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Kelley sets theme of servant leadership for new academic year at NOBTS


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Servant leadership” will be the watchword on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary during the 81st academic year, said seminary president Chuck Kelley.
Servant leadership, one of five core values established for New Orleans Seminary by Kelley when he was elected president in 1996, is an essential quality needed in these days, he said during the institution’s annual convocation service Sept. 3.
This year the seminary will be asking what a servant leader is, how one can be a servant leader, how one can be strengthened in terms of relational skills and leadership skills to be the most effective servant leader and, most importantly, “putting the spotlight on what it means to be a servant leader in ministry today,” Kelley said.
“The purpose of this seminary is very simple,” he said. “It is to equip leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments through the local church and its ministry.”
New Orleans Seminary came to that purpose “because right now 70 percent of all Southern Baptist churches are plateaued or declining and 85 percent of all churches nationwide are plateaued or declining,” said Kelley, former director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth.
“There is a tremendous religious hunger, searching, curiosity, going on right now in our nation, but people are not coming to our churches to satisfy that curiosity, to fill themselves in that hungry void” he said.
“We must therefore stand before God as the generation he has called out to turn our churches around, to bring life again to churches that have forgotten how to grow and reach people, to churches that have become anemic in terms of influencing their community.”
New Orleans Seminary has therefore dedicated itself to this mission “so that as we work with students in the classroom, it is with the church in mind,” Kelley said, “preparing students to go into plateaued or declining churches knowing how to minister, knowing where to start, knowing what to do to turn those churches around.”
Kelley presented a bronze sculpture of Abraham with his son Isaac, a new gift from an anonymous donor, illustrating Genesis 22, a classic passage on servant leadership and “one of the most haunting passages in the scriptures,” he said. The sculpture will be on display in the Hardin Student Center, along with other pieces of Christian artwork the seminary has been collecting.
“One of the things we must learn about servant leadership is that God tests his servants,” Kelley said in reference to the sculpture. God puts his servants through tests, as he did Abraham, because “he wants us to be spiritually maturing, growing people. He wants everything out of us, not just part of us.”
Abraham experienced God’s ultimate test of a servant leader when God asked him to sacrifice his son, Kelley said. It was a test of trust, “setting up a lesson of obedience through the ages,” he said.
Abraham was tested on whether he fully trusted the character of God, and he passed the test as he demonstrated that “he knew God would do what was right.”
The test of a servant leader is significant, Kelley said, for it puts the spotlight not only on a job, but also on a person. Abraham’s test shows that a servant leader is tested “not on what you are able to do, but on how much you are able to trust and believe. A servant leader must trust God despite the circumstances.”
Part of the convocation was dedicated to recognition of faculty members who have reached milestones in their service at the seminary. “They serve here sacrificially and they serve here with a commitment to multiplied ministry,” said seminary provost Steve Lemke, “for as you students go out, through your ministry, these professors touch literally thousands of people.”
Three professors honored were Gerald Stevens, associate professor of New Testament and Greek since 1988; Kelley, professor of evangelism since 1983; and Don Stewart, professor of New Testament and Greek since 1978.
The convocation also included a time for new professors to publicly sign the seminary’s Articles of Religious Belief and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message Statement, “indicating their covenant with Southern Baptists and with you to teach and live within the parameters of those doctrinal statements,” Kelley said. In addition, the entire seminary faculty unanimously affirmed the family article added by the SBC in June to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement.
The service concluded with all seminary professors kneeling in prayer at the front of the chapel as student Kanoot Midkiff of Winston-Salem, N.C. prayed for them.

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  • Debbie Moore