The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part Four)

Author’s note: This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is the final of four posts commemorating that history.

Every Classroom a Great Commission Classroom, 2004-Present

In January 2004, Daniel L. Akin was elected the sixth president of Southeastern Seminary. Akin, a professor of both theology and preaching, previously served as Southeastern’s dean of students from 1992-1996 before serving eight years as the academic vice president at Southern Seminary. Akin furthered Southeastern’s theological renewal by requiring all professors to sign the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in addition to the school’s two confessions of faith. In February 2005, Southeastern hosted its first annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference, an event that annually draws over 1000 college students. Also in 2005, Southeastern adopted a new campus master plan and completed construction on a new building to house the facilities and campus housing departments. That fall, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Southeastern sent several student teams to do construction work and outreach in the Gulf Coast and on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; total gifts and labor amounted to over $750,000. In 2006, Southeastern furthered its longstanding commitment to missions and evangelism by adopting a new institutional mission statement: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). The seminary’s informal motto became “every classroom a Great Commission classroom.”

In recent years, Southeastern has continued to educate students and develop creative new initiatives. In 2006, Southeastern established the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture in honor of longtime academic vice president Bush, who passed away in 2008 following a bout with cancer. Southeastern also began cultivating a number of international partnerships dedicated to helping provide theological education to pastors and other church leaders in the Majority World. In 2008, the seminary opened Patterson Hall, a classroom and office building named in honor of Paige and Dorothy Patterson. Patterson Hall houses the Center for Faith and Culture, The College at Southeastern, and the school’s doctoral programs. Also in 2008, Southeastern launched an official faculty blog titled “Between the Times” (https://betweenthetimes.sebts.edu). During Akin’s tenure, Southeastern has added two additional endowed chairs: the Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World and Missions (2007), occupied by Bruce Ashford, and the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching (2010), presently held by Greg Heisler. In 2009, Southeastern entered into an ongoing partnership with 9Marks Ministries to host a series of annual conferences promoting gospel renewal and local church health. After a twenty-five year run, Faith and Mission was disbanded in 2008 and was replaced in 2010 with a new refereed scholarly journal titled Southeastern Theological Review.

During Akin’s tenure, non-residential education opportunities have been significantly expanded to include online, extension, and hybrid course offerings in almost every degree program. Akin has also announced an initiative for Southeastern to partner with at least one hundred local church “equipping centers” by the year 2015. Students will be able to receive a significant portion of their seminary education through local church internships and creative course delivery systems. In part because of Southeastern’s Great Commission priorities, the seminary has been at the forefront of advocating a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. This movement, championed by Akin and recent SBC president and Southeastern alumnus Johnny Hunt, intends to build upon the theological renaissance of the previous generation by prioritizing evangelism and church planting among unreached people groups in foreign nations and underserved regions in North America.

As of fall 2010, Southeastern Seminary has a total enrollment of almost 2700 students. Thousands of Southeastern graduates serve as pastors and other staff in Southern Baptist churches and other types of congregations. Approximately five hundred Southeastern students and graduates currently serve as foreign missionaries, the vast majority through the International Mission Board. Dozens of graduates serve as North American church planters in urban centers such as Boston, Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, Richmond, and Nashville, as well as underserved rural areas in the Midwest and New England. Almost one hundred students have been awarded the Doctor of Philosophy and now serve in seminaries, colleges, pastorates, and denominational leadership positions all over the world. Hundreds of Southeastern students participate annually in short-term mission trips sponsored by the seminary or local churches. Numerous Southeastern professors regularly lead mission trips or teach short-term in overseas settings. God has been very gracious to Southeastern. Should the Lord tarry, it is our hope for sixty more years of “equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

Akin’s Passion for a Great Commission Resurgence

Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin has written a guest post for the sharefaith blog. His topic is the “Why I Am Passionate for a Great Commission Resurgence among God’s People.”

In his post, Akin concludes,

It is time for Christians in America to get serious about the Great Commission. It is time to be “radical!” Pitiful excuses that are myopic and territorial need to cease. There needs to be genuine repentance and brokenness over a callous heart that has grown cold to the masses who have never heard the gospel and who have no access to it. Such a movement must begin one by one with each one of us. It will begin in individual hearts. I am praying that this passion will grip my heart and soul now and until the day I stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account for the life that He gave me. Like my friend John Piper, I do not want to leave a wasted life. I hope you don’t either!

Read the whole thing at the sharefaith blog.

Why I Will Remain Passionate for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists

In late April/early May my wife and I joined a number of other believers on a mission trip to the Southern Sudan. We would be in an area of extreme poverty with no running water or electricity. It was hot and the conditions were, to say the least, Spartan. However, it was one of the most rewarding mission endeavors we have ever taken. More than 1650 persons from the Congo, Uganda and Sudan converged on a small city in the southern part of the country for a Bible conference, church planting and evangelism. Virtually all of them walked most or all the way. Some walked a week to get there, spend each night on a mat outdoors, and then walked another week back home. God blessed greatly! We trained hundreds of pastors and also saw more than 170 people baptized!

There are so many things that I could share about this time in Sudan. However, one story in particular stands out that has only increased my intensity to see a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) take place among Southern Baptists. Charlotte and I had the joy of meeting and assisting a man called Pastor Sam. Sam is a church planter who has already baptized more than 30 new believers in the church that was started back in May. The church meets under 3 mango trees out among the villages. Sam came to the Lord as a teenager. Tragically, at the age of 12, he saw his father, mother and brothers and sisters hacked to death with machetes by a cultic tribe in Uganda. In God’s grace he was spared, and he was led to a Christian family where he met the Lord. Later, he felt God’s call to be a pastor. For the past 2 years he has studied in a small Bible institute in Sudan.

Now, he is a pastor. Sam owns only two sets of clothes and a pair of sandals. The only book he has is a Bible. However, I have seldom met anyone who had more of the joy of the Lord Jesus in his heart than this man. As our team was leaving, we wanted to be a blessing to Sam. So, we got together and determined that we would give him what he needed most. We gathered around him, laid hands on him and prayed. Then, we told him that we had purchased for him 2 oxen, a plow and enough seed for him to plow the land adjacent to his church to provide for himself and others who would become a part of his fellowship. Several others of us were moved to provide additional funds for him to build his tukel, the hut in which he now lives.

As we left the Sudan, once more a riveting truth griped my heart. Those that have Jesus plus nothing actually have everything. On the other hand, those who have everything minus Jesus actually have nothing. Sam has Jesus and so he has everything!

One final word. As we went village to village sharing the gospel, not one time were we turned down! I am not saying that everyone trusted Christ. They did not. However, no one declined the invitation to hear about the Lord Jesus. Truly, as Jesus said, the fields are ripe unto harvest. Oswald Smith said, “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice while there remains so many who have never heard it once.” I am in agreement with this. There are literally millions and millions who have never heard the name of Jesus but who will listen to our presentation of the gospel if we go to them. Many will respond in saving faith if only they hear the good news.

It is time for us to get serious about a Great Commission Resurgence. It is time to be “radical!” Pitiful excuses that are myopic and territorial need to cease. There needs to be genuine repentance and brokenness over a calloused heart that has grown cold to the masses who have never heard the gospel and who have no access to it. Such a movement must begin one by one with each one of us. It will begin in individual hearts. I am praying that this passion will grip my heart and soul now and until the day I stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account for the life that He gave me. I do not want to leave a wasted life. I do not believe you want to either.