Friday, May 11, 2007

Congratulations DTS

Dallas Theological Seminary held their commencement services today, graduating more students than they have ever graduated before (a total of 379). Bill Brown, president of Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH, was the commencement speaker. Dr. Brown was once a youth minister here in Farmersville, and he is staying with members of my church this weekend. It was my pleasure to meet Bill and his wife Lynne yesterday and to get to know some more about Cedarville. It is a shame that this bright day for DTS is for Bro. Ben Cole just another occasion to take pot-shots at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (see here). Before you happen to stroll over to BaptistBlogger, it might help you to know that Bro. Ben is comparing DTS's once-a-year commencement number to SWBTS's Spring-semester-only commencement number. Of course, Ben was careful not to say erroneously that DTS graduated more students than SWBTS, but he was also careful not to say anything that would get in the way of every reader walking away with that impression. Sometimes you don't have to lie to be dishonest. Here are the numbers giving the full picture: SWBTS graduated 263 students in December, bringing the annual total for the seminary to 510, some 35% more than DTS's 379. Not that such comparisons are appropriate or at all helpful to the kingdom, but if anyone wishes to make them, he ought to give the whole story and portray the comparison accurately. But on the occasion of seminary commencements, allow me to suggest that we all need to beseech the throne of heaven to raise up more men called and surrendered to pastor existing churches. We have a very strong youth group here at FBC Farmersville. Tracy Odneal, our associate pastor and student minister, is remarkable at what he does—a man among men. We've seen a large number of students over the past few years give their lives to God for a variety of vocational callings: missions, camp ministry, music, and other wonderful things. But where are the pastors? A chapel service at SWBTS this year included a poll of the audience. Of those who are preparing for pastoral ministry, all but a handful planned to start a church rather than pastor an existing church. So, it is not the mission of SWBTS to have large enrollments. The seminaries do not exist for themselves, but for the churches. SWBTS is no longer the only viable option for conservative Southern Baptists. The broadening of conservative seminary options, although it naturally results in a decline in SWBTS's enrollment, is a good thing for the churches; therefore, it is a good thing. I hope that the enrollment of all of our seminaries grows, but I hope it grows with what our churches need more than anything else—people called to pastor our churches. I'm not saying that is the only need, but it is the most profound need. God bless DTS. God bless SWBTS. But most of all, God bless the churches with the blessing of strong pastoral leadership. May DTS, SWBTS, SBTS, NOBTS, SEBTS, GGBTS, MWBTS, MABTS, etc., etc., etc. all prosper under God's hand, but may that prosperity redound to the benefit of the churches by yielding more and more pastors to lead our churches. That, after all, is one of the big reasons for which churches fund seminaries. Again, congratulations DTS.

26 comments:

sbc pastor said...

Bart,

You are right on target as usual, sir. Thanks and God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

selahv said...

Bart: "the fields are white," we must therefore pray for laborers and also shepherds.

What is the main attraction of the church planting versus pastoring an established church? selahV

volfan007 said...

bart,

i do wish that you would comment on the beckwith situation and on some bloggers seemingly acceptance of what he did as ok. also, why is he still teaching at baylor?

david.....volfan007

Grosey's Messages said...

I guess one factor not readily understood is that the vast majority of those going through a denominational college go into pastoring churches, whilst a non denom college prepares people for a variety of work, but not specifically pastoral ministry.
Postmoderns don't find the self denying sacrificial pastoral ministry attractive.
SelahV.. church planting is a lot easier than turning around established churches.. you get to write the rule book!
Steve

Anonymous said...

Great article. But Ben has now modified his original article. Hmmmmm

Geoff Baggett said...

Bart,
After many years in youth ministry, I considered the pastorate. I had conversations with about a dozen churches over a period of a couple of years. I found that I could not answer a call to an established church. The reason? None of the churches that I talked to wanted a pastor. They simply wanted a chaplain ... someone to preach to them a couple of times a week and visit them when sick. Other than that I could find almost no passion for reaching a community, creativity, innovation, winningness to change.

So I planted a church. I am in my sixth year as the pastor of this church. It is not perfect, by any means, but it is the ministry that God has called me to.

More and more, I am coming to believe that a call to pastor an established church in Southern Baptist life must be a very special, specific call. Many young men training for ministry have already witnessed and lived through too many of the "battles," even in their teen years, to sign up for a career of it.

