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NOBTS expands multi-language theological education program

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Whether He is called Father, Papa, Ba, Abba, Pere or Pai, God is being preached, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is equipping ethnic pastors and church leaders across the Southeast to preach Christ in their native tongues.

The seminary, in offering ministerial training in multiple languages, is reflecting the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

God-called men and women “can minister more effectively to their own people in their native tongue,” said Jimmy Dukes, dean of the extension center system at NOBTS. “God has used these efforts to promote the growth of the Kingdom as our graduates have gone out to serve in many local church situations.”

In response to an increasingly diverse culture where English is not a given, NOBTS has expanded its coursework into Portuguese, Spanish, Creole French, Vietnamese and Korean. Training is available for Brazilians, Hispanics, Haitians and Vietnamese at the certificate level. Undergraduate programs are taught in Vietnamese and Korean. And the newest language program at the seminary is designed to give graduate-level training in Korean.

Nowhere is cultural diversity more evident in the South than in Florida, with both long-established language groups and the ongoing influx of new immigrants. This diversity makes ministerial training in foreign languages a must, said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer for the Florida Baptist Convention.

“There is no possible way to do quality theological education in Florida without doing it in multiple languages,” Sullivan said. “Not only must theological education be taught in the language of the student, it must be contextualized to the culture.”

NOBTS, through its Theological Center of the Americas in Miami, is equipping pastors and ministers to lead the many language churches that flourish in the area. Pastoral ministry certificate programs in Spanish, Creole French and Portuguese are being offered at the extension center and at local churches.

“The Florida Baptist Convention is very intentional in theological education and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is a vital and cooperative partner,” Sullivan said. “We are committed to multi-language education.”

Miami is not the only city in the South faced with a growing non-English-speaking population. The need for theological training in ethnic languages is evident in New Orleans and Atlanta as well.

In metro New Orleans, NOBTS is active in training Hispanic and Vietnamese pastors and church leaders. A certificate program in pastoral ministry in Spanish is equipping pastors who serve the growing Hispanic population in the region. Courses for the certificate are taught at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Metairie, La.

The Gulf Coast region also has a large Vietnamese population, prompting the seminary to begin an undergraduate program in that language as well.

On the main NOBTS campus, Koreans constitute the largest language group. Many Korean students study theology in English at NOBTS. Though many of these students have excellent skills in English, the language barrier makes complex courses such as Greek, Hebrew and systematic theology even more difficult.

NOBTS trustees voted during their October meeting to establish the Korean Theological Institute to provide training in the Korean language on the graduate level. The institute, to be held in the summer, will offer Korean-language studies in such key areas as biblical languages and systematic theology.

Many courses at the Korean Theological Institute will be taught by Korean students in the seminary’s doctor of philosophy program. Other Korean instructors who have completed at least a master of theology degree and agree to teach in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 will be utilized as well.

In the future, seminary officials hope to expand the institute to include certificate and undergraduate training in Korean to strengthen and enhance the ministry of Korean pastors currently serving in language churches.

The seminary’s largest extension center, the North Georgia Campus in Decatur, Ga., also has begun offering courses in multiple languages. Vietnamese and Korean programs have been started at the undergraduate level to reach the growing population of these groups in metro Atlanta.