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SBC to count on Seminary Extension non-degree programs, Mohler predicts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Seminary Extension’s future in Southern Baptist theological education was underscored by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to Seminary Extension state convention representatives during their annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Mohler said he foresees the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries relying more and more on Seminary Extension to deliver theological education to individuals involved in non-degree programs, freeing the seminaries to concentrate on their main task of providing theological education at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels.

The theme of Seminary Extension’s March 14-16 workshop, which drew 35 attendees, was “Forward into the Future.”

Mohler, in addition to leading Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is president of the Council of Seminary Presidents, the SBC entity that governs the work of Seminary Extension.

Describing the Internet as the biggest communication development since the invention of the printing press, Mohler said this quantum leap in modern technology is going to open many more doors for Seminary Extension to deliver theological education in the days ahead.

Mohler also emphasized it is important that students taking Seminary Extension courses gain more than just biblical knowledge; they must learn how to apply that knowledge — “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Reggie McNeal, director of the leadership development team of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, also referenced opportunities the computer age opens up for Seminary Extension. Such opportunities must be grasped quickly, he said, recalling how Jesus warned his disciples not to be lulled into thinking it was four months until harvest, because their time to harvest was now.

McNeal urged Seminary Extension to make “learning” the priority, not “teaching,” and to challenge Southern Baptists to become lifelong learners. Church leaders need to be reminded, “When you’re through learning you’re through leading,” he said. McNeal is the author of a new book, “A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders.”

Seminary Extension course work should produce warmer hearts, better leadership and not just raw skills, McNeal said, counseling, “Aim at more than just the head.”

The state representatives reported on the successes of Seminary Extension work in their respective conventions. They also began laying plans for celebrating Seminary Extension’s 50th anniversary in 2001.

Larry Elliott, who has been given a new assignment in his state convention after serving 18 years as Florida’s representative, was recognized for his accomplishments and presented with a gift from the Nashville office staff. Larry and his wife, Ellen, in turn presented the Seminary Extension Foundation with a gift of $1,000 to be used in the development of new Spanish courses.

Last August for the first time, Seminary Extension reached the 500-mark in extension centers in operation in a given year.

Extension centers, located in 46 states, Canada and Mexico, as well as overseas, offer ministry training in a classroom setting in easy reach of church leaders who cannot get away to a college or seminary. Teachers have a master’s degree and church leadership experience.

Seminary Extension courses also are available by correspondence from the ministry’s offices at 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The office’s telephone number is (615) 242-2453.

Diplomas are offered in pastoral ministries, educational ministries, biblical studies, childhood education and advanced studies.

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  • Leonard Hill