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EDUCATION BRIEFS: New Orleans Seminary’s carillon bells ring anew; …

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The Christmas message and melody are unmistakable:

“Go tell it on the mountain,

over the hills and everywhere.

Go tell it on the mountain

that Jesus Christ is born.”

The new bells ringing from the steeple at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell Chapel now serenade the seminary community’s bleary-eyed at 8 a.m., the worshipful after chapel, the hungry at lunchtime and the weary at day’s end.

The first set of electronic carillon music was installed in the seminary’s Sellers Music Building in 1956. “They were basically recorded bells,” said Ken Gabrielse, chairman of the division of church music ministries at New Orleans Seminary.

The carillon music system later fell into disrepair and then came Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the storm’s aftermath, the seminary’s contractor hired A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company of Lithonia, Ga., to work on the seminary’s damaged organs and pianos. The company, whose seal bares the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone be the glory), currently is working on a new organ for Leavell Chapel.

The contractor discovered the old carillon system, and seminary leaders decided to install a digital pre-programmed bell system with some 1,500 hymns and songs in NOBTS’ new post-Katrina steeple.

“When the new organ goes in to Leavell Chapel, we will actually be able to program our own hymns and songs for use on the carillon bells, to store them digitally and play them,” Gabrielse said.

The carillon has the potential for ministry, not only on campus but to the larger community, the professor said, noting, “The carillon is a very individual thing. I think potentially it could be something the community could look to with pride. It can also be a wonderful ministry to the individual, walking to class, to just be encouraged.”

SWBTS HOLDS COMMUNITY ‘WELLNESS FAIR’ — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opened the doors of its Recreation and Aerobics Center for a community “wellness fair” offering free medical, financial and spiritual guidance to the surrounding neighborhoods in early November. Students, faculty and medical volunteers were on hand, and translators were available to assist Spanish-speaking individuals.

The community outreach aimed “to let them know we are here and that we care about them,” Richard Knight, a physician at the campus medical clinic, said. “If we’re able to witness to them or give them a copy of the Bible, that’s the ultimate in health and wellness.”

Participants were given the opportunity to visit various stations, such as health screenings for blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, vision and hearing.

Some volunteers mentioned their own health concerns as a reason for their desire to serve. Brett Hawkins of the seminary’s information services department said, “When I had cancer several years ago, it really meant a lot to me that people were praying for me and supporting me [during] a really hard time in my life with my health. So this is a great way, I think, to minister to people.”

Participants also were able to talk with financial experts about expense planning, debt management and cleaning up one’s credit. A final station offered a spiritual checkup where individuals were able to talk about spiritual questions and receive a free Bible.

Outside of the recreation center, volunteer mechanics conducted automotive inspections, and a local veterinarian performed physical exams on family pets, including complimentary vaccinations and pet registrations. Free firewood was distributed in an effort to help families prepare for the winter months.

The wellness fair was the culmination of a weeklong emphasis on evangelism at Southwestern. The seminary family was challenged to give at least two hours during the week to personal evangelism, and several evenings were dedicated to prayer for evangelism and the Wellness Fair.

David Mills, assistant dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, said he believes the week’s emphasis “has restored [participants’] faith … in New Testament evangelism. They have become convinced that the Holy Spirit has preceded them and is doing a great work with lost people.”

During the wellness fair, more than 30 seminary faculty and students went into the surrounding community to share the Gospel. Each team had at least one Spanish-speaking member in an effort to reach out to the Hispanic population in the area. They returned with reports of seven professions of faith and eight requests for follow-up and prayer.

GGBTS TO OFFER D.MIN. FOR CELL CHURCH LEADERS — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary will launch a doctor of ministry degree for cell church leaders beginning July 15 of next year, featuring some of the leading authors and practioners of the cell church movement as professors.

Among those slated to lead seminars are cell church pioneer Ralph Neighbor, author of “Where Do We Go From Here? A guidebook for the Cell Group Church”; Joel Comiskey, author of eight books on cell church ministry; and David Garrison, missionary with the International Mission Board and author of “Church Planting Movements.”

Neighbor has described the cell church as representing “a ‘two-winged’ approach to church that seeks to emphasize both large and small group expressions of Christian community.” It affirms both the cell — the weekly “body life” meetings — and celebration — the weekly congregational meetings -– as viable expressions of a cell church, Neighbor says.

Typically, a cell gathers up to 15 believers, while the congregational meeting gathers all the cell groups together. Some have grown to tens of thousands of believers who assemble on Sundays for joint worship and teaching.

Each cell, which involves its members in mentoring and ministry, is a building block of the local church, which separates it from the ‘house church’ movement,” Neighbor says.

Jim Wilson, associate director of the doctor of ministry program at Golden Gate, noted, “The most exciting part of this cohort is that one of the sets of seminars will be held on the campus of a bustling cell church, Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. The members of the church will host the (D.Min.) candidates, and the candidates will interact with staff and members of this model church.”

