ST. LOUIS (BP)–Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered his “shareholder’s report” June 11 about the “Miracle on the Mississippi” at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis.
Relaying his burden for helping Southern Baptist churches learn how to grow again, Kelley noted the seminary’s decision to remain in New Orleans. “You know New Orleans because of its unrighteousness and ungodliness,” he said. “We know it as the perfect laboratory for learning how to do ministry.”
Kelley offered that if you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten, referencing the seminary’s completely revamped curriculum — strengthened with courses in philosophy, Greek and Hebrew on the classical end and interpersonal relationship and leadership skills on the practical end.
“We’ve added a baptistery, a Lord’s Supper table and even a casket in our classrooms to help our students learn how to do the nuts and bolts of ministry,” he said.
All students also are required to spend a semester learning how to do evangelism by actually going out and sharing their faith, in addition to being encouraged to participate in mission trips, Kelley said, citing a goal of securing enough funding to send every student on a mission trip, particularly to a Third World country.
While the seminary is a schoolhouse, it also is a lighthouse, by bringing in senior adult and youth groups throughout the year to do service projects and evangelism in the city, Kelley said. To that end, a new dorm, named after Nelson L. Price, recently was opened to house these short-term missionaries.
Demonstrating the impact of making risky decisions in sharing the gospel, Kelley noted the seminary’s decision seven years ago to open an extension center in the Angola state penitentiary, the only maximum-security prison in Louisiana.
Two weeks earlier, the prison celebrated its third seminary graduation ceremony, honoring associate and baccalaureate degree recipients from among the inmates. These prisoners will help start churches all over their facility and, in response to requests from other Louisiana prison wardens, will go to other prisons to serve as pastors and chaplains.
“Until you’ve heard a warden in a maximum security prison, in a cafeteria with bars and locks, issue a call to prisoners to be missionaries, you haven’t heard anything,” Kelley said.
It’s been four years since the prison has had a riot, murder or suicide, he said, giving evidence of God’s work in a risky place.
“I tell you the story of NOBTS so that you will know in your setting that God can do a great work,” Kelley said. “We do have a higher power for greater tasks. Yes, we have done the imaginable already, but we can do more than that.
“We can also go back to growing evangelistic churches again.”