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Enrollment up, missions heightened, Patterson tells trustees

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Enrollment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, grew by 4 percent over the previous year, Seminary President Paige Patterson reported to the seminary’s trustees during their semiannual meeting Oct. 19.

“God’s spirit is moving and we are seeing unbelievable things here,” Patterson said. Figures released by the seminary’s institutional assessment office showed that enrollment for the fall semester had reached 3,005 fulltime students.

Patterson said the increase in enrollment is a sign that Southwestern is headed toward its goal of 6,000 students. The seminary, he said, is not seeking the goal in order to boast, but because “6,000 is about the level of special ops troops we’ll need to keep in the pipeline here at Southwestern Seminary to do what the Lord wants us to do.”

Patterson fleshed out the special ops analogy by setting out exactly what will be expected of Southwestern students in the furtherance of world evangelism and missions. A missions experience in a Third World country and involvement in a church planting movement will be a component of every student’s education, Patterson said. “Every student ought to be giving himself in every way he can to further the worldwide mission enterprise.”

He projected slides of Cuba, Zambia, Germany, Romania and Siberia on the overhead screen.

“One of our own professors has long been involved in Cuba,” Patterson said, referring to the first overhead slide. “The problem is [Baptists there] don’t have trained leadership. Even though it is tough to get in, and still somewhat dangerous in some cases, we are headed to Cuba and we are going to do all we can to reach that nation for Christ.”

The second slide showed the countries of Zambia and Tanzania.

Zambia is home to the Nyika people, an unreached people group of some 500,000. Patterson told trustees, “… the road stops 50 miles short of where they live.” He described the native Christians in Zambia as a remarkable group of people, working hard to win their country for Christ. Those national Christians asked for the seminary’s help.

Patterson said he hoped to send 20-30 students on each trip.

The seminary’s commitment to evangelizing the vast state of Siberia in north and eastern Russia was preceded by a short review of recent Christian history related to Germany. Patterson explained that nearly all of Western Europe is void of an evangelical presence due in large part to the “telling and devastating effect” of theological liberalism that grew out of 19th-century German seminaries.

But today, Southwestern Seminary partners with an evangelical seminary in Bonn, Germany, training preachers and offering a degree there. Many of the faculty members and students speak Russian.

Patterson also described the relationship Southwestern Seminary has with the evangelical seminary in Oradea, Romania. With 800 students and more than 35 faculty members, the seminary in Oradea is the largest in Europe. Many of the students there speak Russian as well.

Those Russian students would be invaluable in future mission projects in Siberia, Patterson said as he projected a map of the Asian expanse on the screen.

“That is Siberia, 40 degrees below zero in the winter,” Patterson said. “There are four cities with over a million people there. It is a rugged, difficult place, and the food is not the best. You will eat potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes, washed down with sour yak milk.

“We want to go to Siberia. The winter is the best time to evangelize there. There will be several trips a year of our students going to Siberia. Each of our students will have a student from either Bonn or Oradea along with them so that they have an instant Russian translator,” he said.

Patterson said the byproduct of worldwide missions and evangelism would be greater enthusiasm among the faculty members of the seminary community.

“We do not want any boring professors here. You will be amazed what a short-term mission trip will do [for a professor] to demonstrate the mission imperative of Greek aorist terms,” Patterson said to the laughter of trustees.

“If we are focused on reaching lost people for Christ, we won’t have time to get into squabbles. A focus on missions will occupy folks to such a degree that we will have happy campers. We don’t want anything to happen to our people and we will stand behind them, but we want them to go,” he said.

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  • Brent Thompson