KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–During 10 years as president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Philip Roberts has guided the seminary to record enrollment, establishing a notable conservative faculty, implementing several new degree programs and overseeing significant additions to and improvements of campus facilities.
“It’s utterly amazing to see what the Lord has done at Midwestern over the past 10 years,” Roberts, an Ohio native, said in reflecting on the milestone as Midwestern’s fourth president. “Anja, Naomi, Mark and I were excited about the opportunity when the Lord called us here, and we love Midwestern and look forward to all the wonderful things He’ll do here in the future. We’ve done our best to keep Jesus as our focal point, and in doing so, I believe He’s blessed our efforts here. To God be the glory for the great things He has done.”
Roberts has witnessed steady growth in the student population: Upon his arrival in 2001, the seminary averaged roughly 550 students each semester; since then, enrollment has nearly doubled. More than 1,050 students were educated by the seminary through on-campus and online classes last fall.
“This is the crux of our mission, to serve the church by biblically educating God-called men and women to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ,” Roberts said. “If Christians are going to continue to fulfill the Great Commission, we must be successful in educating men and women to plant churches, to serve existing congregations, to enter the mission field, to evangelize on the streets and to teach others to do the same. It’s an incredible responsibility that the Lord has placed upon us, and we pray for strength each day to carry out His calling.”
Under Roberts’ direction, the seminary’s faculty and staff have grown in stride with the expanding student body.
“Our goal has been to provide our students with topnotch, conservative professors to equip them for their calling,” he said. “There’s no doubt that our faculty ranks amongst the finest scholars in the area of high-quality, conservative Christian education. Through their dedication to and personal involvement with our students, these men and women prepare tomorrow’s church, missionary and educational leaders to reach the world’s unbelieving populations for Jesus Christ.
“Additionally, over the years, our support staff has consisted of some extremely talented people whose love for the Lord is shown to all with whom they’ve interacted. I’m grateful for their incredible service and sacrifice in fulfilling our mission.”
The seminary has increased students’ educational opportunities, branching out in several new directions. Midwestern Baptist College, the seminary’s undergraduate arm, launched in 2004 to supplement existing master’s and doctoral level programs. The college offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in various disciplines and hosts the FUSION program, which encourages younger students toward a lifetime in missions.
Other degree programs added at the seminary during Roberts’ tenure include the doctor of ministry’s church planting and evangelism concentrations, the doctor of philosophy program in 2008, the Hispanic and Korean D.Min. foreign language degree tracks in 2009 and 2010, and the school’s first fully online degree program, the master of arts in theological studies, in 2010.
“With the addition of each of these educational opportunities, Midwestern can now reach out to a greater number of students who have been called into a variety of ministries,” Roberts said. “Not only can they come to our beautiful campus to take classes, but with our online program we can reach out globally to those who may have once thought it impossible to obtain a degree. We have a great balance of traditional and progressive degree programs to help train God-called people to serve in an effective way.”
Since coming to the Kansas City campus, the president also has witnessed a transformation in the facilities. Just over a year after his inauguration, the trustees voted to purchase a building on the north end of campus, which now houses classrooms, faculty offices and a campus dining area. The building was named the Koehn & Myers Center for World Evangelism in honor of martyred missionaries William Koehn and Martha Myers, who both attended Midwestern and were slain while working in Yemen.
In 2006, the 6,000-volume C.H. Spurgeon library collection was purchased from William Jewell College and has since been on display in the Midwestern library.
Four apartment buildings, providing additional family housing, were constructed in 2009, and renovation of an eight-unit apartment building in 2010 upgraded existing campus residency facilities. In 2009, the school’s classroom building was completely renovated and now provides state-of-the-art classrooms, a larger LifeWay Campus Store and an improved student center area.
The most recent undertaking is the seminary’s largest project in its history — construction of a 1,000-seat chapel complex that will include worship space as well as conference facilities and seven additional classrooms. Corridors will connect the Trustees Classroom Building and the Administration Building to the new chapel, allowing students to avoid inclement weather.
“We are in the final phase of our chapel construction project,” Roberts said. “As with any building process, there have been challenges. However, the Lord has been faithful to provide the funding and volunteers necessary to help us reach this point. I’m confident His provision will continue to see this endeavor completed debt-free. Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who has prayed for us, to the volunteers who have come to our campus and provided sweat equity and to those who’ve given materials, supplies or funding along the way. These sacrifices will make an eternal difference for the Kingdom of God.
“The completion of this project enables us to look to the future as well,” Roberts added. “Not only will we be able to expand our chapel and conference space, but we can consolidate our library and free up the space necessary to fully display our C.H. Spurgeon and Morton-Seats archaeological collections as well. This is truly an exciting time in the life of our school.”
In reflecting on his time at Midwestern, Roberts said, “Our time here has really flown by, but we’ve reaped the blessings of the Lord. I’m eternally grateful for Anja’s love and support through long hours and extensive travels. Naomi and Mark were teenagers when we arrived, and now they’re grown and serving the Lord in a great way.
“We’ve made wonderful friends and worked with incredibly talented people whom God has allowed to cross our paths. In our 10 years here, the mission of the school hasn’t changed. We’re here to help further the Kingdom of God by affording students high quality Christian education so they can reach out to the lost. God has been so faithful, and I’m excited to see what He’s got planned for Midwestern Seminary in the days to come.”
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.