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Pastor, missionary underscore value of seminary education

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)-The testimony of a pastor and missionary underscored the stated commitment June 10 of the six Southern Baptist seminaries to provide the highest quality of education. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Council of Seminary Presidents and of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky, told messengers attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City that the goal of the seminaries is to provide “the most outstanding evangelical and evangelistic institutions of theological learning and ministry preparation in the entire world.”
“We want to make clear your six seminaries are Great Commission institutions,” Mohler said, referring to Jesus’ commissioning his followers to take the good news of God’s love to the entire world. “We pray to see a new generation of evangelists, missionaries, church planters and pastors who will lead evangelistic, soul-winning and missions-minded churches in the years to come.”
Testimonies from two seminary graduates — a pastor of Salt Lake City’s largest Southern Baptist congregation and a missionary who has helped plant more than 1,000 churches in Asia — illustrated the kind of leaders Mohler said the seminaries intend to produce.
Mike Gray, pastor of Southeast Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, told messengers his seminary training prepared him for a ministry that has seen his congregation grow from 130 to more than 1,000 members in 14 years. Gray also was elected second vice president of the SBC June 9.
Gray said seminary helped him correct two weaknesses: poor public speaking ability and a lack of Bible knowledge.
The son of a single mother divorced from an alcoholic father, Gray said his mother gave him a love for Jesus but couldn’t teach him much about Jesus. Seminary helped him develop the tools for ministry in what he called “the greatest foreign mission field in the United States.”
“We don’t spend all our time here telling people what we don’t like about Mormonism,” he said. “We spend our time telling people what we like about Jesus. You’ve got to have knowledge about Jesus to do that.”
David Watson, an International Mission Board missionary in Asia since 1986, told messengers he wondered while he was in seminary why he had to study some of the material required of him.
“Now, 20 years later, I look back and I am amazed at what God knew was going to happen,” Watson said. “God knew the skill sets I would need to accomplish the task of planting thousands of churches in Asia.”
Now Watson said he leans on the skills he learned in seminary as he and his co-workers train church leaders, build a church-planting team, translate Scripture and write leadership material.
“In seminary I developed a deep and abiding love for the bride of Christ, God’s church,” he said. “That love of the church has pushed me to the edge, where people have never heard the message of Jesus Christ and never had an opportunity to express their love, devotion and creativity in worship.”
Mohler said the concern of seminary presidents is for “real, practical education and preparation for ministry, evangelism and missions on the field, not in an ivory tower. We expect to be judged by whether or not we are faithful to the task, and that means in part whether we produce a generation of Great Commission, passionate evangelists and missionaries and local church ministers.”

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  • Mark Kelly