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Trustees approve research centers, apologetics studies

DECUTAR, Ga. (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees voted to establish two research centers and develop a new specialization in the school’s master of divinity program during their Oct. 7-8 meeting in Decatur, Ga.

Trustees created the Global Missions Center to focus more attention on international missions and the Center for Archaeological Research to facilitate excavations and study of ancient biblical sites. Trustees also approved a master of divinity with specialization in Christian apologetics to prepare ministers to share the Gospel in a radically changing culture.

“All three of these initiatives are focused on advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and defending Christian truth in a fallen world,” said Steve Lemke, NOBTS provost. “The purpose of the Global Missions Center is to mobilize Christians to impact unreached people groups with the Gospel. The purpose of the Center for Archaeological Research is to provide archaeological evidence to confirm and defend the truthfulness of God’s Word. The purpose of the master of divinity in Christian apologetics is to equip believers to defend the truth of the Gospel against all the false teachings of our pluralistic world.”

Although NOBTS has sent numerous missionaries overseas, has established a partnership with the International Mission Board in Moscow, and has numerous professors with foreign mission experience, the school lacked a visible center to promote international missions. Philip Pinckard, associate professor of missions, and Ken Taylor, associate professor of urban missions, realized this need and proposed the development of the center.

“It is my prayer that the Lord will use the new Global Missions Center to encourage our students and faculty to participate joyfully in sharing the Gospel around the world,” Pinckard said. “The center can become a catalyst for an increasing number of the seminary family responding to Jesus’ call to be sent to unreached people groups and population segments around the globe.”

NOBTS currently offers five degree programs with specializations in international missions. The addition of the Global Missions Center provides increased awareness of short- and long-term mission opportunities among students and faculty members.

Pinckard and Taylor have established a four-fold purpose for the center. The center will conduct missions research, provide mission training and resources, and work to reach unevangelized areas of the world.

Students and faculty members will be encouraged to research unreached people groups and develop strategies to reach them. Strategies developed on campus and on the mission field will be collected, indexed and stored in the World Missions Resource Center located in the John T. Christian Library.

Pinckard and Taylor hope to coordinate interaction between the seminary and IMB missionaries on the field. They also plan to establish an informational website for the center that would include resources and links to additional mission sites.

“The Global Missions Center focuses clearly on the mission of NOBTS ‘to equip leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments through the local church and its ministries,'” Pinckard said. “It heightens awareness of the seminary’s core value of ‘mission focus’ which notes in part: ‘We are here to change the world by fulfilling the Great Commission.'”

The Global Mission Center will help the seminary “reach the world” not only by nurturing those who are training specifically for missions but also by sponsoring international trips and partnerships. The mission center will challenge each student to participate in one overseas mission trip during his or her time at the seminary.

“NOBTS has a rich history of global missions involvement, with many former students on the field,” said Bill Fudge, IMB regional leader for East Asia. “With the great changes in access, communications and methods in recent days, I think that the Global Mission Center at NOBTS will continue this rich tradition of preparing students well for starting new movements of people turning to Christ and establishing His church in cities and among peoples where the Gospel is little known.”

The Global Mission Center will be housed in two adjoining offices in the Dodd Building on the NOBTS campus. Pinckard and Taylor hope that a larger, more visible facility will be available in the future as the center grows.

The Center for Archaeological Research was established to give students and faculty members the opportunity to participate in hands-on study of biblical sites and artifacts. Over the years, many faculty members and students at NOBTS have participated in archaeological digs. With the establishment of this center, NOBTS will be able to play a larger, more direct role in the field of biblical archaeology.

Steven Ortiz, assistant professor of archaeology and biblical studies and director of the Center for Archaeological Research, has established the goals of securing, excavating and researching an archaeological site, allowing students and faculty members to make an impact in the field. Ortiz has both the scientific training and years of excavation experience to facilitate such efforts.

Not only will the center impact the students in studying archaeology, biblical languages and other facets of biblical studies, information learned on the field will help each minister trained at NOBTS understand biblical backgrounds and contexts for the sermons and lessons they prepare.

“God revealed His Word in a specific time, in a particular place and to a particular people,” Ortiz said. “Since He revealed it that way, we have to interpret God’s Word that way. The Bible is an ancient document and we have to study it in its context.”

Meanwhile, Robert Stewart, assistant professor of philosophy and theology, cited the radically changing American culture and the scriptural command of 1 Peter 3:15 as a rationale for beginning the master of divinity with specialization Christian apologetics.

“In our pluralistic age, the need for and interest in Christian apologetics has never been greater,” Stewart said. “We live in a time when the Christian faith is challenged every day on multiple fronts.”

The degree approved by trustees includes many of the same ministerial competency components required in the other master of divinity degrees. It encompasses the classical theology disciplines such as biblical languages, historical studies and theology but it does not ignore the pastoral disciplines. Stewart said that the ministry component sets this degree apart from many other apologetics degrees.

“To my knowledge no seminary currently offers such a degree,” Stewart said. “Some offer shorter degrees, but none requires anywhere near the number of hours in biblical language, pastoral ministry or theological and historical studies that ours does.”

The Christian apologetics concentration involves 20 hours of philosophy and apologetics courses, eight of which are electives. Students may choose from electives focused on world religions, cults, philosophical methods or missions.

Apologetics courses likely will be offered in a variety of formats, including on-campus and summer courses. Stewart said he hopes to bring leading figures in Christian apologetics to NOBTS to facilitate creative learning opportunities.

Students training for missions, evangelism, youth ministry and collegiate ministry or those interested in Christian thought and philosophy are likely candidates for this degree program.

The trustees met at the seminary’s North Georgia Campus in the Atlanta metro area. The campus was donated to NOBTS by Columbia Drive Baptist Church in 1995. NOBTS since has invested $1 million to improve and update the facility.

The North Georgia Campus, the seminary’s largest extension center, serves as a hub for the extension center system. Approximately 45 percent of NOBTS students attend one of the 16 extension centers located throughout the Southeast.

“We have a philosophical commitment to our extension centers,” Kelley told trustees. “If we don’t make theological education more accessible, many ministers will not get theological training.”