PHOENIX (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary highlighted its North American church planting strategies during a presentation to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting the evening of June 18 in Phoenix.
President Paige Patterson assumed the role of “coach” during the football-themed presentation, drawing church planting “plays” on a giant video screen as he described how Southeastern’s students are reaching across the United States to bring the Gospel to the lost.
Theological education, Patterson emphasized, is more than just books and lectures. Part of it is instilling a passion for the Gospel in every man, woman and child in America.
Especially highlighted during Southeastern’s presentation were church planting efforts in Arizona, Nevada, New England, Colorado and Nevada.
The Carns family planted two churches in southern Arizona, near the Mexico border, and have grown those churches by innovative outreach programs like giving out water and Backyard Bible Clubs.
The Apperson family and the Watson family both planted churches in Las Vegas, the fastest-growing city in the United States. The Appersons birthed a new church in their home and are growing it the old-fashioned way — with door-to-door witnessing. The Watsons, meanwhile, have received solid support not from megachurches but from small Southern Baptist congregations with a heart for winning souls to Christ, Patterson reported.
The King family serves in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Kevin King, who holds degrees from Southeastern and Southern seminaries, is a former narcotics officer. One of his favorite ministries is to rodeo riders.
The Williams family is leaving soon for Vermont to plant churches in the Northeast. From his background in farming, Eugene Williams told the convention he plans to “sow seeds for Christ” in Vermont.
Families like these form the backbone of a new generation of church planters coming out of Southeastern and the other seminaries supported by the Cooperative Program, Patterson said.
“Your six Southern Baptist seminaries plan to take the whole United States for Jesus Christ in the next 10 years,” he pledged.
During Southeastern’s annual luncheon earlier June 18, Patterson reported that the seminary has almost achieved its goal of $16.5 million in the first phase of its “Scholarship on Fire!” fundraising campaign.
Recent gifts have left the seminary only $800,000 short of its goal, Patterson reported. The first phase of the $50 million overall campaign will fund the construction of a new campus center, library, faculty salary increases and student scholarships.
“God is at work at Southeastern,” Patterson told the luncheon audience. “People come on campus seeking the face of the Lord.”
Patterson reported to the alumni that Southeastern students are laboring for the Gospel all over North America and around the world. More students are being trained for the pastorate at Southeastern than any other seminary, he stated.
During the luncheon, Patterson presented the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award to Samuel James, a retired missionary and former vice president of the International Mission Board.
James received two master’s and one doctoral degree from Southeastern. He and his wife, Rachel, were missionaries in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and he founded the Vietnamese Baptist Theological Seminary.
Later in his career, James served the mission board as an area director, regional vice president and vice president for leadership development before his retirement in 2002. Even in their retirement, he and his wife are preparing to return to Vietnam to serve.
“It has been my passion to have the Lord Jesus revealed through me,” James said. “If there is any recognition, it really should be to our Lord Jesus Christ.”