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SEBTS trustees celebrate completion of ‘For the Mission’ campaign

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin addresses trustees at their fall meeting. SEBTS photo

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – On Oct. 8-10, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted its fall biannual board of trustees meeting and Southeastern Society (SES) gathering. Trustees appointed Seth Bible as dean of The College at Southeastern and celebrated reports of record giving, increased enrollment, and heightened participation in Great Commission efforts.

On Monday afternoon, trustees met for their first plenary session, welcoming three new trustees: Dimas Castillo, Ed Kao and Kyler Smith. During the session, President Danny Akin presented his president’s report to the trustees, noting several areas of significant growth for the institution.

Akin reported that Southeastern successfully completed its four-year For the Mission capital campaign of $20 million, raising more than $25.1 million for endowments, student aid, campus maintenance and development, and other expenses.

Akin also reported that Southeastern witnessed a record year of charitable giving, surpassing $7 million. Southeastern’s endowment has doubled over the past 20 years, totaling $43.96 million this year.

Akin noted that God not only granted Southeastern a significant increase in student applications this year but also brought the seminary its largest incoming classes in more than five years. And 117 students participated in SEBTS mission trips last year, showing that Southeastern’s Great Commission heartbeat is strong.

“I am delighted and humbled by what the Lord is continuing to do here at Southeastern,” Akin told trustees. “Financially, our institution has never been healthier. We’ve seen significant increases in our enrollment and applications, and we’ve witnessed more students joining us on institutional mission trips to reach the nations with the Good News of King Jesus. God’s favor is on this place, and it is a joy to celebrate his kindness with trustees and dear friends of our institution.”

New Dean of The College at Southeastern

After subcommittee meetings on Monday afternoon, trustees returned to campus Tuesday morning to approve recommendations of new administrative appointments, curricular changes and campus projects.

During Tuesday’s meeting, trustees unanimously voted to appoint Seth Bible as the vice president of undergraduate studies and the dean of The College. Assistant professor of ethics and history of ideas, Bible, a two-time graduate of Southeastern, has served and taught at Southeastern in a variety of roles for more than two decades — most recently launching and directing Southeastern’s flourishing prison programs.

“Seth has been a great blessing to Southeastern now for 23 years,” Akin said. “It has been exciting to see how the Lord has raised him up and used him to serve and support this institution. He has done a superb job directing our prison programs over the past six years and is a gifted administrator and teacher. The faculty, the administration and the trustees are all of one heart and one mind that God has set apart Seth to lead our college.”

Campus updates

Strengthening the institution’s academic offerings, trustees approved the addition of an education minor for undergraduate studies, a Master of Arts in education for graduate studies, and a Doctor of Education with a specialization in organizational leadership for advanced studies. They also voted to approve a new endowment for Southeastern’s Center for Biblical Text and Translation and two new student aid funds. These funds include the Varghese Family Student Aid Fund, which gives preference to students with a desire to serve in the 10/40 window upon graduating, and the Sara Price Finley Student aid fund, in honor of Sara Price Finley — the late wife of retired trustee Earle Finley.

Trustees also voted to move forward with architectural designs for the expansion of the Ledford Student Center to include a dining hall with indoor dining and event spaces as well as landscaping and outdoor seating. Building plans for the Ledford Center expansion will be voted on during the spring trustee meeting.

During their meetings on Monday and Tuesday, SES members connected with faculty and staff and received institutional updates, celebrating how God has blessed their gifts and the Great Commission efforts of Southeastern.

Drew Davis, director of financial and alumni development at Southeastern, reported on the completion of the For the Mission campaign, expressing his gratitude for the 2,725 donors who generously supported Southeastern’s mission during the campaign. Davis also shared that Southeastern is stewarding these gifts not only to operate the institution and equip more students around the world but also to serve local churches. Davis noted that Southeastern has coordinated with students and alumni to supply over 238 pulpits in local churches over the past year.

Southeastern Society

Sharing with SES members during a panel discussion on Monday, Southeastern professors Dwayne Milioni, Scott Pace and Steve McKinion discussed how the Great Commission shapes their local church ministry. Currently pastoring different churches in the area, Milioni, Pace and McKinion noted that the Great Commission not only compels their churches to go internationally but also motivates them to live on mission in their context. Panelists narrated how they maintain a mindset of “equipping to send,” discipling and commissioning their best to multiply — to make disciples where they are, to plant churches, and to reach the nations.

At Monday night’s For the Mission banquet, SES members and trustees joined Southeastern faculty and staff as well as local church leaders for an evening of celebration and worship, praising God for the remarkable ministry they have partnered to accomplish.

“It is always a joy to get together and reflect on what the Lord has done over the last semester and to reflect on Southeastern’s mission,” Jonathan Six, vice president of institutional advancement, told attendees. “Together, you go on mission with us. Thank you for your work.”

Challenging attendees to remember Jesus’ completed work and press on in Great Commission ministry, Southeastern alum Andrew Hopper narrated how God used Southeastern to prepare him for church planting and to partner with his church in training students to engage the least reached with the Gospel.

Lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, N.C., Hopper has witnessed God exponentially grow Mercy Hill to send out 175 missionaries over the past 10 years. Hopper said he praises God for the role Southeastern has played in his life and in his church’s ongoing ministry.

“We would not be where we are or have done what we’ve done if it wasn’t for Southeastern Seminary,” noted Hopper. “One of the reasons I planted a church was that pastors from my church and faculty at Southeastern instilled in me the drum beat to make an impact for the kingdom. … I am so grateful for the church that sent us and the seminary that has supported us and has equipped us to go.”

Hopper shared that Mercy Hill has planted five churches in the past 10 years, and all five of those church planters have been Southeastern students — men equipped in cohort-style courses taught in the context of their local church through Southeastern’s Equip Network.

Morning worship

On Tuesday morning, the Southeastern community joined trustees and SES members for worship in Binkley Chapel. Preaching from 1 Peter 5:1-4, Akin reminded attendees that God has given his church clear teachings on how to shepherd God’s flock and on the character of the men he calls to the office of pastor.

Akin observed that pastoral ministry is currently suffering from an identity crisis. In their efforts to focus on leadership techniques, business practices and organizational methods, pastors and churches have sometimes forgotten the importance of pastors being godly qualified men who rightly handle the Word of God.

“Those who are God-called and scripturally qualified to this assignment should have no doubt as to what their job description is,” said Akin, listing four key texts that clarify the character, conduct, and office of a pastor (Acts 20:17-38, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Encouraging pastors to be humble and to serve sacrificially, Akin urged them to remember that they are called by God, employed by God, and answerable to God for his people.

“Pastors make huge mistakes when they forget whom their flock belongs to,” Akin said. “You will treat God’s people better when you remember that they are God’s people.”

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