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FROM THE SEMINARIES: MBTS teams with Moody; SWBTS returns to Madagascar; NOBTS readies interactive Ph.D.

Today’s From the Seminaries:
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Midwestern & Moody partner on ‘For the Church’ imprint

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced a partnership with Moody Publishing that includes launching a “For the Church” imprint.

MBTS President Jason Allen said the strategic collaboration is intended to further the seminary’s mission of existing to serve the local church.

“This is an important partnership,” Allen said, “as it enables us to further our reach in equipping pastors, missionaries and ministers for Gospel ministry through the publishing of books and other vital materials.

“Moody brings a strong reputation of publishing sound, conservative books and materials by some of the most influential authors in Christianity today,” Allen noted in an Aug. 8 news release. “This could not be a better fit, as Midwestern Seminary and Moody now offer helpful resources to more ministry leaders than we were able to accomplish individually.”

An imprint of a publisher, explained Jared Wilson, director of content strategy and managing editor of the seminary’s For the Church website, is a trade name under which a work is published. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, often used to market works to different demographic consumer segments, Wilson said.

“We will have a For the Church imprint with Moody where certain books mutually agreed upon will carry the FTC logo and, thus, the vision on the spine, back cover and in a back page,” Wilson said. “It is a way for both FTC and Moody to reach a greater audience with this common vision of equipping ministry leaders and laypersons with solid resources for Gospel ministry,” Wilson said.

Moody Publishers, founded by D.L. Moody in 1894, is a nonprofit Christian publishing house in Chicago that has more than 300 million books from Bible commentary and reference to spiritual and relational growth, as well as award-winning fiction.

Drew Dyck, editor of the Church Leaders Line at Moody Publishers, said of the partnership with Midwestern Seminary, “Our missions could hardly be more closely aligned. We’re both unapologetically pro-church and dedicated to equipping its leaders. Moody Publishers exists to ‘resource the church’s work of discipling all people’ while For the Church seeks ‘to engage, encourage, and equip the church with gospel-centered resources.’

“While we share a similar vision, we bring different strengths to the partnership,” Dyck said. “Moody has a legacy name and proven book publishing expertise. For the Church has a knack for digitally equipping church leaders — and its association with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ensures the training it provides remains relevant to those preparing for ministry.”

Midwestern/Moody’s For the Church titles include “Discerning Your Call to Ministry” by Jason Allen and a three-part series by Joe Thorn, founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Ill., titled “The Heart of the Church,” “The Character of the Church” and “The Life of the Church.” Already released: “On Pastoring” by H.B. Charles Jr., pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

SWBTS Madagascar mission team equips local leaders

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — A team of 19 Southwestern students and faculty, in an 18-day trip to Madagascar, continued the seminary’s Madagascar Embrace initiative for a fifth year to evangelize the Antandroy, an unreached, unengaged people group (UUPG) in Madagascar.

The work of the Southwestern team this year, in the city of Fort Dauphin, involved teaching national leaders discipleship, doctrine and evangelism. In daily training sessions, some 30 male and 40 female national leaders came to learn the Word of God from male and female Southwestern teachers, respectively. In the afternoons, the mission team and the nationals went out together to visit friends and relatives in order to share the Good News. The team also devoted one weekend to evangelizing the neighborhoods around Fort Dauphin.

During the two-week training program, national leaders and the mission team saw a total of 99 professions of faith as unbelieving friends and relatives embraced Christ. Six of the new believers were baptized after Sunday morning worship on June 5.

In the male classes, eager students, many of whom had traveled long distances from rural areas, studied biblical stories under broader themes such as God, the Holy Spirit, family, the Great Commission and the New Testament church. The aim of the seminars was to deepen the doctrinal development of the national leaders and equip them to work for the Gospel and the church.

In the female classes, students were taught biblical principles through stories from the Bible and trained to disciple other women. Special emphases were placed on the character of God, the redemptive work of Christ, and the importance of prayer and Bible study. In addition, students also discussed practical applications of following Christ in their daily lives under topics such as motherhood, being a godly wife, gossip and nutrition.

“The women who came from the ‘bush’ (rural forested regions) slept with their children, mostly infants, in the small one-room church on the floor,” said Patricia Nason, professor of foundations of education at Southwestern, who taught the female sessions. “It rained the first few days, so it was cold and damp. They didn’t complain because they wanted to become intimately acquainted with this God who had died for them and what it means to be a Christian.”

On June 9, 66 men and women received certificates for completing the program. At the end of the graduation ceremony, participants washed each other’s feet in the spirit of servant leadership demonstrated by the Lord Jesus — husbands and wives, those from the city and those from the bush, missionaries and nationals.

