believer must consider the call of Christ and the demands of the Gospel.

“Cities are a pearl of great price that we can offer to Jesus. It will cost us to reach the cities of our nation,” he said. “[Cities] are not the best place to live and raise a family if you want a life without threat, intimidating circumstances and difficult experiences.”

Kelley pointed to Acts 20:17-32 to illustrate that God’s sovereignty calls for obedience from His people. In the passage, Paul was planning his return to Jerusalem even though he knew the trip would bring hardships into his life. He was determined to finish the course God had set before him. Paul knew his calling came from God and that God had the right to set the agenda, even if that agenda was dangerous or unpleasant.

“Does God have the right to take you places that you don’t want to go? Does God have a right to demand of you ministry that will bring hurt in your life?” Kelley asked. “What begins at the cross is a journey in which that cross follows you every day of your life.”

This, Kelley said, is an important aspect of God’s sovereignty that every believer should embrace early in life. The toughest test for seminary students will not be the Hebrew or church history final in the classroom, he said. The toughest test is to live in obedience to God’s call.

“We have a world that needs the Gospel, and [we have] a church that is struggling to find its way. How about it if we send them some troops from NOBTS? Let’s not only live by the cross, let’s embrace it as a way to live and minister.”

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  • Frank Michael McCormack