The deadline to apply for enrollment in the program is Jan. 31. For more information, contact the doctor of ministry office at [email protected] or 1-888-442-8703.

ACADEMIC INITIATIVES AT SOUTHWESTERN — Several new academic initiatives have been launched at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, including the school’s first Baptist Theology Research Award Symposium, a platform for master’s-level students to present research papers to peers and an editorial board.

Ched Spellman, a master of divinity student, was the first of five students to present a paper Dec. 5. Southwestern’s BaptistTheology.org editorial board chose Spellman as the first recipient of the Baptist Theology Research Award for his paper on the life of Michael Sattler, an early Anabaptist leader.

Southwestern also announced a $500,000 endowment toward the Southwestern Scholar Program for supporting research doctoral students with finances for tuition and books as well as a residential stipend. A seminary news release noted that evangelical institutions rarely have had the resources to provide for doctoral students in this way.

Through funding from past gifts, the seminary already has begun to sponsor one student in the scholars’ program, and the recent $500,000 endowment will create interest income to supply $25,000 a year for a student and allow for the program’s expansion.

Korean students at Southwestern will benefit from the launch of the Sam Moon Scholarship Foundation after $1 million was given to fund scholarships for Korean students enrolled at higher education institutions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Once approved for a scholarship, students will receive $1,000 per semester until graduation.

The foundation is run by the Sam Moon Group, a Korean conglomerate founded by former Southwestern student David Moon, who was enrolled in the master of divinity program from 2001-02.

In November, Southwestern inaugurated the Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, which is now held by Scott Preissler, executive director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship located at Southwestern. It is the first chair of stewardship at a Southern Baptist seminary.

After 55 years in ministry including 30 years as a Texas pastor, Bobby Eklund now serves as a stewardship consultant with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Preissler, meanwhile, was dean and founder of The Meyer Institute for Stewardship Leadership, which trains more than 200 leaders each year in stewardship studies. His education includes a Ph.D. in stewardship studies and nonprofit leadership.

TRUTH IN A ‘WHATEVER’ WORLD -– “What is truth?” –- Michael Duduit examined the age-old question in a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service.

Duduit, editor of Preaching magazine (www.preaching.com) and leader of Preaching Truth in a Whatever World conferences, was scheduled to speak at NOBTS two years ago, but Hurricane Katrina had stormed through.

Duduit (pronounced did-way) subsequently challenged Preaching magazine readers to donate books to help NOBTS students to rebuild their storm-tossed libraries. Shipments of books continued well into the Fall 2006 semester.

Duduit, on campus in late October, addressed the “What is truth?” question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus before sentencing Him to death. “If [Pilate] was speaking in 21st century America and trying to communicate the same idea, he’d say ‘Whatever,'” Duduit noted.

“We’re living in a ‘whatever’ world, a culture in which truth has been stripped of its meaning and replaced with personal preference,” he said.

In a “whatever” world, all ideas and lifestyles are of equal value. Of late, this has been called “postmodernism” but Duduit noted that relativism is anything but new.

“It’s as old as the Romans who didn’t care if the early Christians worshipped Jesus as long as they also worshipped Caesar,” he said. “It’s as old as the Garden of Eden, where a smooth-talking serpent convinced the residents that one tree was pretty much the same as any other tree no matter what God might have said.”

The only difference, Duduit said, is the pervasiveness of “whatever” today. According to a Barna study, Duduit said, three-fourths of Americans believe there is no absolute truth. What’s more, less than 10 percent of teenagers believe in the existence of absolute truth, he said.

“As a result, we’ve entered into a period of moral anarchy, and the price is being paid by our families,” Duduit noted.

But in opposition to a “whatever” world, he said, stand the words of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”

Duduit identified various areas of life that the truth of Jesus impacts, such as the mind. “[I]f we recognize there’s a God who stands over and above us and that in Christ He wants to enter into a relationship with us, then it changes the way we think,” Duduit said.

Jesus’ truth for life, meanwhile, brings a sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment, with Duduit pointing to the Bible as a guide for living a full, Christ-centered life.

Unfortunately, he said, that guide for living is often ignored. “What happens when we ignore God’s truth for our lives? We end up in a nation where Gideon Bibles are turned away from our schools and condoms are freely distributed. … We end up in a nation where we can physically not build prisons fast enough to accommodate the growing population of inmates.”

For Christians, however, “When we recognize that Jesus is the only authentic truth for our lives, it will change everything,” Duduit said. “It will change how we do our jobs, how we treat our family, how we spend our money, how we allocate our time, what we do in the classroom, and on and on.”
Compiled by Erin Roach & Art Toalston of Baptist Press, with reporting by writers Paul F. South & Michael McCormack of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Keith Collier & Benjamin Hawkins of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jeff Jones of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

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