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-Seminary Extension names year’s top center directors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Darril Deaton, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Litchfield, Ct., has been named Seminary Extension Center Director of the Year for east of the Mississippi, while James Brandon, director of missions for Southwestern Baptist Association, Boise, Idaho, received the award for west of the Mississippi.
The two men have more in common than being honored with an award. Both serve in areas where Southern Baptist work is relatively new. Both have found a way to give theological training to “homegrown” church leaders in an area where trained leaders are scarce.
In announcing the awards, Seminary Extension director Ed Thiele said, “Darril Deaton is a busy pastor who makes time in his schedule for training leaders because he knows it is important. I have been inspired by hearing his enthusiastic reports of blessings received by helping others develop.” Concerning James Brandon, Thiele said, “He has gone the extra mile in his own education and is providing educational opportunities for others through Seminary Extension. He is currently pursuing a vision of turning an extension center into a college because of the need to train leaders in his state.”
Deaton, in the East, has a Seminary Extension center in his church. Called the Western Connecticut School of Ministry, it is beginning its third year. The school not only serves members of Friendship Baptist Church, but other churches as well. All students are required to be involved in ministry in their local churches.
“Churches often forget their mandate to make disciples,” Deaton said. But Deaton hasn’t forgotten, and his efforts to train church leaders have helped Friendship become an evangelistic, missions-minded church which emphasizes discipleship and ministry training. It currently has about a dozen missions and ministries involving various cultural groups and several languages, with Seminary Extension playing a vital role in helping the church train its members to lead the varied ministries.
Brandon, in the West, first taught a Seminary Extension course in the 1960s in the extension center of the Amarillo Baptist Association. When he became director of missions for the Southwestern Idaho Baptist Area, he immediately saw the need of theological training for ministers.
“We use mostly bivocational ministers, or lay ministers, in Idaho to pastor new churches as they are started,” said Brandon. He recognized the chances were slim of getting pastors from the South to serve in his challenging situations. But there was no need to look elsewhere. God called men already in Idaho to serve Idaho’s churches.
In 1996-97, 12 men surrendered to the gospel ministry in his area. Today most are already pastoring churches or starting new churches in towns, villages and communities. These are men of all ages — lawyers, engineers, businessmen, builders, carpenters, schoolteachers and blue-collar laborers. They include the young, middle-aged and elderly.
“These men needed theological training to carry out their calling effectively,” Brandon recounted, , so he started the Seminary Extension program of Southern Baptists in Southwestern Idaho. He had 25 students enrolled in 1997, and more than 30 in 1998 — with spring, summer and fall sessions.
“We tell folk that we are out on the ‘edge of the Great Commission’ here in our nation,” Brandon said. “God is doing fantastic things through men being trained in the extension program of Southern Baptists.”
Seminary Extension, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., is a ministry of the Council of Seminary Presidents. Courses are made available in a classroom setting at more than 400 extension centers across the country to students who for some reason are unable to attend a seminary. Most courses are also available by correspondence. Last year more than 4,000 students took one or more courses.

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  • Leonard Hill