“When we announced that there were 99 professions of faith, those leaving said they would make sure to win one more, at least, as they trekked home,” said Keith Eitel, dean of Southwestern’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. “Some of them had to walk 32 kilometers home.” Multiple accounts of soul-winning evangelism have been reported since.

Nirintsoa Mamitiana, an Antandroy national and a master of divinity student at Southwestern Seminary who participated in the mission trip, said, “God is at work in Madagascar. It is so challenging to see how hungry they are for the Gospel, how they love to worship, and how they have welcomed us…. People are hearing the Gospel and desiring for Jesus to save them.”

The trip was not without challenges — including delayed and misconnected flights and torrential rain in Fort Dauphin during the first few days of the program. But, Eitel noted, in five short years of the Madagascar Embrace program, “genuinely biblical” churches have sprung up in the region.

“There are eight Antandroy and eight Antanosy (another UUPG) groups that actually meet the standards of a New Testament church,” Eitel said. In addition to these 16 churches, “there are 80 groups meeting throughout the area.”

“All the students from Southwestern Seminary learned a lot about trusting God in all circumstances,” Nason said concerning the Madagascar mission trip. “They learned the value of the Gospel to a nation of people who do not know Him…. They were bold in their approach to teaching the truth in Scripture as well as joyous and loving among the people. Their lives are changed forever — to God be the glory.”

NOBTS to launch interactive Ph.D. program

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — A new doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) delivery system at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary opens the research-based degree to non-residential students while upholding high academic standards and fostering a vibrant learning community.

The new approach, known as SYNC at NOBTS, allows the seminary to offer seminars and colloquia to Ph.D. students via synchronous interactive video regardless of where they live. The Association of Theological Schools’ Commission on Accrediting has approved the new model for a three-year experimental period. It is among various distance learning Ph.D. programs available through several of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries.

Unlike online study models in which students interact with course material on their own schedule, SYNC requires a set meeting time each week — just like the main campus Ph.D. students. Non-residential students will access live streaming video from the New Orleans-based classroom via Blue Jeans conferencing software. Distance students and residential students alike will be able to participate in real-time interaction with each other and the professor.

“With the technology available today, we can create a community of learning that is separated by distance,” said Charlie Ray, director of NOBTS’ research doctoral program. “Simultaneous streaming video allows people anywhere in the world to join the classroom here. That extends our walls to help people answer God’s call.”

Offering real-time video with significant interaction between main campus and distance students was key to gaining ATS approval for the pilot program, Ray said. This ability to foster an interactive academic community was not only a non-negotiable to the accrediting agency but also vital to the established values and demands of the seminary’s research doctoral program.

All the Ph.D. seminars and colloquia may be taken in the SYNC format. However, distance students must complete certain aspects of the degree on the main campus, including the week-long research and writing course, qualifying exams, oral exams and the dissertation defense.

During the three-year experimental period, research data will be compiled to compare the achievement of distance students in relation to their residential counterparts based on fulfillment of course objectives and outcomes. This research is designed to test the long-term viability of the SYNC model.

The new distance approach comes at a time when an increasing number of NOBTS Ph.D. students are serving as pastors and ministers, Ray noted. Currently, nearly 16 percent of the seminary’s Ph.D. students are serving as senior pastors. Still others are serving local churches in other ministry areas. That number likely will increase with the addition of SYNC initiative, he said.

“The Ph.D. is about answering questions,” Ray noted. “We need people in the church who are looking at the hard questions and working to gather the data to answer those hard questions.”

The new synchronous video model will be implemented in several Ph.D. classrooms during the upcoming fall semester. Full rollout of the program will come during the spring semester when four seminars and four colloquia will be available in the SYNC-enabled format in the areas of biblical studies, evangelism, missions, preaching/biblical exposition and theology.

Initially the SYNC-enabled courses will be implemented in Ph.D. majors offered by the Division of Pastoral Ministries, including biblical exposition, evangelism, missions and Great Commission studies, and the Division of Theological and Historical Studies, including church history and theology. The new apologetics Ph.D. major approved by NOBTS trustees in June will be offered in this format once it receives ATS authorization. Other NOBTS divisions may begin offering distance Ph.D. courses in the future, Ray said.

There is still a short window of time for prospective students to apply for the spring semester, Ray said. The deadline for the full application process to the Ph.D. program for spring entry is Sept. 1. However, prospective students have until Dec. 1 to apply for study as a nondegree student next spring. This allows a student to begin taking SYNC-enabled classes while completing the full application process.

For more information about SYNC-enabled Ph.D. courses, contact the research doctoral program at 1-504-816-8010 or visit www.nobts.edu/research.

    About the Author

  • SBC Seminary & BP Staff

    Cassity Potter writes for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the SBC’s news service; Alex Sibley writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and S. Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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