PHOENIX (BP) – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were reminded of the importance of theological education through reports from the convention’s six seminaries during the June 14-15 gathering in Phoenix, including Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).
R. Philip Roberts, president of MBTS, focused on the impact receiving an education can have upon a singular person and thus the world when he delivered his annual report to the messengers of the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention.
Roberts described a young man from a wealthy family who attended a university and was strongly influenced by a brilliant professor. The student’s life was transformed and he became deeply involved in religious activities, including Scripture study and daily prayer. Through his educational experience, this rich young student found a purpose in life. The institution was the King Abdul-Aziz University in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. The professor was Palestinian-born Islamic scholar Sheik Abdullah Azzam and the student was Osama bin Laden.
“What a difference an education can make,” Roberts said. “However, when it’s a Bible-based education based on the truth and reality of the word of the Lord, the fruit that the Bible teaches will be evident. When it’s based on anything else, whether it’s radical Islam or liberalism or an alternative worldview, the fruit – as in the case of Osama bin Laden – is also, sooner or later, clearly evident.”
When people and churches send their students to study at Midwestern Seminary or any of the other Southern Baptist seminaries, they will get the grounding they need to change the world for the cause of Christ, Roberts said.
“Students who come to us will not learn about a god who hates, but they will learn about a God who loves – a God who loved the world so much ‘that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever would believe in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life,’” Roberts said. “They will not learn about a god who demands us to sacrifice our lives or the lives of our children or to kill in his name, but they will learn about a God who sacrificed for us – ‘for He Himself is the propitiation for our sins and not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world.’”
The president, now in his 11th year at the helm of Midwestern, continued his report by saying the seminary is “alive and well in Kansas City, Mo., in the heartland of America.” The seminary is experiencing record enrollment this semester, with 1,103 students taking 6,877 credit hours, the president noted.
Roberts provided an update on the progress of Midwestern Baptist College and the 100-percent online degree program, which began in July 2010. The master of arts in theological studies degree offers 15 courses online that are completely transferrable into the master of divinity degree at Midwestern, he said.
“We are happy to tell you that the master of arts in theological studies online program is now participated in by students from more than 30 states and eight countries, to help and equip and provide theological education anywhere in the world,” Roberts said. “We’re also glad to tell you we have a fully actualized missions program through not only our regular missions curriculum at the seminary level, but also through a program called FUSION.”
The FUSION track provides college students a time of training in evangelism and disaster relief and a semester of credit hours for theological studies. In the FUSION trainees’ second semester, they deploy overseas to places such as Angola, Thailand, India and Peru to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. While overseas, Roberts added, the students serve with International Mission Board (IMB) workers in various ministry areas.
“In strategic partnership with the IMB, we provided this year the opportunity for 42 students to serve and evangelize in eight countries – some of them closed to traditional missionary activity – for the cause of the Gospel,” Roberts reported. “Sharing the Gospel, telling the truth, deepening their devotion on mission for Jesus Christ – “Veritas, Pietas, Missio” – lives changed forever and lives forever changed for the cause of the Gospel.”
The president’s report continued with a brief update on the progress of the Midwestern chapel complex project. The construction of the 40,000-square-foot building is progressing well and is about 80 percent complete, Roberts said. Sixty volunteers from Southern Baptist churches and organizations are laboring to accomplish the task at the present time.
Additionally, the endeavor was originally quoted to cost around $12 million, but spending to date is just over $6 million. About $3 million in savings has come through the time and efforts of Southern Baptist volunteers, Roberts said.
The presentation concluded with a video that demonstrated Midwestern’s commitment to its
core value of “mission” – taking the great truths of the Bible and putting them into practice.
“We’re thrilled to be serving you as your Southern Baptist institution in the Midwest for the cause of Christ, for the glory of God and for the progress of the Gospel,” Roberts said. n