News Articles

New Orleans Seminary honors trio as distinguished alumni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary honored a musician, a pastor and a state convention executive with Distinguished Alumnus awards at the school’s annual alumni and friends luncheon June 22.

Jim Gibson, retired music publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources, Dean Register, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, were honored during the luncheon that was held at the Downtown Hilton in Nashville, Tenn., in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. With more than 500 people in attendance, the event was the largest alumni luncheon since 2001, when the convention was held in New Orleans.

Gibson, who earned a master of church music from NOBTS in 1970, spent eight years in local church ministry serving churches in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. For most of his career, Gibson worked in music publishing with LifeWay/The Baptist Sunday School Board, Word Music and Meadowgreen Music.

“He has had such an impact on Southern Baptist worship and music down through the years,” said NOBTS President Chuck Kelley. “He’s touched so many lives and we are so very, very proud of all that he has done.”

One of Gibson’s most significant projects was the Celebration Hymnal. As the executive project manager, Gibson teamed with Integrity Music, Word Music and Tom Fettke to produce the hymnal. Since its release in 1997, the hymnal has sold more than 2 million copies.

The last seven years of his publishing career were spent at LifeWay. From 1997 to 2001 Gibson served as associate director of the music ministries department at LifeWay. When he retired in 2004, Gibson was the director of music, publishing and recording. He currently serves as interim music director of Ponderosa Baptist Church in Cadiz, Ky.

“Thank you so much for this honor. I’m humbled by it and I am very grateful,” Gibson said. “New Orleans Seminary gave me my start. It put me on the right track.”

Gibson said he enjoyed the seminary’s focus on practical ministry. That type of training prepares students for the world of ministry, he said.

“Thank you so much for this honor. I praise God for the faculty and staff of the seminary and for what you mean to the Kingdom of God.” Gibson said.

Register, who earned both master and doctoral degrees at NOBTS, pastors one of the fastest growing churches in Mississippi. Temple Baptist is a two-campus church with more than 5,000 members. Register has served two terms as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

Kelley, who studied alongside him at NOBTS, remembered Register as an outstanding student. According to Kelley, Register was well respected by his peers in seminary.

“He was the guy that everybody knew would be an outstanding pastor and preacher,” Kelley said. “That’s what Dr. Dean Register has become.”

“Thank you for all that you have done for Jesus,” Kelley said. “You have made this institution proud to call you an alumnus.”

“I’m a little bit embarrassed by these things — it certainly is an honor,” Register said as he received the award. “I’ll tell you something, I have never been embarrassed to be a graduate of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Richards graduated from the seminary with a master of divinity degree. Kelley called Richards one of the school’s “treasured alumni” because of the support he has offered NOBTS.

Kelley related the story of how Richards led the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to give a one-time special offering to offset the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ efforts to defund the six SBC seminaries. According to Kelley, the $150,000 gift from the SBTC came at a crucial point in the seminary’s efforts to build new student housing.

Before becoming executive director of the SBTC, Richards spent more than 20 years as a pastor in Louisiana. He then served as director of missions of the Northwest Baptist Association in Rogers, Ark.

According to Kelley, Richards is an outstanding preacher who is often invited to speak in the Leavell Chapel at NOBTS. Each time Richards speaks on campus, Kelley said, he receives numerous student requests for audio copies of the sermon.

“I admire him most as a man who is a very thoughtful Southern Baptist,” Kelley said. “He has a great deal of respect and appreciation for what it means to be a Baptist.”

Richards said he had often attended alumni luncheons at the convention but never thought he would receive such an honor. He thanked not only the current faculty and administration, but also those who “invested” in him while he was a student.

“I am delighted to be here today. I want to simply say that I am humbled at receiving this award. He who glories, let him glory in the Lord,” Richards said. “All praise and glory should go to the Lord Jesus Christ for all He has done.”

Richards also thanked Southern Baptists who give to the Cooperative Program for supporting NOBTS. He encouraged those in attendance to prayerfully consider increasing their church’s giving to CP one percent to offer greater support for the seminary and other SBC ministries.

“We should never forget the fact that we are able to carry on New Orleans Seminary today because of the faithful, loyal support through the Cooperative Program and its wonderful ministry,” he said. “We have a tremendous seminary, a wonderful president, faculty and administration, and may we continue to support them.”

Kelley closed the luncheon with a few comments about the seminary. He said that NOBTS would continue to teach students what it means to be Baptists.

“It is my great conviction that we live in an age in which it is extremely important for us to emphasize and teach what it means to be a Southern Baptist lest our identity erode,” he said.

One of the Baptist characteristics Kelley said that the seminary seeks to instill is to “always speak when you have convictions.” According to Kelley, these convictions should be communicated clearly and graciously, but they should be communicated.

Kelley encouraged the alumni to come back to campus for a visit to see how many things have changed. NOBTS, he said, continues to emphasize “the practical skills it takes to have excellence in ministry.”

“Our seminary can only be great if we help you be better ministers,” Kelley said. “That’s what it’s all about. You are my heroes. You are the reason we do the things we do as a seminary.”

“The frontline of the Kingdom of God is not the campus of a seminary. The frontline of the Kingdom of God is and always will be the local church,” he continued. “We want you to know how much we love you and how passionate we are about trying to do the best job we can of raising up the next generation to come and work beside you in the trenches.”