KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Insights into dealing with Muslim theology were relayed by Jay Smith, a third-generation missionary’s son, in an apologetics course offered at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in June.
From his Pfander Films ministry office in London, Smith researches the differences between Christians and Muslims and finds opportunities to debate the issues face-to-face on the streets. During his lectures at Midwestern, he shared his passion for reaching for Christ one of the fastest-growing world religions.
Smith, who grew up in India, also has presented the course in Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom and other countries.
“Islam is growing exponentially in the West, and most Christians are interested in converting people from Islam,” Smith said. “While this is good, we’re only winning small numbers compared to the growth. The second front to be addressed is to deconstruct Islam. We must have more expert researchers and debaters to accomplish this.”
To deconstruct Islam, Smith said Christians must expose the falsity concerning the foundations of Islam by confronting the text of the Quran and the historical facts about the prophet Muhammad. After thoroughly researching the issues, Smith wants to get the message out to the mainstream population.
“It’s one thing to do research yet another to relay that information to the layman on the street,” he said. “I try to accomplish this through debates with Muslims at universities, on YouTube videos and by using the Speaker’s Corner in London to debate hundreds, and at times thousands, of mostly radical, sometimes violent Muslims.”
Smith uses Speaker’s Corner debates to field test his group’s research.
“The debating brings about disillusionment in the Muslim’s mind, and we’ve found the YouTube videos bring about the conversion experiences,” he said.
Smith said more workers are needed to reach the growing religious population, noting, “With only about 2 percent of our current missionaries dedicated to the Islamic people, I hope another direct result of this course will be to have some of these students join our work of publicly confronting Islam in open debate.”
Smith listed three main goals in leading the class at Midwestern.
“I hope this class helps these future pastors and missionaries to deal with the challenges and arguments they receive from the Muslims here in the U.S.,” Smith said. “Next, the students should be able to take those arguments and redirect them at the Muslims with authority. Finally, I wanted to give this group a sense of urgency to start going public with their faith.”
Several of the students who attended the session on Midwestern’s campus in Kansas City, Mo., said they had a better grasp on how to reach Muslims.
“I’ve gained an understanding that you have to know your beliefs — what the Bible says — and be prepared to share that at any time,” said George Dyer, a student in the International Church Planting program. “This seminar gave me a better understanding of what Muslims believe and how I can counter their arguments not only from a biblical perspective but from the Quran’s standpoint as well.”
Dyer also acknowledged it isn’t a topic someone can master by sitting in a five-day course or even in a full semester.
“Understanding how to convert Muslims is a continuous process of learning and applying the truth of the Scripture in everyday life,” he said. “I’ve been encouraged by Jay’s passion for winning Muslim souls to Christ, and it’s something I’ll be able to take into my ministry for years to come.”
R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern’s president, said it was a distinct honor to have Smith teach at the seminary.
“His knowledge about the subject of Islam is comprehensive, but his passion to share the Gospel and his expertise in reaching Muslims is infectious and unsurpassed,” Roberts said.
To learn more about Jay Smith’s Islamic debate ministry, visit www.youtube.com/profile?user=PfanderFilms.
‘CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST’ FOR LOTTIE MISSIONS OFFERING — Southern Baptists are being asked to close a gap in funds needed to support missionaries by giving a special Lottie Moon Christmas Offering during the month of August.
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., that he hopes to see Southeastern students, alumni and friends, and eventually all Southern Baptists, make up the offering’s shortfall so that missionaries can be sent abroad.
In May, International Mission Board trustees approved the suspension of new appointments to two short-term missionary programs and cut back on the overall number of missionaries to be appointed for the remainder of 2009. The $141 million collected for the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions fell $29 million short of the $170 million goal and more than $9 million short of the 2007 offering.
“It breaks my heart that people want to go, but we don’t have the funds to send them,” Akin said. “I am not going to tell our students to look for a home assignment just because of a shortage of funds. I am going to tell them to look for a movement of God to get the necessary funds to get them to the fields.”
To encourage SEBTS students to give sacrificially, Akin announced that during Southeastern’s first chapel service of the fall semester Aug. 25 a special offering will be designated as part of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“Southern Baptists are a Great Commission people,” Akin said. “At moments of crisis and need, I have watched our people step up and respond time and time again.”
The shortfall in the annual offering “provides us with another opportunity to demonstrate our devotion to Christ and passion for the lost. That is what Christmas in August is all about,” he said.
Akin said he is praying that God would ignite a passion for the lost in all Southern Baptists, leading them to give financially in support of missions.
“I believe God will move His people to give joyfully and sacrificially to see that the Gospel continues to go forth to the more than 6,000 unreached peoples around the globe,” Akin said. “This is no time to pull back or retreat. I am convinced we won’t.”