Perhaps we need a strategy to train lay-pastors who are already committed members of local communities to lead many of our established (and, sadly, deteriorating and dying) local churches.

Just a couple of thoughts. God bless.

Geoff

Anonymous said...
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Bro. Robin said...

Thanks Bart for the clarification. I often wonder why people think that because numbers might be less that God can't be behind it. Some of these people would have called for Gideon's head for dismissing most of his army and ending up with only 300 men.

GuyMuse said...

allow me to suggest that we all need to beseech the throne of heaven to raise up more...

While you are free to "suggest", Christ himself COMMANDS that we beseech the Lord of the Harvest for laborers. Our job is to beseech, his to call out.

Where these people get trained is also a matter for the Father. May we rejoice not at which seminary graduates the most, but that more and more laborers are released into the harvest fields around the world.

Bart Barber said...

Jeremy,

Thanks, as usual.

Bart Barber said...

SelahV,

Geoff's comment would probably yield some insight to you.

Bart Barber said...

David,

I did already blog about that.

Bart Barber said...

Steve,

SWBTS is a denominational seminary, yet that was the forum at which I described the straw poll.

Bart Barber said...

Geoff,

Brother, I think that every pastoral calling is a special and specific calling, whether to plant a church or to pastor an existing church. Personally, I think that we (pastors) tend to gripe too much, leaving a discouraging impression in the minds of others about what we do. Also, I do not believe that creativity is going to do much to propel Christianity forward. In my opinion (and we all know what that will buy you), we are in a much more dire need of authenticity than of creativity. Achieving authenticity in existing churches is no easy task, either, I'll grant you. Yet these are brothers and sisters for whom Christ has died, and if He has not abandoned them, neither should we.

Bart Barber said...

Robin,

Glad to help.

Bart Barber said...

Guy,

You are right on the money.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

I'm thankful for Ben's effort toward greater precision in his post. It was never my supposition that I would soften his heart.

stuart said...

Robin's point about Gideon could have been a good one. Of course, one of the knocks against the former president was declining enrollment. One of selling points in bringing in the current president was the growth in enrollment at his former institution. One of the mantras we heard early in the administration was "5000 students".

It would be more that a bit disingenuous for the administration or the board now to begin claiming "quality over quantity" or making analogies about Gideon's army (which, to their credit, they haven't), would it not?

stuart said...

I should add that it would also be premature. I doubt many on the Hill are satisfied, and I would suspect they will continue to strive towards their ambitious goals in spite of the current trend. One should hope for nothing less.

Bart Barber said...

Stuart,

Administration sentiment notwithstanding, my personal passion is for Southern Baptist churches to be well supplied with pastoral leaderhip. The seminary could have 10,000 students; however, if 9,000 of them are destined for foreign lands or unwilling to pastor existing churches, then the churches are in trouble first, and then the seminary (which is dependent, let's not forget, on the churches) is in trouble eventually.

R. L. Vaughn said...

A funny thing happened on the way to Ben Cole's blog...

I left a comment pointing out to the self-appointed pointer-outer of all the ills of SWBTS that the numbers for DTS were "this year" and SWBTS were "spring". That simple comment apparently was not approved by the moderator (at least after well over 12 hours it hasn't shown up).

stuart said...

Bart--

Since you bring up the number of students training to plant churches rather than to pastor existing ones, I'd like your input on a debate I've been having with myself in my head for several months now.

Should we (SBC, "evangelicals", whoever...) operate from a position wherein we believe that each local church should exist in perpetuity?

stuart said...

The way I worded that, the obvious answer is "duh". I'll re-ask it later, when I can think of a better way to frame it.

Bart Barber said...

Stuart,

I would not presume that it is necessary, but I would presume that it is best for a local church to continue in existence. If a local church goes out of existence, it is likely because the community went out of existence or the church apostasized and lost its "churchliness". The former is sometimes unavoidable and neither good nor bad. The latter is bad and ought to be avoided.

Anonymous said...

bart,

i guess what i was asking...and didnt do a good job of it...was why some supposed, conservative, evangelical, southern baptist bloggers would look upon the beckwith thing as seemingly ok? like it was alright for him to be roman catholic? how could they look at it in this light?

and, do you think he will stay at your alma mater? and, if so, how could they allow it?

david.....volfan007

Bart Barber said...

David,

Baylor has long had a Mormon Spanish professor. I don't think a Roman Catholic will make much of a dent.