Allen’s faculty address begins new Midwestern tradition
By T. Patrick Hudson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Amid a full week of events at Midwestern Seminary, which included an anniversary celebration, trustee meetings and the Spurgeon Lectures, President Jason Allen introduced a new tradition to the seminary community in mid-October.
Called the “Inaugural Faculty Address,” Allen, marking his fifth anniversary at the seminary, noted the goal is to allow a faculty member to deliver a formal academic presentation to his or her peers each semester — offering an opportunity to build collegiality and recognize the research and study interests of each professor.
Allen delivered the first lecture Oct. 17, titled “For the Church: A Five-Year Appraisal”; seminary Provost Jason Duesing will deliver the second address in the spring 2018 semester.
In his address, Allen covered such ideas as why Midwestern exists “For the Church” as the seminary’s primary mission; what it means to be For the Church; what God has done over the past five years at Midwestern; and what it will look like in projecting the vision forward.
To his first point, Allen noted that Midwestern Seminary exists For the Church as the result of a biblical mandate in Matthew 16 where Jesus promised to build His church.
“We argue and believe that our right to exist therefore is directly tethered to our faithfulness to the local church,” Allen said. “Christ has promised to build His church, not His seminary. But, as we are faithful to His church, doubtlessly He will build this seminary.”
For the Church, Allen added, is a denominational mandate — serving the underserved Southern Baptist churches in the Midwest who need pastors and ministers to equip their members. He also noted that it is imperative from a historical vantage point for seminaries to remain submissive to the oversight of the local church lest they stray from their true mission.
Secondly, in addressing what it actually means to be For the Church, Allen noted, “Everything we do, we want to filter through the question, ‘Does that enable us to serve the local church?'”
Among many things, this includes how the seminary orients itself toward institutional goals; how the seminary projects itself and makes institutional decisions; what is included in the curriculum; how professors teach and what is taught; and the faculty and staff hired.
Thirdly, turning to what God has done at Midwestern over the past five years, Allen spoke of a renewed spirit of unity, purpose, cheerfulness, camaraderie and mission on campus. He also referenced the seminary’s surging enrollment, which has nearly tripled. He added that it’s not just the number of students, but their quality keeps getting better as well.
Allen further cited a solid and sustainable business model that has been established, as well as words of confidence and goodwill from the SBC and beyond in what is happening at Midwestern.
“God has given us five good years, but what would it be like for God to give us five good decades?” Allen asked in his final point. “How do we project forward and toward our mission and ministry?”
Among the points he suggested, being stubborn in maintaining the vision of existing for the church is imperative. “I believe this, any conviction worth holding is worth holding regardless of its seasonality,” he said. “For the Church, we truly believe, is God’s vision for this institution; we truly believe it is a biblically-based vision; and it must be a perennial one, and one we must make sure we are perennially committed to.”
For the Church must also be “For the Nations,” Allen stated.
“For the Church is a global vision,” he said. “God is a global God doing a global work across the nations. We are a Great Commission people, and we have to be intentional to talk about, strive for, to teach for and to pray for the international church as well as the domestic church.”
Allen said the seminary must “guard our hearts” and “assume nothing” in continuing to articulate, advocate and hold itself accountable to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
Other items he included were the need to continue to gain institutional strength; building and sustaining a seminary community where each member flourishes; and being intentional not to stray from the current business model.
Midwestern Seminary must carry this vision and pass it along to other evangelical entities and institutions, Allen said.
“I believe God has given us such a clear vision, and such a perch from which to speak, that we must challenge and encourage other institutions and ministries to strengthen their commitment and service to the local church,” he said.
“For the Church. It is the vision that has radiated through this campus and reverberated across our great denomination,” Allen said. “It is the vision that we, with appropriate institutional self-confidence, are projecting to all who have ears to hear. May we never cease to thank God for the victories He has given us these past five years. May we never cease to serve in such a way that He is pleased to give us such victories going forward.”
Scroggins, at SBTS, exhorts students to ‘start where you are’
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Service in the local church renews students as they prepare for fulltime ministry, said Jimmy Scroggins in chapel at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Scroggins, lead pastor of the Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., two-time graduate of Southern Seminary and former dean of the seminary’s undergraduate Boyce College, said students should not get discouraged by where God has placed them but should serve the church with the time and resources God has given them.
“You may see other people getting opportunities that you’re not getting,” Scroggins said in his Sept. 28 message. “You may not be the brightest student in your classes, or because of your work schedule or family life you may not be able to put as much time into it as others can. You may feel overlooked all the time. You may spend your entire seminary experience wondering if God is ever going to do anything with your attempt to go into the ministry.”
Preaching from Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6, Scroggins suggested the miracle was one of the most significant in the entire New Testament apart from the resurrection, in how it taught the disciples to serve by doing what they could with what they had. Jesus calls seminary students to do the same, he said.
Some students perhaps entered seminary with big dreams for preaching opportunities or thought they would quickly earn leadership positions at their church, Scroggins said. Rather than wishing they were doing more or staying discouraged, they should recognize the chances for ministry God has already supplied.
“Everybody in this room ought to be somewhere at some church, trying to find a way to teach the Bible, teach a 3-year-old Sunday School class, lead worship somewhere, preach somewhere — don’t just hang out around here, waiting to take in all this [information],” Scroggins said. “You are somewhere now, and you have to start where you are…. If you sit there and wait for the big opportunity to show up, it’s probably never gonna happen.”
After the disciples were worn out from the preaching ministry Jesus had commissioned them for, He took them by boat to an isolated place where they could rest, Scroggins recounted. But when the crowd followed Jesus and His cohort, Jesus had compassion on the people and enlisted the disciples to help feed them.
Similarly, many ministers will find themselves in such situations, Scroggins said, and should respond with compassion.
“If you’re gonna be in Christian ministry, there are going to be many, many, many days and weeks and years where you are physically and emotionally exhausted,” Scroggins said. “Jesus is going to look at you and say, ‘Because of these people, because they are like sheep without a shepherd, you’re going to have to get out of the boat and you’re going to have to work another day.’ That’s the way ministry is.
“At Southern Seminary and Boyce College, you better not get so intellectually sophisticated that you cannot feel anything in your guts when you look at the lostness all around you.”
Scroggins showed how Mark’s narrative evokes rich Old Testament imagery of God caring for His people — from Moses feeding his people in the wilderness to the divine shepherd in Psalm 23 who “makes me lie down in green pastures.” Jesus will care for His people and multiply the efforts of ministers of the Gospel.
“We’re not the ones who can multiply the bread,” Scroggins said. “We’re the beggars who found the bread.”
Audio and video of Scroggins’ chapel message are available here.