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TRUSTEES: MBTS dedicates Mathena Student Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated a landmark in its history with the dedication of the new Mathena Student Center in conjunction with the fall trustee meeting Oct. 15-16 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

The meeting’s highlights came on Tuesday in opening the 40,000-square-foot student center named for Harold and Patricia Mathena who provided a $7 million lead gift for the facility.

Trustees also elected T. Dale Johnson as associate professor of biblical counseling, and MBTS President Jason Allen reported another record enrollment at the seminary.

Mathena Student Center dedication

The dedication of the Mathena Student Center included a chapel service, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours for students, faculty and guests. Immediately after its opening, the Midwestern community began using its services.

During the chapel service, Allen referred to the day as one when it would be easy for man to take all the glory, but after sharing the story of all the steps leading up to this day, it was only God’s providence that could be given as a reason.

“This special day in the life of Midwestern Seminary, Oct. 16, 2018, is about the Lord,” Allen said. “It is about His work, His faithfulness, His growth. In all of this we say, ‘This is the day that the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24).

“We receive in Scripture the challenge that is etched prominently inside the new building,” Allen continued, “and that is the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. We fail here if this building isn’t about training servants for the Great Commission.”

Allen then recognized a number of key contributors to the project, including some who had given financially and some who had given sacrificially in terms of their contribution to the seminary community.

The Tomlinson Café, Allen noted, is named after recently-retired professor of New Testament and Greek Alan Tomlinson, and the Knapp children’s area is named after former student Micah Knapp, who provided childcare services on campus before being killed in an automobile accident in 2017.

Of the Mathenas, Allen said, “To know these people is not simply to know people with great resources and with great generosity. It is to know the sweetest Christian family you could meet. I mean this before the Lord, if they had not given a penny to this seminary, I would be privileged to call them friends.

“They pray for us; they encourage us; their heart for the Gospel is evident. It outshines literally their generosity for this institution. I could be president here 30 years and never find such a family who could … make the type of contribution to enable us to have a student center. We are truly blessed that the Lord providentially connected our paths.”

During the service, Harold Mathena preached from Joshua 4, referencing the memorial stones the Israelites placed in Gilgal to mark their crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. Of this significant occasion, Mathena said he sees similarities between then and a new era that has dawned at Midwestern Seminary. He added that the new student center is one of those markers for the entire world to see God’s glory and all He has done on the Kansas City campus over the past six years.

“These stones here [at the student center], we are going to commemorate them in recognition of the miracle that has come about in this place,” Mathena said.

Just a few years back, he added, many people wondered if this institution could experience revitalization, and his answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

“Here at Midwestern, I am thinking, my soul, has this place not been revitalized? Is there not evidence here of a new birth, if you will? There is a new energy here, there is a new excitement here.

“What we are doing here today is celebrating another polished stone. It is another era that we are entering into. It is a new day; it is a new dawning; it is a new time under a new leader, under the great men and women that God has assembled here. I am thinking, glory be to God! And it is not just for you and for me. It is not just for this seminary. It is so that all the people of the world might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty.”

The two-story student center houses a cafeteria, the Sword & Trowel Bookstore and Tomlinson Café, recreation areas for family use, a collegiate-sized gymnasium, walking track, racquetball court, fitness rooms, as well as formal event facilities, seminar rooms and staff offices.

Johnson to join the faculty

Based upon a recommendation from their academic committee, trustees elected Dale Johnson to Midwestern’s faculty as associate professor of biblical counseling.

Johnson comes to Midwestern after more than four years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as assistant professor of biblical counseling. He also is executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

“As we have been evaluating the direction of our counseling program,” Allen said, “we could think of no one more qualified in the area of biblical counseling than Dr. Johnson. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field, and we know he will develop the skills of our counseling students in a way that glorifies God and best serves the local church. We look forward to his leadership in the years ahead.”

“These are exciting days at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Johnson said. “Our Lord has granted Dr. Jason Allen a wonderful vision, and the wisdom to execute that vision for seminary education that serves the church. I am honored to join the growing team the Lord is assembling at MBTS to train church leaders who find their wisdom in Christ, who shepherd as Christ, who are zealous for God’s glory like Christ, and who love the bride of Christ.”

Provost Jason Duesing said he has known Johnson for nearly 20 years, “and it has been a joy to see him prepared uniquely now to lead Midwestern Seminary in developing counseling programs for the church given his ministry and academic experience. I am grateful, too, for his wife Summer and their family’s willingness to join us, as they will surely serve as a complement to our seminary family.”

Prior to Southwestern, Johnson served for seven years as associate pastor of family life at Raiford Road Church in Macclenny, Fla., and was a chaplain for local high school baseball and football teams.

Johnson holds a Ph.D. in biblical counseling from Southwestern; a master of divinity in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and an undergraduate degree from Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla.

He and his wife Summer have six children.

Trustees in session

During his president’s report, Allen reported record enrollment gains, reviewed Midwestern’s five-year strategic plan and provided an update on the seminary’s accreditation.

For the fall semester, Allen noted that both headcount and hours sold had reached record levels.

“We are grateful to the Lord that He continues to allow us to be in a season of incredible enrollment growth,” Allen said. “Over the past academic year, we enrolled 3,525 students. This continues our recent trend of double-digit enrollment growth. Our continued focus is the residential M.Div., but Spurgeon College as well as our online, master’s and doctoral degree programs continue to flourish as well.”

Allen also reviewed with the trustees the seminary’s five-year strategic plan, and the trustee executive committee acted by presenting a motion to the full board that they have reviewed and reaffirmed the plan. The motion passed unanimously.

In an update on the seminary’s accreditation status, Allen reported that a recent visit by a liaison of a regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, went well. He explained that items noted from the most recent site visit were well on their way to being resolved and a future site visit date is set for Feb. 4-5, 2019. Midwestern is fully accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission and Association of Theological Schools.

During their plenary session, trustees elected, re-elected and promoted several faculty members.

In recommendations from the trustee academic committee, trustees elected Matthew Barrett as associate professor of Christian theology, in addition to Johnson in biblical counseling; reelected Owen Strachan as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Public Theology to a three-year term; and promoted Allen to professor of preaching and pastoral ministry.

Additionally, five new trustees were welcomed to the board by chairman John Mathena: Gene Dempsey of Kent, Wash., Lane Harrison of Ozark, Mo., Michael Jefferies of Leawood, Kan., Larry Lewis of Columbia, Mo., and Ed Mattox of Farmington, Mich.

Midwestern’s board of trustees consists of 35 members and meets biannually in October and April.

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  • T. Patrick Hudson