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His ties to Seminary Extension began early

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Dennis Pulley was 16 years old when he first learned about Southern Baptist Seminary Extension.

Pulley’s pastor in Marion, Ill., was teaching a Seminary Extension class on preaching. Already feeling God’s call to preach, he took the class.

“That was my first introduction to Seminary Extension,” he said, crediting the class with affirming his call to the ministry and his spiritual gifts.

More than 40 years later, Pulley remains a strong advocate for Seminary Extension, a ministry based at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville, Tenn., and affiliated with the six Southern Baptist seminaries.

Acknowledging that Seminary Extension is “one of the best-kept secrets in the SBC,” Pulley noted that the classes play a major role in the education of pastors and laity throughout the convention.

“Seminary Extension is meeting a need that no one else is meeting,” said Pulley, director of missions for the Cumberland Baptist Association in Clarksville, Tenn.

Seminary Extension brings education to a minister who may not be able to “pull his family up and move to a seminary campus,” Pulley said.

In addition, Seminary Extension classes provide in-depth training for laypeople who want more knowledge of the Bible and related issues, Pulley said.

Since Pulley’s initial introduction to Seminary Extension, he has become a course instructor as well as an extension center director. He has promoted Seminary Extension throughout his ministry, both as a pastor and director of missions.

When he moved to the Cumberland association 11 years ago, Seminary Extension already was a part of the association’s ministry. At the Cumberland center, normally two courses ranging from 12 to 16 weeks are taught each semester. Classes range from theology courses to church history, practical ministry, Christian education and more, Pulley said.

Students can earn a diploma by taking 16 courses at the center. The courses are considered to be college-level, and some can be transferred to colleges for credit.

“Seminary Extension provides quality education at an affordable cost,” Pulley said.

The extension center in Clarksville averages 10 to 15 students each semester, and it has helped promote fellowship within the association’s churches. People who attend classes together have developed friendships that continue after the classes are over, Pulley said.

Pulley has seen many changes in Seminary Extension over the years, and he is excited about the future of the ministry under Randy Williams, who became its executive director in May 2007.

“He has done a great job in updating courses and working with state agencies to keep accreditation,” Pulley said.

Williams expressed appreciation for Pulley’s support and ministry.

“He expands his ministry and the ministry of others as he provides ministry training through the study of Seminary Extension courses,” Williams said. “Dennis has taken Seminary Extension courses, mentored others taking courses, provided financial assistance to those who need it, and grades papers for students who take courses through correspondence. He is a valuable asset to those students and an asset to the Kingdom.”

Pulley also has enjoyed working with Vivian Buttrey, manager of extension center education for more than 30 years.

“She has been a joy to work with and a blessing to lives she knows only from a telephone voice,” Pulley said.

Seminary Extension “is so highly thought of here that if I decided we wouldn’t do it, I would be in serious trouble,” he said.

But Pulley would never dream of not doing Seminary Extension.

“It has been a big part of my life since I was 16 years old.”
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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