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Southern Seminary exploring partnership with Ghana’s Baptists

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–With the Promised Land in sight, Moses sent men to scout the area. Two returned with positive reports — the land flowed with milk and honey and promise.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., also has sent an exploratory team into a foreign country — the West African nation of Ghana. The report: the land of some 18 million people is ripe for the spread of the gospel.
This 10-day “discovery tour” of Ghana, which involved several students and professors from Southern, sought to establish a connection between the Ghana Baptist Convention and the seminary — a relationship that may possibly develop into a missions partnership.
Both the results of the May 24-June 3 trip and the prospects for cooperation were positive. “Ghana offers Southern Seminary a unique opportunity for placing faculty and students in an international missions setting,” said George Martin, associate professor of Christian missions at Southern.
“Our [International Mission Board] field personnel and Ghana Baptist colleagues have expressed an eagerness to work with the seminary community in partnership. It is almost as if we are hearing the 20th century parallel of Acts 16:9 — ‘Come over and help us.’”
Despite this optimism, Martin cautioned all future partnerships and the dynamics of such a relationship remain in the preliminary stages. “Everything is so unofficial at this point. What will eventually come of the trip is yet to be determined. It was fact-finding and survey trip,” Martin said. Formal authorization of the partnership, if approved, may take six months.
Meeting with IMB personnel, Ghana Baptist officials and local pastors across the country, the six-member team from Southern Seminary explored ways for seminary professors and students to help Baptists in the country in the future.
Possible opportunities include surveying, church planting, evangelism with many of the country’s unreached people groups, hospital ministries and especially leadership training.
“Everywhere we went, it seemed to all of us that the number one concern was leadership training,” Martin said.
The tour, first proposed by Martin in 1998, initially targeted India as a possible missions partner. However, due to several factors, Ghana replaced India as a “much better fit for the type of partnership that might benefit both the host country and Southern Seminary,” Martin said.
Many factors served to qualify Ghana as a possible partner. The country enjoys complete freedom of religion. And as a former British colony, English remains the official language. These positive demographics would negate “logistical problems that would be faced in other settings,” Martin said.
Additionally, a developed structure exists in the Ghana Baptist Convention and in the local associations and churches, allowing missionaries the freedom to work without worrying about organization problems and support systems.
“Ghana offers a convention that is sufficiently mature to enable us to focus on ministry itself without having to spend a great deal of time and resources just ‘getting to first base,’” Martin explained.
As work remains before any partnership is consummated, the team stressed the relationship should be a focus of prayer for the seminary community.
“We just want prayers that we would make the decision that’s in God’s will for our possible relationship with the Ghana Baptist Convention,” said Chuck Lawless, assistant professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern and a member of the team.
Yet, Martin hopes that eventually some relationship will be established because of the opportunities it would provide students. Such missions partnerships, he said, play an integral role in seminary education, teaching students to “think globally.”
“If we are to train our students to think as God thinks, we must take them into the world — the whole world. As much as we might do for our students on campus, there exist elements of experience and ministry that cannot be duplicated within the confines of 2825 Lexington Road,” Martin said. “We must be able to say to every prospective student, ‘When you come to Southern Seminary, you will spend time in the classrooms. But we will also place you in the laboratory of ministry. And, by the way, that laboratory is the world.’”

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  • Bryan Cribb