Friday, May 11, 2007
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.