Churches around the seminary have responded to Akin’s encouragement to give in faith. Marty Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., said his church will give as part of “Christmas in August.”
“Bay Leaf Baptist Church has this lost world on our hearts, and we are currently making plans to participate in Christmas in August,” Jacumin said. “Not only do we send, but we also give. My hope is that God will stir the hearts of the people at Bay Leaf to give sacrificially so that the IMB can send as many as are willing to go.”
Despite a financial downturn nationwide, Akin said people can find the resources.
“I know these are hard economic times, but I also know that we serve a great God, who according to Haggai 2:8 owns all of the silver and gold in this world,” Akin said in a recent e-mail to students, faculty and staff.
AUSTRALIAN VENTURES TO SBTS — John Tucker was following his dream in Australia, working at SeaWorld and teaching physical education at a local school. His life seemed set.
Then one day in 2005 his mentor “challenged me that God wanted more of my life than I was giving Him and challenged me to pursue seminary education,” Tucker recounted.
Tucker said he had been challenged to consider the pastorate previously, but the timing was not right.
“While I was in college, a retired pastor told me I would make a good pastor, but I was still really young in the faith, so vocational ministry really wasn’t on the radar for me at that point. When the challenge came, the Lord had been at work preparing my heart,” he said.
Tucker soon began looking for seminaries he could attend. He first searched in his beloved Australia but could not find anything in his region that fit what he was looking for.
Tucker’s next step was to look back home to Canada, but as he searched he came across Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“By God’s grace I stumbled upon Southern’s Abstract of Principles,” he said. “When I read it, I rejoiced. I was so excited to see these principles laid out. I determined to find out whether or not what was presented in the Abstract was what was being taught at Southern.
“A lot of schools had great belief statements but didn’t actually follow them. I would get on the phone to talk to them and realize that what they say and what they believe are two different things,” Tucker said. “I talked to a number of godly men who were aware of what was going on in baptistic circles and they reinforced what a great school Southern is.”
Tucker began master of divinity work at Southern in January 2006 in the school of theology and is on target to graduate in December.
As he has studied at Southern, Tucker has been actively involved as a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville. Tucker said he recently did some painting at a house Immanuel expects to open as a transition house.
“One of the things I appreciate so much about Immanuel is that they are really involved in outreach in the community,” he said. “That has really transformed my view of church ministry because I have become convinced that we need to share the Gospel and meet people’s practical needs, first for the body and then to the community at large. That is one of the ways we glorify God in this world: imaging Christ by meeting people’s physical needs, as well as their spiritual needs.”
After Tucker graduates, he plans to pursue pastoral ministry in Canada but said he is “open to whatever ministry the Lord has planned” for him.
SWBTS LAUNCHES FAMILY MINISTRY CONCENTRATION — Starting this fall, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will offer a new concentration in family ministry for students pursuing the master of divinity or master of arts in Christian education programs.
Development of the cross-disciplinary family ministry concentration involved extensive research, said Chris Shirley, assistant professor of adult ministry at Southwestern, who worked on the concentration with Richard Ross, assistant dean in Southwestern’s school of educational ministries.
“For too long, Christian parents have abdicated their role as spiritual leaders in the home with the expectation that the church would supply everything their children would need,” Shirley said. “The greatest ministry we can provide for families in our churches is to empower parents to oversee the discipleship of their children and provide spiritual leadership in the home.”
Ross said the focus on enriching the family as a whole “has become a hot topic,” though it has never been a new idea for Southwestern Seminary.
“Every childhood, youth and adult professor has been infusing his or her courses with a family ministry focus all along,” Ross said. “I am thankful that the new concentration will give cohesion and visibility to the high-quality instruction already in place.”
Graduates with the family ministry concentration will be equipped to serve as pastors who take a lead role in family ministry or as ministers heading up a family ministry for a church.
Meanwhile, in a new missions concentration for the bachelor of arts in humanities through the College at Southwestern, the school is partnering with the International Mission Board to enable students to earn credit hours while serving with missionaries on the field.
The “Hands On” missionary program, a semester-long appointment offered through the IMB, is the context for the linguistics, evangelism and missions practicums for students pursuing the missions concentration.
“Students will be aiming and preparing to do ‘hands-on’ learning in an international mission field from day one,” said Keith Eitel, dean of the school of evangelism and missions at Southwestern. The biblical, theological, philosophical, historical and other studies in humanities “will have a practical outlet [through this concentration] into the global fields of lostness,” Eitel said.
With dual responsibilities through CSW and IMB, students will participate in field-based language study linked to the people group they will serve for the semester. They also will be mentored by the missionaries as they work together in Bible distribution, mercy ministries, demographic research and other activities that advance the goal of planting churches in that region.
For more information about the new concentrations, contact Southwestern’s admissions office at 1-800-SWBTS-01.
Based on reports by Pat Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Garrett Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Rebecca Carter of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.